Traditional Kashkadarya Female Clothing of the First Half of the 20th Century

Issue #2 • 1993

Since olden days Kashkadarya has been one of the ancient cultural centers of Central Asia where population was forming through a complicated fusion process of different ethnical groups dominated by the Turkic tribes (Kenges, Mangites and etc.).

Fusion of cultures as well as political and economic changes provided variation of folksy clothing created in the course of many centuries. While considering traditional clothing of the Kashkadarya women one should marks its two major types: urban clothing and rural clothing. In the 19th-early 20th centuries large towns of the Kashkadarya region (Shakhrisyabz and Karshi) were the beckates of the Bukhara khanate. Governors and officials with their families were often sent there from Bukhara. Therefore, Bukhara culture was influencing on the environment of the urban population that resulted in a gradual transformation of clothing of the urban woman and transition from traditional forms of clothing to the forms of somewhat different origin. In the outskirts this process was much slower. Despite those transformations in the first quarter of the 20th century many Uzbek tribes preserved their keen and tribal division playing very essential roles in their everyday life that included clothing as well.

Major difference between two types of traditional female clothing was in the manner of wearing clothes and in some of their components.

Fabrics used for making clothes were also different from cotton, silk and semi-silk fabrics of local craft to the imported ones. Local fabrics ornamented with colorful stripes called ‘alacha’ became particularly popular in Karshi and Quitab. It was famous both within the region and beyond its borders (1, p. 138). Besides alacha, many other fabrics like unbleached calico, adras, atlas, banoras and velvet were also popular. Judging from the gown samples from Tairov’s collection referring to Kashkadarya, abraded fabrics produced there were ornamented with different decorative elements like crests, diamond formations triangles, quadrangles and etc. (2). Red, yellow, green, dark blue and white colors dominate the coloring of fabrics from Karshi and Quitab.

The Kashkadarya women were wearing several types of chemise-dresses. The first type is presented by a tunic-like, knee-long dress with the wide linear stitched in sleeves. The other type was loose and shorter a lot. In some towns and districts women were putting on several dresses at once (sometimes 3-4, they spoke for the social status of its owner). Sleeves of the body dress were made the longest of the white fabric with the edges richly decorated with the embroidery. Sleeves of the upper dress were made of the richer fabrics, much wider and shorter to let the body sleeves look out. The female chemises had a triangular or u-like neck.

Decorative trimming of sleeve edges had border compositions consisted of uninterrupted waving or zigzagging lines with several patterns. These were rather the astral signs: circles, multi-petalled rosettes gradually enhanced with such vegetative elements like small leaves and twigs turning them into magnificent bushes and etc. (3, p.70).

Another thing looked upon as decoration of a female dress was the broad braid running in two lines along the neck down without reaching the lap. Its inner part was filled in with the alternating ornamental motifs. Sometimes the braid was substituted with the embroidery fully imitating the braid. Dress’s lap was also decorated with the repeated border composition like on the sleeves.

We examined an interesting fashion of the dress related to the beginning of the 20th century. Besides the above-mentioned decoration, it possesses realistic images of the birds on the edges of the central embroidered braid, which are repeated at short distances. Depiction of birds in the costume like in other types of folk decorative and applied arts seemed to symbolize happiness. Rempel remarked, “It is a metaphor that depicts joyfulness, happiness, light, love and the whole world of poetical figures” (4, p. 32).

The female gown-like clothing of Kashkadarya (camsule, paranja and kurta) that could be come across in some other regions of Uzbekistan, distinguishes by their decorative decisions. Particularly interesting is the head cover, ‘jelyak’, i.e. a wide gown with the long fake sleeves fixed and turned onto the back. Jelyak’s lap was left unhemmed to ensure possession of many children as was viewed by the nomad population of Kashkadarya. Findings of the Kashkadarya trip had given us two interesting samples of jelyaks. One of the varieties of head covers had a multi-row embroidery chain consisting of symbolic signs (squares, triangles, elements of ram’s horns and etc.) lining the edges of front laps and long fake sleeves.

There is a large ornament looking like a round astral sign containing the inside repeated smaller pattern in the occipital part of the back. Fake sleeves are fully embroidered with the same round-shaped ornament ‘overgrown’ with the vegetative pattern. The lower part of the fake sleeves has the border composition embroidered in the ‘iroki’ stitch. Its pattern made of several small multicolored diamond-like chains reproduces the cruciform motif. The front lap spaces are filled with the bushy ornament symbolizing the “tree of life”. The black fabric borders striped with the round metal plates and silk tassels beaded on the ends are attached to the very edges of the front laps. The second type of the head cover is almost analogous differing only by the cross-stitched diamond-like pattern on the connection part of the fake sleeves. Bush-like ornament on the front laps is of much smaller size. Besides S-like wavy motifs and diamonds the front lap of both head covers has the composition pattern of small multi color squares. According to some respondents from the Uzbek tribes, semi-nomads in the past that had preserved their keen and tribe division, many elements repeated the tamga-image (brand) defining the tribal belonging of the dress’s owner.

The headdress fulfilled several functions (practical and ideological) and simultaneously played a very important role in the female clothing. Headdresses of the Kashkadarya women differed from the headdresses of the women of other regions by their variety, making technique and ornamental composition. The most popular are ‘kulta’ or ‘kijigich’ that represent a round cap bordered with the braid on the edges and round gathered top with the braid-holder hanging at the back. The analogous headdress with the flat round top was called ‘chochkon’ and differed by the background that was fully covered with the carpet-like embroidery made in the ‘iroki’ stitch.

The ‘duppi’ skullcap was mainly worn by girls and young women. Composition of the Quitab and Shakhrisyabz skull-caps is divided into two types ‘sanama’ and ‘chizms’ depending on the peculiarities of the embroidery technique – following counting or pattern (5, p. 155). In the composition of the first type skullcaps, the pattern goes horizontally, element after element. In the second type skullcaps, the ornament is formed around the top. It is interesting to look at the female round skullcap (middle of the 20th century) kept with the State Museum of History of Uzbekistan. Composition of its pattern is fully filled with the iroki stitch and presents a number of plates in the dark green background. Each plate has the ‘kapalak’ ornament inside it. There are cross-like figures between the plates; the cap-band is embroidered by the repeated pattern of the ‘kunghiz’ ornament. The cap-band braid is made in the ‘iyrma’ stitch. Coloring of the composition includes green, yellow, white, violet, maroon and black colors.

The old female headdress – ‘chambar shokh’- worn by women in some districts is unique. It contains ten horn-like shaped kerchiefs (6, p. 93). By fulfilling the practical function, it also protected woman’s head from the scorching sun. In addition to the above-mentioned headdresses, women wore other kerchiefs of different shapes and patterns depending on their age and taste.

Female footwear, ichighi (makhsi) and galoshes (kavush), were mainly produced by local shoemakers (kafshduz). Different varieties of leather made of sheep’s (meshi), goat’s (kairoki), bullock’s (bulgor) and donkey’s (kemukht) skins.

Despite the fact that the traditional Kashkadarya female clothing has significantly changed under the influence of undergoing transformations, it has, nevertheless, preserved specific peculiarities of its region, acquired new individual features. It still remains one of the most interesting and yet less studies issues awaiting deeper investigation.

Binafsha Nodir

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