Traditional dress

Country: Kyrgyzstan
Reconstructed traditional dress of women and girls, 2016, Northern Kyrgyz

Kyrgyz traditional clothing style was simple and rational. It was formed due to climatic and natural conditions. For mountain Kyrgyz, the emphasis was on keeping warm: winter clothing was made of felt, skin and fur of domestic and wild animals. Clothing was also made from leather and suede, as well as of hand-made woollen and cotton fabrics. Missing raw materials, including silk, velvet and brocade fabrics, threads, beads were obtained as a result of barter trade with neighboring settled people. The wealthy Kyrgyz differed from commoners with richly decorated clothes made of expensive fabrics.

Men wearing kementai of felt and chapan

Men’s clothing consisted of the body shirt (koinok) and a wide pants (shym) made of textile. Persons of noble birth wore suede pants, embroidered with woolen or silk coloured threads. There were several varieties of suede and leather pants: zhargak shym, kandagai and chalbar. Traditional types of of Kyrgyz men’s top clothing include kementai and chepken. In winter, the Kirghiz wore ton (a sheepskin coat). Wealthy people wore ichik, a fur coat made from the skins of predatory animals (fox, wolf, snow leopard). The outer clothing was girdled with a sash (belbo) or a leather belt (kurI, a belt with hanging bags (kiseh). Rich men used wide leather belt, decorated with silver (kemer kur). Men’s headdresses include skullcaps (topu and takya), fur hat (tebetei) and a hat made of white felt (kalpak).

Female long dresses-shirts with wide sleeves were sewn mainly from white cotton fabric, less often of other colours. Women wore a short sleeveless vest on the lining (chiptama), robe (chapan), quilted robe (chepken), in winter a fur coat (ton or ichik). Distinctive element of the clothes of married women was the skirt (beldemchi). The skirt, which was worn over the dress, belonged only to married women. In conditions of nomadic life, it was extremely necessary for women to be protected from cold during work and riding on horseback. Beldemchi were made of black and coloured velvet and decorated with embroidery. Girls before marriage wore hats (topu), which were decorated with embroidery, silver coins, the feather of an owl, which played a role of amulet against the evil eye. The girls also wore holiday hats from a red or crimson cloth or velvet with a height of 25-28 cm (shokulo), which looked like a helmet. Married women wore a headscarf (zhooluk and elechek), a turban made of white thin fabric, the method of binding of which had regional features. Winter women’s hats had a conical shape, the top of them was sewn from coloured cloth, the bottom was rounded with fur.

Shoes, both of male and female, consisted of leather boots from the thick skin (otuk) and from soft skin (maasy), leather galoshes (kepich), slippers from rawhide (cheryk). Women also wore ornamented boots with heels of coloured leather.

Today in Kyrgyzstan, men both in the village and in the city, wear traditional headdresses (topu, ak-kalpak and tebetei). Traditional clothes in its classical version are worn by people mainly on holidays or weddings. Since the end of the 20th century traditional top women’s clothing chyptama, chepken, chapan, richly decorated by embroidery or beads has become fashionable.

Further reading

Китайская косметика Изкис

Кыргызское декоративно-прикладное искусство

Kyrgyzstan: Encyclopedia. B: The State Language and Encyclopedic Center, 2001. – 548 p.

Manas: The heroic epic of the Kyrgyz people: 2-book. Version of S.Orozbakova. – Bishkek: Kyrgyzstan, 1995.

Manas: The heroic epic of the Kyrgyz people: the 3-book. Version of S.Karalayev. – Bishkek: Tourar, 2010.