The following document is a translation of the website:

by Sofya la Rus (mka Lisa Kies)

Prepared using documents generously provided by

Nadya Petrova (Stephanie Ross) and Mordak Timofeevich (Tim Nalley)

As of 28 February 2006, the original webpage was not working.


Costume of Russian merchant

(Novgorod, XV century)

Authors of reconstruction

(C) Alexander Bykov, Olga Kuzmin. Penza 2002


Under shirt [sorochitsa]

It is tailored from bleached linen with straight armholes [projmami], slightly angled side inserts and red cotton underarm gussets [lastovitsy]. On the bottom of sleeves are sewn in narrow wedges/gores to widen the sleeves to meet the armhole. The shirt is made with a straight slit to the middle of the chest [referring to the neck slit], without a collar, and the shirt is fastened with a button plaited from a red cord.

Seams of the shirt along the edge of sleeves, collar and the hem are traced with red threads - the pagan idea of the red color as protection from evil spirits was preserved even in Christian Russia. The shirt was sewn with slip-stitched and flat-felled seams; judging by the archeological data, such seams were known during the investigated period.

Sources of reconstruction: Proof that men wore top and under shirts: engraving from Radzivillovskoj Chronicles (XV century)


Written sources: Metropolitan Kiprian complained in 1378, that the prince’s people had robbed the Metropolitan’s servants down to their shirts (RIB VI, with. 175); Novgorodian Boris who had left home for a short while, wrote to his wife to send a replaceable shirt that he had forgotten (Novgorod birchbark letter ? 43, with. 157. Date of the letter - XIV-XV of centuries)

For a basis of a cut of a shirt ethnographic materials of the Novgorod region are taken:

Parmon F.M.Russian a national suit. - Ì., 1994

The Under Trousers (Нижние штаны)

Trousers are short, not quite reaching the anklebones. Structurally trousers consist of three panels: two are the trouser legs, the third panel is folded on the diagonal into two gores which are sewn onto the trouser legs with straight seams so that one gusset settles down in front, another - behind. A split is made toward the left side, in the seam between the leg panel and the gusset. Trousers are kept up on the hips with a drawstring from a lace (like a shoelace) or cords.

Sources of reconstruction:

Русские мужские порты северных регионов, схема. Пармон Ф.М. Русский народный костюм.

Russian pants of the northern regions, schematic.  Parmon F.M. Russian National Costume.

Icon " Three youths in the fiery furnace". Novgorod, XVth century.


Icon "Forty holy martyrs" XVth century, a fragment.

The over shirt (Верхняя рубаха)

Outward appearance and cut of the over shirt is restored based on archeological sources, for example, the preserved child's shirt of the beginning of XVI century, and in images of shirts on children from the icon " Praying Novgorodtsy ".

The cut of a child's shirt did not differ essentially from man's shirts. At that time there was no special cut of children's clothes.  The “Domostroj” advises to sew for children the same clothes as the adult, but to turn up “a vershok or two" in the necessary places “for growth".  [A vershok is about 1.75 inches.  The necessary places would be the hem and sleeves, at least that’s what my mother did when she made our clothes.] 

In our ensemble, the over shirt is tunic-like with straight torso, "goloshejka" (literally, naked neck), with a straight cut collar.  The collar is clasped on loops and buttons from knots. The embroidery around a collar simulates a formal/dressy false collar. The shirt is tailored from bleached flax, the fastener is made from a red plaited cord.

Shirt belted with red plaited/woven belt with tassels - "opojaskoj" [from word for belt]. The image of such belt is on an icon "Praying novgorodians". In Russia, to appear in public unbelted was considered shameful.

Sources of reconstruction:

Fragment of an icon "Praying novgorodtsy " XV century.

The children's shirt, beginning XVIth cent., Moscow, GIM


In our ensemble, stockings are sewn separately, from thin red woolen fabric cut on the bias.

The analysis of graphic material (both Novgorodian and other Russian icons and engravings) allows to conjecture that well-to-do people in Russia during the researched period wore separate stockings of the West-European type on top of the under trousers. At least, for neighboring Lithuania there is a graphic source (seal of Kejstuta) on which such stockings and the method of their wear are clearly visible.

[The translator is not convinced by this evidence.  All other sources indicate that a second pair of trousers were worn, not Western-style hose/chausses.  None of the Russian (not Lithuanian) illustrations I’ve seen show enough of the leg to prove the question either way.]

Sources of reconstruction:

Fragment of an icon " Praying Novgorodtsy " XV century

The soldier in separate stockings on seal of Kejstuta (1387)

The drawing of West-European stocking of XIII-XIV centuries from the book:  Nockert, Margareta. Bockstenmannen, Och Hans Drдkt. Halmstad och Varberg: Stiftelsen Hallands, 1985. [The Bocksten Man and his Clothes.]:

Outer clothing


Directly over the rubakha was worn the svita. Apparently, it was the most widespread outer clothing of townspeople in the XV century.  For example, the praying Novgorod boyars are dressed in svitas in an icon of XV century.

