Clothing of our ancestors who once lived in the territory of Uzbekistan evolved in keeping with specific natural environmental conditions, lifestyle and kin-and tribe traditions. Archaeological monuments, murals, figurines, toreutics, written sources and miniatures in manuscript books that survived to see the present day give a fairly clear idea about people’s clothing, its shapes and evolution, as well as its local specificities.
The development of early clothing items is linked to the appearance of weaving that dates back to the last phase of the Stone Age, Neolithic. Remains of looms found on the foothill of Kopetdag belong to that time (Jeitun culture). As livestock breeding was quite developed in the region, weaving was mostly done with wool. Although ancient weaving centres have not been found in Central Asia, items discovered in contiguous historical/cultural regions testify to a high degree of weaving development since Aeneolithic period.
Remnants of clothing that belongs to 2,000 B.C. were also found in Sapallitepa. By and large, by 6th century B.C. clothing made of woollen fabrics had practically replaced those made of hides.
Particularly worth mentioning are colour murals of Afrasiab, Penjikent, Varakhsha, Balalyktepa, Khalchayan and a number of other monuments. For instance, on the images found during excavations at Balalyktepa, men are dressed in yaktak (light summer gown without lining). Inscriptions found on a sample of Kul-tegin Turkic runic script of the 6th – 8th centuries mention men’s outer clothing called tun, known today as chapan (lined gowns).
According to art historian G. Maitdinova, samples of fine art from Sogd and Tokharistan that date back to early medieval period testify to the existence of unchanged types of clothing in different time periods, to their suitability to local climate and lifestyle of tribes and peoples (1, p. 11). Archaeological research materials and murals show that during early medieval period well-to-do Tokharistanis wore chekmen (an overcoat similar to caftan) made of silk, whereas those worn by poorer people were made of white calico. This information is also confirmed by written sources, particularly the work of a well-known Chinese traveller Syuan Xiang. (2, p.129.) Population of Tokharistan of that period wore clothing with close-fitting upper part and trapezium-shaped skirt; garments worn by local residents were largely of the same cut. All types of garments were cut without sleeves or with long (sometimes wide) sleeves. Usually garments had slits on the sides and turn-down collars; this makes it possible to track down specificities of traditions that go back into the distant past.
Talking about clothing of our ancestors in early medieval period, one should mention its particularly rare samples discovered during excavations of Munchaktepa in Fergana Valley. In the process of excavation in the area of this monument, local archaeologists found men’s, women’s and children’s clothes. Long woman’s dress was made of silk, hem reaching ankle length. On the sides, at the lower part of the skirt there were slits 10-15 cm long; at the waistline the dress was complemented with a sash (waistline scarf). Boys’ shirts of that time were made of silk and were a little longer than waistline. On both sides there were slits going up from the hem. Collar was straight and a sash was tied around the waist. Chest part, edges of sleeves and hems of girls’ dresses were decorated with peculiarly embroidered flowers. The left side was adorned with sewn-on carved pocket. (3, pp. 130-133.)
In general, people’s clothing in early medieval time is linked to ethnic and socio-political history of peoples not only in Middle Asia, but also in the entire Central Asia, as well as in the nations located on the Great Silk Road.
Not less important for the studies of clothing of the past is the study of fabrics intended for making garments and of local manifestations. For example, on Mount Mug, along with documents created on the basis of Sogdian script, for the first time they found pieces of different fabrics, which, according to scientists, date back to the first quarter of the 8th century. Among items from Mount Mug, of special value is a shield with an image of a stately horseman wearing striped gown: yellow stripes can be seen through the red stripes of the fabric.
Among other finds from Mount Mug, they discovered a single piece of woollen cloth featuring harmonious combination of deep red, white and green colours. This proves that during the said period striped fabric was considered a big rarity.
Gowns made of striped fabrics that were sewn in Khorezm and exported from Central Asia to the neighbouring countries were mentioned by a famous Arabian historian Maqdisi.
