Fascination of Folk Costume

The Kama, Mid-Volga and Urals regions, located at the junction of Europe and Asia, are significant historical and ethnographic sites. The peoples of the region - the Komi (Zyryan and Permyak), Udmurt, Mordovian and Mari, who speak Finnish-Ugric lan-guages, and the Tartars, Bashkir and Chuvash, who speak Turkic languages - dwell there side by side with the  Russians.

     The culture and everyday life of these peoples are represented in the collections of the Russian Museum of Ethnography by almost 25.000 pieces, which were collected over the course of more than 100 years. The most ancient material artifacts in the collection are those that were received from the Rumyantsevsky and Dashkovsky Museums. The collection was further enriched by the yields of ethnographic expeditions to the Volga-Urals region, which were headed by such prominent explorers as M. Yevseviev, I. Zelenov, S. Rudenko and S. Sergel’. 

The clothes of the Volga-Urals peoples represent a significant source of research material for ethnographers; costumes, therefore, occupy a very important place in the Museum’s collection of artifacts from that region. These costumes were gathered together to form the basis for the exhibition The Fascination of Folk Costume. On exhibit are different types of traditional clothing worn by the peoples of the region, which were exceptional for their composition of costume, range of colors, originality of adornments, and style of wear.The works of contemporary couturiers who creatively use traditional motifs in their art are also on display.

     The clothing of the Volga-Urals region differed according to the social context in which it was worn and the social role of the person who wore it. The clothing of young girls differed from the clothing of women; garments for everyday wear and for work differed from the garments worn for holidays and rituals.

     The most stylish and beautiful costumes were the holiday and wedding garments. They were exceptional for their quality of material, embroidery and adornment.

     A fundamental part of the costume worn in the region was a shirt, cut into the shape of a tunic, that was designed to be both an under- and an over-garment. A loose kaftan was usually worn over this shirt. Such kaftans were often gathered with a fabric belt complemented by a whole collection of belt adornments: pendants, tassels and towels. Such detachable adornments, made of coins, glass-beads, shells and other materials, were considered indispensable articles of dress.

     Headdresses were of two types: framed and towel-like. Their shapes and trimmings were extraordinary diverse.

Homespun fabrics, usually spun and woven of flax, wool and hemp, were commonly used to make clothes. Tartars and Bashkirs preferred to use cotton, silk, broadcloth and furs, while the Finnish-Ugric peoples preferred white linen.

     Weaving patterns into the fabric itself was another means of decorating clothing. This art of patterned weaving was traditionally practiced by women and was especially advanced among the Komi, Udmurt, Tartar and Bashkir peoples. Alacha, one type of patterned cloth, was woven of flax, hemp and wool. Towards the beginning of the twentieth century, homespun cotton thread began to be produced in factories. Among some Volga-Kama peoples, patterned, multi-colored home-spun completely supplanted embroidered white fabrics.

     Embroidery was another traditional women’s art. It was most widely used to trim clothes by the Mordovian, Mari, Chuvash and Udmurt peoples. The embroidery on display in this exhibition is remarkable for its diversity of materials and techniques.

Space required - approximately 150-200 square meters.

number of objects - about 250-300