The svita was sewn from a brown woolen fabric, with a length barely above knees, fastened with buttons made from knots. The svita was detachable (fastenable?) to the waist. The skirt was slightly flared, both due to a trapezoid cut, and due to side gores. The sleeve widens toward the armhole by means of narrow gores and gussets (lastovitsy). The svita has a velvet turn-down collar and cuffs.


From icon "Life of Metropolitan Alex", XVc., a brand.

Fragment of icon " Praying Novgorodians " XV century

Opashen’ (Опашень)

The opashen’ was formal/dressy special-occasion clothing of cloak-like type. The opashen' was sewn from smooth red woolen cloth (sukno). It has a satin (atlas) turn-down collar trimmed with river pearls on its edge. Lengthwise along the flap of the opashen’ are sewn sixteen pairs of horizontal loops and buttons. Buttons were cast of brass, pear-shaped. Sleeves were long and narrow, with holes in the sleeves near the armholes through which the hands could pass. Owing to sewn in armhole gussets (lastovitsy), opashen' is convenient to wear over-the-shoulders - "on opash' ". In miniatures of the Radzivillovskoj annals, opashni are worn and clasped with buttons, passing hands through the holes in the sleeves.


Miniature from Radzivillovskoj annals.

Fragment of icon "Fight of Novgorodians with Suzdalians".



Grey smooth wool cloth (sukno) cap with a red silk lining and with cuff with two breaks (in front and behind). In front,the cuff is fastened with silver buttons. The seam on the cap is decorated with a geometrical pattern of fine semi-precious stones and glass beads.


From an icon " Fight of Novgorodians with Suzdalians"

Cap of XVcent. From graphic sources. Parmon F.M. Russian National Costume.


Boots from red leather, with a linen lining, on a leather sole with multilayered leather heel nailed on with small nails.

The pattern of the boot is restored based on archeological finds in Novgorod, Moscow and Ryazan.


Reconstruction of a boot on an archeological find in Ryazan. Similar boots are stored in the Novgorod historical museum.

On an icon " Praying Novgorodians " at all boyars red bootsi with straight lines durable.


Svita was girdled with a belt/sash woven from woolen strings, with tassels left on the ends.

In icon "Praying novgorodians" details of clothes are all traced in great detail. However on the belts of the boyars no buckle is drawn, therefore it is possible to conjecture, that on them not belts, but sashes, tied on the side (therefore not visible except for the tassels hanging down). Another method of wearing of a belt (knotted in front with tassels hanging down tassels) is visible on the sculpture of master Avraamija on Sigtunskih gate to the Novgorod Sofia Church.

Reconstruction of money bag (kalita) is made on the basis of the known Moscow archeological finds described in detail in the Rabinovich book. (Rabinovich M.G. About ancient Moscow, with. 113-115.)

Contents of the kalita of a merchant (scales, a set of weights, dice, a comb) are restored based on an display of the Novgorod historical museum.


We can judge clothes of ordinary townspeople of XIII-XV centuries basically by images (artwork).  Extremely important  are the ornaments (illuminations) and the initials of the Novgorod manuscripts of the XIV century, where are found extremely realistic images of the townspeople, mainly without headdresses, in rather short - up to knees - over clothes which have been cut to the waist, belted with sashes; (Rabinovich M.G. About ancient Moscow)

Sculptured self-portrait of Novgorod master-caster Avraamija in over garment with front opening [raspashnoj] of the svita type or a homespun coat (zipun), girdled with a belt (in three turns with tassels) and reaching the knees. A portrayal in sculpture on Sigtunskij gate of the Novgorod Church Sofia. (Rabinovich M.G. About ancient Moscow, with 186-187)

Belt bag-kalita 1 - the front view; 4 - a cross-section. An archeological find, Moscow. (Rabinovich M.G. About ancient Moscow, with. 113-115.)


According to the archeological finds, the most popular man's ornaments in Novgorod in the XV century were rings. In this merchant’s ensemble, there is a silver ring - a copy of an archeological find of a lead-tin ring with a boss in the form of connected hands.

A silver cross-tel'nik on silk cord - a copy of an archeological find of a lead-tin cross.

The point is that archeologists have found jewelry items made of various materials cast in the very same forms.  Evidently, the material depended on the financial means of the customer.


Cross-tel'nik with figured thickenings on the ends on which are slanting (orthodox?) crosses, just as in the middle of the cross. Length 3.9cm. see Sedova M.V.jewel of Ancient Novgorod X-XVvv

Bronze ring with a boss in the form of two joined hands. Such rings in silver are known in England from the XII century.  They gained the greatest popularity in the XIV-XV centuries, especially in Flanders and Italy. The Novgorod ring was found in the Gothic excavations.

Sedova M.V. Jewelry of Ancient Novgorod X-XVvv.

Such ring could have been a gift of a western partner.

The Novgorod historical museum. A find of  the XVth century