A renowned linguist of the 11th century Makhmud Ibn Al Khusain Ibn Mukhammad Al-Kashgari in his work “Divan Lughat it-Turk” (The Dictionary of Turkic Dialects) gives names of many clothing items and about 30 names of fabrics to manufacture them. This work contains 225 terms related to the culture of clothing. Along with natural fabrics (such as cotton, wool, silk) the famous Turkic philologist also mentioned beautiful gowns made of “yo’llik barchuk”, that is gold-sewn brocade. It is quite interesting that pieces of silk, brocade and velvet were sometimes used in 10-12 centuries as equivalent to cash. (4, 467 b.)
There is no doubt that during that period the level of culture among Turkic nations in the domain of clothing was quite high. For instance, the Dictionary of Turkic Dialects offers a description of clothing items that were commonly used by Turkic peoples, such as yalma – a cloak, wadded cotton-wool gown; didak – a cloak for young women covering them from the eye of a stranger; kiduk – head-dress made of “burunchuk” feathers, parti – light upper gown without lining, etc. The famous scholar wrote not only about upper clothing of ancient Turkic peoples, but also about underwear (4).
That special underwear existed already in the 11th century, testifies, beyond doubt, to the presence of an established complex of a costume and specific culture associated with it, which our ancestors possessed. Even Alisher Navoi mentioned such item of woman’s clothing as terlik, referring to terinchak: “I am burning from the sight of Uzbek scarlet gown, underneath of which a beauty wears a yellow shirt”. (5, p. 104; p. 27)
For the studies of a medieval costume, one of the invaluable sources is the art of miniature (late 12th – early 13th centuries), from which one can see that men’s and women’s clothing featured flaring skirts, and the cut was of a peculiar rounded shape. Clothing was largely sewn from monochrome fabrics of different colours. Frontal part was a bit shorted than the back, and lining was usually made of striped fabric. Although men’s and women’s clothing looked outwardly similar, there were many differences in the cut. Sleeves of a woman’s costume flared at the edges, whereas in a man’s costume the sleeves narrowed to fit closely at the wrists. Women wore long narrow skirts or wide under-breeches. The lower part of men’s sharovary (Rus. – baggy trousers) was tugged into the boots with high bootlegs. Chalma (turban) was a very common head-dress. Warriors wore it over their chain armour.
Some miniatures dating back to the medieval period picture striped fabrics. According to Academician Galina Pugachenkova who studied clothing in Central Asian miniature, striped fabrics are peculiar only to the peoples of Central Asia. Judging by images pictured in miniatures, clothing of this kind was worn by people who were not very rich: they dressed in gowns, pants and turban (6, p. 110). Wide prevalence of so coloured fabrics was, in turn, proved by archaeological studies carried out in Turkmenistan spanning the period between 15th and 18th centuries. Pugachenkova believes that gowns pictured in the 16th century miniatures have traditional cut.
A very precious source to study Uzbek traditional costume is miniatures created by artists of Herat and Bukhara schools, which confirm findings made by art historians and ethnographers Galina Pugachenkova, M. V. Gorelik and Z. I. Rakhimova that dresses and shirts with straight collar and tunic-shaped were the basis in the set of clothing prevalent among peoples in the countries of Near and Middle East.
Pugachenkova claims that clothing of Central Asian peoples that was reflected in the 16th century miniatures, has features similar to those of Uzbek and Tajik clothing of late 19th century (6, p. 206).
As a result of Mongolian invasion into Central Asia, starting from the first quarter of the 14th century Mongolo-Chinese traditions were forcefully introduced into all spheres of people’s life, including dress. Mongolo-Chinese style began to be clearly visible in clothing and hairstyle of rulers, courtiers, state officials and local population.
During that period men’s clothing was tied on the left side of the chest, had diagonal cut, short sleeves, side slits as high as waistline and embroidered chest part; it represented all specific features of the 14th century dress. Women’s upper clothing had open neck, wide and very long sleeves flaring at the edge. Head-dress consisted of an intricately cut cap adorned with a bunch of feathers fastened at the top.
