Traditional Female Clothes (end of XIX – beginning of XX centuries)

Issue #3 • 616

Zuhra Rakhimova,
Art Critic

Archaeological research on the territory of Ferghana indicate that in ancient times and throughout the medieval period the production of the variety of the monochrome and polychrome fabrics made of wool, cotton, silk and linen used for sewing clothes was established there (1). The population of Davani – the name of Ferghana in the ancient Chinese sources, especially famous for its production of cotton fabric – Bode, which was used not only to make clothes but also used to be sent as gift (2, p. 67). Later on, Ferghana did not lose its position in the development of weaving and clothing. The sensational discovery of the early medieval burials at Munchak-Tepa in the Namangan Province (V – VII centuries), were the inhabitants of the settlement buried in the robes of the local production of silk and cotton which allowed the reconstruction of their appearances, as well as the tailoring of their garments (1, 3). According to the findings, there are used to be the clothes of two types of cut in the early Middle Ages in Ferghana: the tunic and the armhole cuts that made the latter more attached to the female figure, making a woman to look more slender. The length of the fabrics discovered in Munchak-Tepa made 54 cm up to 118 cm (3, p. 38). Judging by the reconstruction done by G. Maytdinova based on the material of Munchak finds, the clothing for men and women was monotonous in its composition and decoration – short and wide long sleeved shirt that had the seam on the shoulders, and straight ankle-length pants of plain cotton or silk. The dress like the caftan or robe used to be worn over these clothes. The collar of the shirts was either V-shaped, or of rounded or stepped shape. A remarkable feature of the Ferghana clothes is a detachable collar, embellished with applications made of local silk of bright colors: red, purple and blue, sometimes with a cloth of the expensive imported silk or fabric – Zandanechi. The same fabric as on the collar used to be applied for trimming the hem, the sleeve ends and the bottom of the pants. The shirts used to be girdled with silk belts lined with cotton fabric. For decoration of the clothes the bows, buttons, and appliques of colored silk braids were widely used. The “Tree of Life” decoration was the most distinguished one among the plant patterns. The clothes used to be worn in several layers: 2 – 3 shirts with wide, long sleeves covering the wrists and over it the robe with a collar of polychrome silk. With age, the number of the garments to be worn at once was increasing. The underwear dress was seen in the collar cut, giving additional color effect to the upper part of the garment, thus emphasizing the sacred meaning of the collar. The soft leather boots – Mahsi – were used as footwear. The women’s costume was complemented by head bands, decorated with sewn on plaques. Both men and women wore earrings, necklaces, rings, etc. The necklaces used to be made of various materials: cowry shells, carnelian, glass beads, rock crystal and lapis lazuli. The collars of the children’s shirts were trimmed with colored beads, wooden beads and ceramics (4, vol.1, pp. 66, 97, 125 – 128, ill.17 – 19, pic. 60, 2; 5, p. 92 – 102).
Inclusion of the Ferghana Valley into the State of Timurids, and later on into the Shaybanids and Ashtarkhanids States (XV, XVI, XVII centuries) has contributed to the similarity of the clothes of the region, which differed only in details (6).
In the middle of the XVIII century on the territory of Ferghana Valley emerges a state – the Kokand Khanate. The major city of the Ferghana Valley – Kokand – in the XVIII – XIX centuries as the capital of the powerful Kokand Khanate had extended its power over the main part of the territory of the present-day Uzbekistan and the neighboring states. All travelers who have visited Kokand at that time noted that “Kokand and the entire state of Kokand is abundant in cotton and mulberry trees; everywhere one can see the cotton fields, which is used by the residents of Kokand to make fabric and exchange it for Russian goods with Bukharinites” (7). The picturesque bazaars of Kokand and other cities of Ferghana Valley were filled with shops that sold fur coats, satin of bright colors, a variety of local (Mata, Kalami, Alocha) and imported (Russian chintz, Chinese heavy silk, Bukhara velvet) fabrics, silk, half-silk, skull caps of various colors and patterns, leather, shoes, ready-to-wear clothes (8, p. 4, 26).
Foreign travelers who visited the Ferghana Valley during this period were not indifferent to the beauty of the local women. F. Nazarov wrote that they were handsome, slender and dapper, had a merry, cheerful nature (7). A remarkable description of women of the Ferghana Valley have given V. Nalivkin and M. Nalivkin: the ideal of feminine beauty was considered a curvaceous woman with white “like cotton” skin, whose face was decorated with moles… the women of Ferghana of the XIX century, unlike women in other regions used cosmetics. They preferred to paint their eyebrows with Usma, connecting them by one line, while their “natural bright blush rendered unnecessary any face-paint and bleaching. They have beautiful, very white and strong teeth” that “they use to spoil with black paint – “tishkhali”* (8, p. 89).
