Khorezm is a historical region and an ancient state in Central Asia. The original culture of this land situated in the lower reaches of Amudarya River developed as early as in the 4th-3rd centuries B.C. from the synthesis of local and borrowed elements. Since ancient times the territory of Khorezm has been populated by different ethnic groups and tribes. Historical tales and evidence provided by archaeologists, anthropologists and historians prove that the ancient population of Khorezm was part of Massaget tribal union.
Based on a map created by G. P. Snesaryov in the 19th-early 20th century one can get an idea about the distribution of different population groups residing on the territory of Khorezm: these are Uzbeks who remember their genesis (they belong to the Kipchak group, which is confirmed by the names of tribal-kin groups and a Kipchak dialect), and Sart-Uzbeks speaking an Oguz dialect (1). In this regard, one can distinguish two types of traditional women’s costume: (1) women’s costume of the southern areas of Khorezm; and (2) women’s costume of the northern areas of Khorezm.
The costume of Khorezmian Uzbek women was rather different from women’s clothes of other regions of Uzbekistan in the peculiarity of jewellery and headdresses that preserved their ancient features, in the colour range, and in the absence of embroidery in the ornamentation. The complete set consisted of a shirt-dress – guynak; pants – ishtan; outer clothing and a cover – yelak, misak, quilted on a thin layer of cotton wool; chapan quilted with puff stitching; head covers – paranja and jegde; headdresses – tahya, lachek and bash orau; footwear – massi, kavush.
Women’s shirt-dress of an old cut was long and wide. Unlike two-layer shirts (under shirt and cover shirt) of Bukhara-Samarqand type it was the only underwear. Long and wide sleeves covering the back of the palm were sewn from transverse pieces of fabric with one side longer than the other. There was another dress type with shorter sleeves narrowing at the wrist. In all women’s dress types a triangle or a slit-like neck was very deep, sometimes reaching the waistline. The neck and slit were trimmed with black ribbon. In 1880s another dress design appears, with small round neck, an upright collar (it yoka, bugmak) and vertical chinked slit. To manufacture dresses and upper clothing people used both locally produced and imported fabrics such as shoyi, kanous, alacha, mata, etc.
In early 20th century silk weaving in Khorezm developed mostly in Khiva, Khanki, and Durgadyk village. In 1903 Khiva had up to 40 silk-weaving looms, Khanki – about 20, and Durgadyk – 10 (2, p. 48).
Decorative solution of Khorezmian women’s costume was reserved and monochrome.
According to the Russian Ambassador Ivan Fedotov, noblemen from Astrakhan who was sent to Khiva by Moscow government in the 17th century, Khorezm produced plain silk and cotton fabrics: “…they make silk and coarse calico, and zendeni, simple ones, with no pattern”. Fabrics were predominantly of one colour, without any eye-catching designs; clothes made of these fabrics served an advantageous background for bright and rich-looking jewellery. Prevailing colours in women’s clothes were in red and vinous range, with many cold and warm shades or half-tones (3, p. 66). Girls and young women wore mauve or light-red, while women in their 40s preferred cherry or vinous colours with lilac or deep-blue shades, and women of senior age wore white. Upper clothing was often made of velvet and imported silk of cherry and lilac colours, as well as alacha – cotton fabric with vertical stripes of red-brown colour range usually composed of a variation of red, green and crimson stripes and related shades (3, p. 84).
One of the major Central Asian centres for manufacturing gowns was Khiva. Gowns produced here were known for their high quality and were in great demand (2, p. 51). Tunic-cut gowns, misak and yelak, quilted on cotton wool, served as overcoats for Uzbek women in southern Khorezm. These were cut from strait pieces of cloth “flipping” from back to front. At each side widening side-pieces were sewn to it. Sleeve of such gowns had wide base and narrow wrist. Misak or yelak cover was always quilted with very small and dense stitches (kavik) iterated at 0.5 – 1 cm. Gowns were trimmed with decorative plaited ribbon, jiyak, of red or bright pink colours.