By the 15th century, during the period of the Temurid dynasty rule, it became habitual to wear double-layered clothing, that is, the upper clothing and long underwear with lining of different colours. This was true for both men’s and women’s c clothing. During the Temurid epoch, cities such as Samarqand, Shiraz, etc., in turn, developed a set of clothing of local cut, distinct in its multicoloured-ness, simplicity and peculiar charm. Nevertheless, clothing in different regions was different in style, colour choice, jewellery and the manner of wearing. According to M. Ashrafi, in no other time dress in these parts was so smart, multi-coloured, simple and charming (7, 18-b).
During the time of the Temurids in Movarounnahr and the Baburids rule in India, scholars, state officials and clergy wore paranja-like clothing. The term “paranja” referred to both men’s and women’s clothing (8).
By the time of the Sheibani dynasty’s rule, paranja-chapan was considered a dress of scholars. Eventually, this garment turned into an essential clothing item for women whenever they left the house.
In the 17th – 18th centuries clothing of traditional cut continued to develop, but at the same time other types of local costumes began to emerge that were typical of population living in the cities such as Bukhara, Samarqand, Khorezm, Fergana, Tashkent, Qarshi and Shakhrisabz. This was reflected in the peculiar details of costume, footwear, new head-dresses and different fabrics.
By the 19th – early 20th century the set of Uzbek traditional costume was sufficiently well formed. During that period, Uzbekistan, like other regions in Central Asia, experienced rapid development of manufacturing relations and an expansion of trade links. The colonization of the area by tsarist Russia resulted in the situation when the region was flooded with factory-made textiles. This led to an increase in mass production. The appearance of sewing machines created a kind of a “revolution” in dress-making. As a result, along with traditionally wide, long dresses cut from a whole piece of fabric, which concealed body shape, there appeared European-style dresses made with a yoke and gathers, which emphasised figure shape and had sophisticated cut.
In the late 19th – early 20th centuries shortened shirts with stand-up collar (“nogai collar shirts”) became fashionable in many regions of the country; these shirts were originally worn by urban residents, especially by people engaged in trade. During that period yaktak wrap-over shirts with open neck became very popular among Uzbek population – both young and senior people liked wearing them.
In the middle of 19th – early 20th centuries, people all over the country started wearing camisoles (the Russian word “kamzol” transformed into kamzul or kamzur). Camisole had a closely fitting silhouette, stand-up collar and resembled a frock coat with gathers on fabric, but without a turn-down collar and a slit at the back. Camisoles were made of black-coloured textiles, usually satin or thick cotton fabric used for making suits, and were worn over a shirt or even a wadded gown, depending on age, gender and person’s financial situation; so the fabric was selected on the basis of these criteria, and also season. All this was reflected in the camisole names: cotton-wool camisole, camisole with lining, kamzulcha (small camisole), three-belt, five-belt, closely fitting at the waist, as well as brocade, velvet and tussore-silk camisoles.
Traditional woman’s costume consisted of a dress, long breeches, chapan, mursak (upper gown with elbow-long sleeves), beshmet , camisole, sleeveless jacket, paranja with chachvan, a multitude of various scarves and colourful skull-caps. Footwear included makhsi (ichigi, i.e. soft-sole boots without hard counter and heel), leather and rubber galoshes. Women’s clothing was remarkable for its beauty and elegance, and pieces of jewellery crafted by skilled jewellers complemented it perfectly.
By and large, up until 1980s, Uzbek traditional clothing of the masses preserved its traditionally straight cut. Clothing styles were in harmony with traditional striped, monochrome or printed textiles. The front part, hem, sleeve edges and collar were often decorated with a ribbon embroidered with flowers (jiyak). In olden times this decorative detail served as a kind of a protective talisman and represented certain religious views, giving the attire the look of completeness and beauty.
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