A set of women’s clothes was similar to the garments of other regions of Uzbekistan, especially those of Bukhara and Tashkent. A female costume consisted of the undershirt and pants; outerwear of Mursak, Tun; outdoor clothes – the burqa; headpieces consisted of a variety of scarves; foot-wear – Mahsi and galoshes; as well as jewelry. Usually on weekdays, a woman wore, depending on her age, one dress, pants, Tun or Mursak, her head was covered with kerchief – Durracha, and going outside she was putting on burqa (9, ñ. 164 – 178). During the holidays her outfit became richer due to the clothes made of more expensive fabrics.
Kuynak dresses in the late XIX – early XX century were of traditional cut, broad with wide sleeves, vertical (for adult women) and horizontal (for girls) collars trimmed with jiyak braid, depending on age of women it was of woven pattern (for young females), of monochrome color or striped – for older women. Djiyak was ending with fringe – papuk. Women used to attach peshauz – a silver pendant – to papuk fringe, which was hanging at the waist, and to which the tweezers for eyebrows, a toothpick, a bottle of perfume, and keys (real or decorative ones from the chests) used to be fastened. The vertical collar was of triangular shape up to the middle of the chest, at the top it used to be held together by the strings boghich. The square gussets, hushtak, used to be sewn in the dresses, they were of a different color than the color of the dress – it used to be an amulet against the evil eye. Starting from the 1880s, women began to wear dresses with band collar, which was influenced by the Tatar fashion, as well as the dresses with waistline with frills and set-in sleeves. If the dress was made from expensive fine silk with abre pattern, such as, for example, kalgay of artisanal dyeing, the collar used to be made from front and rear sides, so that one could wear it on the other side, if the frontal part wears out or becomes blurred. In the 1890s, the dresses with cut-off gathered yoke kukrak-burma became fashionable, which have become especially popular and eventually have associated with the national costume in the minds of people. Dresses were made of the cotton fabric – kalami, mata (calico), thin muslin hosa, silk kalgay, satin, semi-silk fabric adras, and imported fabrics from Russian, English, French, Indian, Turkish, and Chinese factories – velvet, silk, brocade. The hem of the wedding dresses and children’s shirts used to be left unsown symbolizing the continuation of life (8, p. 95; 10).
The upper clothing of the Uzbek females of Ferghana Valley were the robes (peshwon, mursak, ton, chapan), and later in the early XX century – beshbel, camisole and tank top. Chapan or Tun is a quilted cotton gown of the straight cut with long sleeves that women wore in any season. It had a sparse stitch, and in some winter coats (mostly in Namangan) the stitch was large, quilted across, forming a square shape. Female chapan did not differ in its cut from the male one, but was more narrow, fitting to the figure and had long tight sleeves. The female robes used to be fringed with magyz – a cloth of a different color, preferably black. The samples of peshvon have not survived up to date, but it is known that they were similar to mursak and made part of a wedding dress.
The main type of the outer women’s clothing in the Ferghana Valley was munisak (mirsak, misak) – swing tunic-like garment with short sleeves and an open collar, which unlike Bukhara analogues of mursak – kaltacha had a wedge-shaped form and was slightly opening the chest and neck. The sleeves of the elegant mirsak in Ferghana were usually short (above the elbow) and wide, and only in rare cases they were long (9, p. 168). Small wedges used to be sewed to the front flaps of munisak, so that when worn the flaps were overlapping one another, leaving the chest open. Munisak was of two types: summer robe with a very thin cotton lining and the winter type – thick and cold-proof. All openings and the hem were trimmed with a woven ribbon. It was considered a ceremonial garment worn over on holidays or during the wedding ceremonies – kelin-salom, challar. Later, in the 1920s of the XX century, it has been used only in the funeral rituals as the cover of woman’s coffin. The cloth of the robes and mursak were of adras or shoyi with abre pattern, bekasab or cotton fabrics. In winter women used to wear two dresses of the male robes or the coats lined with fur of the weasel, beaver or otter (by wealthy women). Women did not belted their robes, except the women of easy virtue, who girded themselves with a red belt (8, p. 97). The camisoles were of two types – knee-long with short sleeves, mid-thigh, fitting at the waist or loose, with buttons. They were tailored of the fine imported fabrics (brocade, silk, velvet) (9, p. 164 – 178).
