The main features of women's
costumes in Kyrgyzstan were long dresses and wide trousers.
Different costumes or styles
would indicate if a young woman was married or single, and elderly
women had their own style of dress and headdress. The colour was
usually white, blue or red. The colour red was the main characteristic
of a young woman's dress. Recently, however, bright fabrics of other
colors like orange and yellow have become fashionable.
Older women tend to wear
dresses of dark material. Different tribes, however, have their own
traditions. Elderly women in the "kypchak", "mungush" and "adigine"
tribes still prefer to wear dark coloured dresses, whereas in some
other tribes, they prefer light colours.
Dresses were worn long, almost
down to the feet; sleeves would be longer than the arms, reaching below
the hands, and wide collars were common. The dress was fastened by
strings or by a silver "fibula", (a broach or clasp, which may have
been passed down as a family heirloom). Later, dresses with a turn-down
collar and sleeves became very popular especially in the south. Wide
trousers were made of bright, motley fabrics.
A belted thigh-length skirt,
(beldemchi), made of felt and covered by black fabric or usually by
velvet was sometimes worn on a top of a dress.
Beldemchi was part of the
costume worn by a married woman, after giving birth to her first child.
This was a short skirt wrapped around the hips and made from wide
pieces of velvet, (black, red, green or light blue - or even patterned
Uzbek fabrics called adras and beikasab) embroidered with traditional
patterns with bright silk thread.
Older women also wore fur
coats - such as the ichik which was also worn by men. The most
widespread kind of female winter clothes in the past was the chapan,
the same style as the men wore. Later a female version of the chapan
began to be made with a shaped waist. For young women and girls these
clothes were in bright "half silk" fabrics.
In the nineteenth century, in
the south of Kyrgyzstan women still wore the ancient style of conic
hats (shokulo), which sometimes looked like a helmet but could measure
25 cm high with earflaps and a triangular piece of material draping
down the back. It was often decorated with coral beads, mother-of-pearl
and feathers of an eagle or an owl. The owl feather is to protect from
"evil spirits" or "evil eyes". The shokulo was also considered an
important piece of wedding attire for women.
Sometimes the headgear would
also be decorated with tuma - pendants made from metal, leather and
fur, which were handed down from generation to generation.
Scarves have become the
basic form of headgear preferred by women of all ages, wrapped around
the head so that face appears framed in an oval of material, or -
particularly in summer - tied at the back of the head exposing the
Two traditional forms of
headgear were the elechek and kep takya. Footwear in the 19th century
was mainly fashioned from leather. Red or green boots with heels were
worn by the young. Soft boots (ichigi), which could be turned inside
out - by the old. Also, many women wore leather galoshes. Shoes would
often be decorated - for example, with silver coins, tassels and pearl