"Upper Indoor Garments of Russian Women of 13th-17th cent."
by M.G. Rabinovich

from Chapter 4 of Drevyaya Odezheda Narodov Vostochnoj Evropy

Translation by Lady Sofya la Rus, Mka Lisa Kies

[Translator's Note: As usual, parenthesis are from the original Russian text. Items in brackets are my comments .]

p. 68 (actually started in last paragraph)

Upper indoor clothing. For women, a “hip/thigh” garment [набеддренная одежда] was supplemented by a sorochka, which they wore at home, and in warm weather they even wore it outside (Fig. 20, a). In the 14th cent. this was, evidently, that same poneva about which we spoke in the previous chapter. But after this time the wear of the poneva by women gradually went on the wane. The poneva was replaced by another women’s indoor garment, which began to spread in the middle or end of the 14th century – the sarafan. The question of the origin and the spread of the sarafan in the period we are examining is rather difficult and in ethnographic science has not yet been decided conclusively. The problem in this is that the exact correlation between this garment and its name is still not clear. The term “sarafan” and “sarafanets” are known in written sources from the end of the 14th century, but until the 17th cent. this term signified not a women’s garment, but a men’s long, open-front garment (PSRL, XII, p. 27). Along with this garment, is known a women’s over garment of the same period called “feryaz’, sukman, sayan, shubka (Kuftin, 1926, p. 110-120). Later on these other terms (shushun, kotilan, nosov) coexisting with the term “sarafan”, serve as names for women’s indoor clothing which was worn over the rubakha. The term “sarafan” for men’s clothing already was not used in the 2nd half of the 17th century. Thus, obviously, sarafan came to name a women’s garment, existing earlier, and probably even some new type of it, created in the cities under the influence of the garments of the wealthy classes and service class and from there spread to the countryside (Kuftin, 1926, p. 110, 115; Maslova, 1956, p 642-643). B.A. Kuftin proposes that the garment, later called a sarafan, could have arisen from the original set of women’s clothing with the poneva (either from a “hip/thigh” garment gaining a bodice and shoulder straps, or from an upper body [наплечной] garment lengthened and sometimes losing its sleeves), and that change could have begun already in the period of the settlement of the Slavs in the northern regions of later Russia and proceeded under the influence of clothing of southern and western Slavs, Letto-Lithuanians, Finno-Ugric, Scandinavian and even (indirectly) western European peoples, for example the people of France (Kuftin, 1926, p. 113, 117), to us it seems valid, but there remains in the sources that we spoke of in the beginning of this chapter nothing to either confirm or to refute this proposal, because there remain no original items of the 13th to 16th cent. or reliable illustrations of them, on which is clearly visible the cut of the garment.
In our sources, it is apparent that the sarafan or shubka (both terms of eastern origin in the opinion of researchers), names in the period that we are examining for a women’s indoor garment in the form of a whole dress (with sleeves or, more often, without sleeves) or a high skirt on shoulderstraps, “nakladnaya” (put on over the head) or raspashnaya (fastened in the front with buttons).

p. 69 (actually began at end of above paragraph)

For that time, it is difficult to establish the borders of the distribution of the sarafan among the village population, but city dwellers already in the 16th cent. did not know the poneva as a garment, and used only the sarafan. In written sources of the 15th-17th cent. the poneva as a city garment is not recorded even once. About the route of penetration of the sarafan in the village environment gives evidence, for example, garment of “odnodvortsev” [title of a class of governmental servitors] in south Russia (Russkie, card 40) – the result of the settlement of Muscovite service people in the 17th cent.
The sarafan was sewn in the majority of cases of beautifu colored material (the simplest of dyed linen, the rich of expensive imported fabrics). They were decorated with galoon, lace [кружева], valuable buttons (of which there could be 13-15 – Sav. p. 179), more rarely embroidered (Maslova, 1978, p. 16). Sources record, for example, “women’s light red satin shupka, lace of hammered gold” (AYuB, II, No 126 – XV, stb. 20). In the will of one shuyanka [? шуянка] is even listed five “shubka”, of which three are taffeta, one kindyachnayaaya [киндячная] and only one of dyed linen warm, that is, an actual shuba and not a sarafan (Ash, No 137, p. 246-247). We consider sarafans “cool” (without fur) shubki. For an actual shuba, some sort of fur is always indicated, or it says that the shuba is “warm”. “Kuntysh kamka-like, lace gold and silver, ogonki beaver” [A kuntush is now a type of kaftan. Kamka is an expensive imported Chinese patterned fabric, i.e. brocade. An ogonyok is usually a little fire, but can also mean zeal/ardor/fascination, so presumably here it is the beaver fur edging that is adding extra fascination to the garment…] – thus indicated in depiction of dowry of 17th cent. of a rich, fur-edged sarafan (AYuB, III, No 028 – IV, stb. 266-267). In another similar depiction is recorded two sarafans – valuable “shushun of red broadcloth with fancy dress” and a rather more inexpensive “dyed linen with fancy dress” (Rovdogor’e 1647 C.E.) (AGO, r. I, op. 1, No 3, sheet 21 ob.) In the first case, the value was 4 rubles, in the second – 8 grivna. In the dowry of a Volotskij princess at the end of the 15th cent. we find shubas of red, crimson and light-green color of expensive Flanders and English broadcloth (DDG, No 87, p. 349-350). The broadcloth sarafan – “women’s shubka of green bryukishna [брюкишна]” – is found also in documents of 16th cent. (AYu, No 248, p. 266). Besides in the home of a rather prosperous noblewoman in the 18th cent. could be even relatively inexpensive dyed linen sarafans. In 1680 from the country estate of Andrei Aristov in the Muromsk district in the list of property stolen by thieves “four sarafans of dyed linen” (AYuB, III, No 329, stb 271). Observing the sources of the 15-17th centuries, the inaccuracy of differentiation of the terms “sarafan” and “shuba”, evidently, existed even in these later times. Even in the middle of the last century in several northern cities the sarafan was used as a name for an indoor garment with armholes, with a “gold” belt, analogous in cut to an open-front (but, obviously still with sleeves) street garment, which in winter was made with quilting (Semevskij, 1864, p. 82, 1870, p. 127).
Finally, women’s indoor and in part, outdoor clothing at the end of this period was the skirt [юбка], made of beautifully, richly ornamented material. In the inventory of a wealth dowry (“in blessing home”) at end of 17th century is listed “skirt of green taffeta, skirt of new green stametnaya [?стаметная], skirt with bustrogom (?) worn vybojchataya [выбойчатая]” (AYuB, III, No 328 – IV, stb. 266-267). The last, evidently, served as everyday clothing asn was sewn not of silk, but of ordinary printed fabric – vybojki. P. Savvaitov considered that the mention in sources of “saya” could be not only an open-front sarafan, but also a skirt, which was kept up on the shoulders with armholes or with suspenders (Sav. p. 125). In this case appears the genetic relationship between the sarafan and the skirt.

p. 70 (actually began in last paragraph)

The sarafan and yubka were sometimes supplemented by the dushegreya - a short (in most cases without sleeves) women's jacket, open down the front, gathered in back with a multitude of gathers, embracing the body in a sumptuous ring (Giliarovskaya, 1945, p. 43)."
COPYRIGHT (c) 2006 by Lisa Kies. You may make copies for personal use and to distribute for educational purposes but only if the article remains complete and entire with original authorship clearly noted.
Return to Russian Materials.