Until the end of the 1920s, the burqa was mandatory street clothes in the towns of Ferghana Valley, its distinctive feature was the presence double row of braid on the collar – jiyak. Compared to other regions, here burqa was more elegant and beautifully embroidered, while the dresses and overcoats were rather modest, had no embroidery, and their main decoration were the fabrics from which they were made, of more restrained blue-green colors, and motifs, which were smaller than, for example, in Bukhara or Tashkent. On the front embroidered flaps of the burqa (in place of the slits for hands) were the tassels of colored threads symbolizing the numerous offspring. Hair mesh – chimbat, chachvan – made of the black horse hair was very long, rectangular in shape, and edged with the black satin or velvet. Sometimes the bottom of chachvan was decorated with ornamental embroidery in silk of the iroki style, and later on by the chain machine stitch – popop. In the upper part of chachvan there was a button and a loop, which were used to attach it to the back, and on top of it the burqa itself used to be worn, starting from the age of 9 years – the age of girl’s maturity – up to the old age. The burqas differed in color and decor. The maiden’s burqas were made of the red calico or other cheap fabric. Young women wore burqas of semi-silk hand-woven fabric of parpasha colored of the narrow strips of blue, black or grayish-white shades, or semi-silk benoras of silver color with moire shimmer. Since the late XIX century the rich families began to use burqas made of the factory cloths – silk, brocade, Chinese satin with woven pattern, and velvet. The burqa was sewn on the lining of cheap fabric (astar chit); the flaps were hemmed by subband of oblique stripes of the color adras (0.5 cm).
The decor of the burqa at first was very simple – collor, flaps, hem, sleeves were trimmed with jiyak or magyz braids. From the beginning of the XX century when wider and brighter in color burqas became fashionable, they used to be decorated with the wide ornamental braid gul-jiyak of black color with a bright colored border, which used to be embroidered with silk threads. The ends of the sleeves and the fake pockets used to be decorated with popuk and embroidered by su motifs, zigzag patterns ilon-izi in the form of small peas of black pepper (muruch nuskha), then – in the form of the curls, twigs and ram’s horns kuchkar shokhi. Embroidery was decorating the front, the flanks, the hem forming the angles out of the stems at the bottom of the front and rear sides, on the crown a lush bush used to be embroidered. The richer was the woman, the more colorful and abundant was the pattern of her burqa. Old-time veil hid the entire female figure, later on its length was shortened so that the boots became visible.) The style of wearing the burqa, its length and color (gray or dark blue, ankle-length or until the floor) were determining the place of origin of the woman. In Namangan the top edge of burqa used to be pulled low on the forehead, while the ends of chimbat used to be released under the burqa outside, in Kokand the upper part of the burqa was worn on the crown of head, and chimbat beneath it (8, p. 96). In the villages women used to put the robe on their heads instead of the veil.
The outfit of Uzbek women in Ferghana Valley was supplemented by hats. In the views of local residents the human hair were closely connected with a soul and were particularly susceptible to the influence of evil forces. Therefore, the head must be covered, and it was considered as inappropriate to give the headwear to anyone or to throw them on the floor (10).
The main type of women’s headdress was handkerchiefs (11, pp. 196 – 206). It was considered a sin to go out without a headscarf. Women used to wear head scarves starting from the age of 9 years. Scarves differed in the way of their wearing, quality and color of the fabric. Girly scarves were bright, mostly of red color; they used to be worn by knotting the ends at the nape; kerchiefs of young women of the late XIX century were of white muslin with embroidered corners in the form of the rim. These scarves were worn until women were giving birth to 2-3 children, and then they used to be replaced with a plain white scarf. Young women wore two scarves at the same time. A large kerchief folded in half diagonally was thrown to the head so that the ends were lying at the chest, and over it a durra was fixed – small colored kerchief folded several times so that it formed something like a high tiara at the forehead. Adult women threw the ends of the first scarf on the back. Older women wore simultaneously three shawls: the first one had a hole for the face and was draping the chest and the back; the forehead over it was tied with a small scarf and on the top of it the turban-like dakana or loki to be worn. The fact of wearing the turbans by women in Kokand is evidences by the travelers (7). Turbans of older women were different from the male ones by their higher oblong shape. The end of a female turban – pech – was either hanging in the back, or was plugged into the folds of turban. Women began to wear two scarves when a turban went out of fashion in the early XX century. In the XIX century women wore hats with braid wrap – kuluta – after birth of 2-3 children. The hats were of bright colors, small round shape with a special pouch for hair braids, attached in the back. Until 1930s, women did not to wear skullcaps. They appeared in the Soviet time. Only girls wore small hats on their heads, decorated with feathers and amulets against evil eye – toumar.