Chapan, the overcoat of Uzbek women from northern areas of Khorezm, was similar in cut to men’s gowns, with the only distinction in proportions and sleeve width at wrist (13 – 14 cm). Street clothes of Uzbek women also included gown-like head cover, paranja (southern areas) and jegde (northern areas). The main local distinctive feature of Khorezmian paranja was its length. As headdresses were tall, paranja could be as long as 170 – 180 cm in average. False sleeves fastened with a ribbon at the back could be hem-long. Uzbek women from northern areas covered their heads with a more lightweight and shorter gown-cover, jegde, that was similar in cut to yelak, but had no quilting or lining.
Headdresses of Uzbek women from northern and southern areas of Khorezm had a number of distinctions related to ethnic origin of their people. Maidens in the South covered their heads with tahya – a flat, round quilted hat with wide and hard hatband slightly broadening toward the top, which was twined round with a striped ribbon. It was worn with a small scarf. Mainden’s tahya was complemented with jewellery: hexagonal silver plates, tahya-duzi, fastened by gold-plated silver tubes called altyn-tumor and cornelian jewellery with pendants, khakik-duzi. Conic quilted hat, chumakli tahya, was an integral part of bridal costume. Its conic shape was achieved by cutting the crown as a circle with a cut-off segment. Some old specimens of this headdress featured a much taller cone.
Among some interesting women’s headdresses is lachek. It was worn after the birth of one or two children. A ritual linked to this headdress was called lachek-toy. Lachek consisted of tahya with two laces attached to its rim on the back to fix it. The laces were tied under the chin. Tahya was covered with an under-scarf made of several scarves cut in half and sewn across the width. A white band that was tied under the chin was folded into folds and its both ends were pinned to tahya. An interesting detail of lachek is a long train-scarf made of locally produced silk, with border and fringe, hanging down the back. At the back of the head the scarf was folded in large folds and wrapped around tahya several times, over the scarves, and the ends hang loose at the back. The folded silk band placed along the headdress was given extra height using cotton wool.
That back side of lachek was fixed with a coloured brocade band, ustlik, also folded. The rule was to decorate lachek with jewellery – gyozmunjik, butun-tynchak, and two pairs of pins at the front; the pins were topped with two filigree globes and holders for a feather plume, parhana that performed magical function. Women of senior age, when they switched to wearing a white lachek, removed all the jewellery from their headdress. All parts of lachek were made of white fabric and scarves. Instead of pins the scarves were now fastened with laces, belvak. Lachek of an old woman had 3-5 scarves 2-3.5 meters long. Similar to the lachek of North-Khorezmian Uzbek women in cut and shape is perhaps saukele, the Karakalpak round, helmet-like headdress. The difference of train in Karakalpak saukele and lachek is in embroidery. The presence of train is characteristic of a large group of ancient headdresses, such as Bashkir kelepush, Udmurt aishon, etc. This prompts an assumption about a single ancient ethnic tradition of the peoples of Central Asia and other regions.
Another not less interesting headdress is bosh orau (northern areas). To create it, a skull-cap or a hat was wrapped around the head with scarves, in a turban-like fashion. The number of scarves increased with age. Just as with lachek, women after 40 also changed the bosh orau colour to white, and the end of the scarf hung down the back. Over bosh orau they wore a large scarf or a gown. Women of that age in the North put on a white lachek – a headdress similar to the Kazakh kimeshek shaped like a hood with an opening for the face. Over the lachek they wrapped bosh orau made of 5 meters of white cloth. In some areas bosh orau was flattened, and in the others it was taller and shaped a bit like a horn. Similar to bosh orau is a headdress called bosh used by some tribal-kin Uzbek groups of Dasht-i-Kipchak origin (Kungrat, Juz) living in the South of Uzbekistan.
For footwear, Khorezmian women had soft boots, makhsi, worn with galoshes, kavush. Bridal boots – kyzyl massi and gully mashsi – were richly ornamented with coloured leather applique. Ordinary boots, sary massi, were distinct in their cut: the bootleg had seams at the back or front. Bootlegs with counter were cut of a single piece of hide. The sole made of soft leather was sewn through inside out. Boots were trimmed with coloured filaments.
Thus, the traditional costume of Uzbek women from Khorezm evolved in an interaction of different cultures that influenced the specificity of origin and development of this ethnic feature.
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2. Кустарные промыслы в быту народов Узбекистана. XIX – ХХ вв. Ташкент, 1986.
3. Ундерова Л. В. Узбекская народная одежда конца ХIX – ХХ в. Ташкент, 1994.