Women’s footwear consisted of soft leather boots – mahsi, which used to be worn along with the shoes kavush, later on replaced by rubber galoshes. The need to wear kavush was explained by F. Nazarov who wrote: “The clay soil in the towns heats up so much that there is no possibility to step it in the ordinary shoes; therefore they wear galoshes over the boots” (7). In the winter, special wooden shoes were used in the inclement weather – hakalakash – with three heels that were strengthened by metallic taps for stability and no-skid sole. Hakalakash used to be worn in the rain on bare feet or with insoles, and in winter period – with teri mahsi – soft boots without hard soles, stitched of the lambskin with the fur inside.
Jewelry did not have great importance in the suit of Ferghana as in other regions. According to general Central Asian tradition the jewelry pieces used to be worn from early childhood, varying their amount depending on age and status of women. The most common jewelry was considered the rings, earrings, coral necklaces, toumar and bracelets. The rings used to be made of colored stones or glass, the bracelets of solid flat stripes of metal, sometimes decorated by engraving. The earrings in the form of small domes kubba with pendants or so-called Kashgar (Kashgar-Boldak) in the form of a large loop, the lower half of which was decorated with granulation and filigree, appeared in Ferghana Valley after the settlement of the refugees from Kashgar (Kashi) conquered by China. Since the end of the XIX century women began to wear earrings with pendants in the shape of djida (Russian olive) and earrings made of three vertically connected plates, decorated with stones and mirror inserts and pendants at the bottom (oyna zirak). There was no custom to wear a nose-ring in the Ferghana Valley (they were worn only by Jewish women of the Central Asia). Women favored the coral necklaces stringed in several threads. Their number was an indicator of wellbeing. The braids used to be adorned by paired pendants zar-kokul that hung in the front along the cheeks or in the back attached to the hair braids, but more often they used to wear soch-popuk in the form of filament brushes passed through the silver straws.
The forehead decorating jewelry of the women of Ferghana Valley were tilla-bargak and tilla-kosh, supplemented by temporal jewelry – zulfizar and peshana gadjak. Tilla-bargak put on the scarf consisted of interconnected squares, studded with turquoise and coral, to its bottom the pendants with leaves used to be attached, from which this type of jewelry got its name. Tilla-kosh (golden eyebrows) is highly luxurious decoration that consisted of tiara in the form of the connected eyebrows, in the upper part of the crown decorated with turquoise. At the beginning of the XX century the jewelry began to gradually disappear from everyday use with the emergence of the large kerchiefs – gidjim rumol – made of silk, decorated with tassels that were not going well with forehead jewelry.
Special attention used to be given to the hair-dress of women. In XIX century there were special rules for hair styling that were signifying the age of females and transition from one age group to another. In Kokand, the girls used to braid their hair in fine tails, some part of which used to be thrown on the chest. Prior to the birth of their first child, sometimes until giving birth to a second child, women used to braid their hair in 4-5 tails (kokil), therefore such hair-dress was called beshkokul, later on they were wearing hair in two braids. Married women sometimes were braiding their hair in two pairs of tails in order to keep hair away. Up to the age of 40 years it was mandatory to plait pilik into the braids’ ends. It was believed that pilik brings good fortune. In Namangan, hair used to be combed parting in the middle, and they used to be set in the upper forehead with two large festoons, while in Kokand the females used to style their hair by the locks behind ears. The widowed women were adorning their hair by the beaded chains (zanjirli munchok).
In general the traditional female clothes and head-dress, the manner of their wearing and color had more significance than in the male clothing. They reflected the age, family status, social position of a woman identifying her origin and tribal appurtenance. The change of color and the style of headpiece worn by a woman was the sign of her social and age group related to her marriage, birth of her first child or first grandchild, etc. The white color of clothes was preferred by women of all ages in summer time, for older women this color was obligatory (10, p. 30). While grieving the women were wearing clothes of black, dark blue and dark green colors. Dressing in the ritual clothes was followed by certain customs. The national female clothes and jewelry were regarded and revered as magical objects able to protect from various calamities and impact of maleficent forces and diseases (10).
In Ferghana Valley women were following the moral and ethic prescriptions of Islam regarding the clothes more than in any other region. According to such prescriptions a woman had to form in herself such qualities as loyalty, submission, patience and timidity. At the same time, the clothes of women from Kokand and Ferghana by their garland mursaks made of abre fabrics, burqas, although of monochrome color palette, and jewelry, were leaving impression of richness and elegancy on foreign travelers who saw them mainly in the public places.

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