Traditional clothing of the northern people


Traditional Evenki clothing for winter was made of reindeer skin; for summer, rovduga or fabric. The Evenki men’s and women’s attire incl. an open-cut caftan (summer—sun, winter—khegilme, muke) with 2 wide folds in the back (to make easier sitting astride a reindeer), strings in front and a deep collarless cut; a breastpiece with strings in the back (women’s, nelli, with a straight hem, and men’s, helmi, with an angled hem); a belt with a sheath (men’s) or a pouch (women’s), loin covers (kherki), leggings (aramus, gurumi). The clothes was adorned with strips of fur, fringe, horsehair, metal pendants, etc. An original head dress was made out of the whole skin from a reindeer head, avun and meta (the eye and antler orifices were sewn up and adorned with beads). The Evenkis adopted from the Yakuts the caftan with a turndown collar. The forest-tundra Evenki wore closed hooded fur sokuis (coats) over the caftans. The horse breeding E. in the Transbaikalia and Amur areas wore robes wrapping over from the left to the rright. In the 19th cent., elements of Russian clothing became common.
The footwear (short-untal—or long-kheveri, bakari, etc.) was made from kamus.
The traditional hairdo is long hair tied up on top and wound over with a beaded ribbon (chireptun). The Eastern Evenki wore their hair short, and their women wound 2 locks or plaits around their heads under a kerchief.

Traditional Even men’s and women’s clothing had much in common with Evenki clothes. Their main element was an open-cut caftan (taty) sewn of young deer fur or rovduga; the back, front, and the upper part of the sleeve were cut out of one skin, with two gores inserted in the lower part of the back. The hem and front edges had a fur trim (not present on Evenki (kaftans). The seams were covered with a strip ornamented with beads (on women’s kaftans, usually white and blue beads against a light background). The front parts of the caftan did not overlap, so it was worn with a long breastpiece (nel, neleken). The breastpiece reached the knee and was sometimes made of two pieces, the breastpiece proper and the apron. Men’s breastpieces had a rovduga fringe sewn to them at the waist level, while women’s breastpieces were decorated with ornament on the lower part (embroidered in beads and hair taken from the neck of a reindeer), and the hem was edged with a rovduga fringe with metal pendant-bells, copper plates, rings, and silver coins. Under the caftan they wore short hip pants (kherki), fur stockings, and boots of reindeer skin. In winter, fur parkas were worn, which had a slit at the front, but its front parts overlapped.
Even and Dolgan bead decoration had a geometric, striped pattern. The Evens decorated fur coats and bibs with b. stripes in which the dominating color was blue. The decoration was based upon a transition from the lightest to the darkest, and then to black. Sometimes the motif of a circle made from light and dark blue, white and black beads was introduced into the striped decoration, circles were often framed by arches.
Footwear was sewn of rovduga or fur depending on the season. Women’s footwear was decorated with bead ornaments (nisa). The headwear for both men and women was a tight-fitting beaded hood (avun). In winter men wore a big fur cap over the hood, and women sometimes wore a headscarf. Women’s gloves (khair) were decorated with a beaded circle in the form of the sun. E. also used the festive clothes as burial clothes.

Traditional clothing of Yukagirs was similar to that of the Evens. It included a wrap-up caftan, a breastpiece for protection, pants, headwear, and gloves. Summer clothes were sewn of rovduga, winter clothes of reindeer fur, and clothes for the tundra were double-layer. Men’s and women’s caftans were made waisted, with two gores at the bottom of the back forming an inner fold (whereas the Even caftan had a wide outer fold on the back). For this peculiarity of cut, neighbors called Yukagirs “people with partridge tails,” and Evens “people with loon tails.” Fur caftans (makhil), golden-brown or gray, were trimmed with white coat fur dyed red; summer caftans of rovduga (naimeke) were embroidered along the edges in red, black, and white hair taken from the reindeer neck. Attached to the upper part of the men’s caftan was a bisected seal-fur tail hanging down to the ground; it was dyed red by alder or osier water (kasi engur, kuril). The women’s caftan had two similar tails attached to the sides over the gores. Under the caftan a breastpiece was worn (in summer ngeun, in winter niniedabun made of fur); in winter a hare fur was sometimes worn under it. A scarf of fox tails was used as a collar by men, a scarf of squirrel tails by women. In the tundra in severe frosts, women also wore short hip pants and a breastpiece. Men wore rovduga pants in summer (uo), and fur pants in winter (kharo). In winter they also wore kukhlyankas borrowed from the Chukchi (pull-on fur garments with hoods), and over these they put on kamleikas (pullovers made of rovduga). The winter footwear (nyumbua mure) of reindeer or elk kamus was made high so as to cover the whole leg; in winter this was supplemented by fur stockings (nonhaar mure, murudu). Summer footwear was made of reindeer skin, knee-high and boot-shaped.

Headwear was a hood-shaped fur cap, made of one central and two side parts. It was edged with fabric or fur, and the seam was piped red.
Five-fingered gloves of rovduga were decorated with red and black straps of fabric, embroidered in red and white hair from a reindeer neck.
Festive clothes were decorated with many-colored furs, cloth edgings, and reindeer-hair embroidery, sometimes with beads, metal plates, and pendants. The most valuable were round silver plates worn by women—these were called “breast suns” and were handed down from mother to daughter. Men girdled their caftans with leather belts (yuo tege, with a tobacco pouch and a sheathed knife attached. Hunters wore a belt (kalbu) with a knife, tinderbox, and bags for gunpowder, dried meat, and tobacco. In winter they put on snow spectacles. Men also wore a plait, with a metal pendant or several strings of beads tied up to it; women wore several plaits with strings of beads or pearls and copper rings. Burial dress was a caftan with three fur tails, and kuratli, a pointed hat that imitated the pointed head of a mythical ancestor. In the 19th century, summer clothes made of fabric became popular: shirts and dresses with turn-down collar, similar to garments worn by Yakuts and Russians.
Shamans occupied a special place in the social structure of Yukagir society; they were patrons of the clan. Under the influence of Tunguses, special shaman clothing and accessories became part of Yukagir traditions.: tambourine (yalgil), beetle (peidube), caftan, breastplate, hat, footwear, and images of the shaman’s helper-spirits (eilyii). The strongest spirits were mammoth, bear, wolverine, and souls of the ancestors. The shaman’s caftan had a red pattern (drawn with ochre or alder sap), which divided the garment into two parts, the lighter right part with seven cross-like figures of birds, and the darker left one with seven man-like figures of ancestors. A rovduga strip in the center, embroidered in reindeer hair, symbolized the world tree. The shaman’s headwear followed Even tradition: a round cap of kamus, lighter on the right, darker on the left, topped by two cylinder-shaped “horns.”

National Yakut clothing consists of single-breasted kaftan (son), made of fur in winter, cow or horse skin in summer; wealthy people had cloth kaftans which were sewn from 4 gussets with additional gores at the waist and wide sleeves gathered at the shoulder; short leather pants (syaia), leather boots (sotoro), and fur socks (keenche). Cloth shirts with a turndown collar (yrbakhy) appeared later. Men wore simple belts, rich men wore belts with silver or copper buckles. Wedding fur coats for women (sangyiakh) reached their heels and widened at the bottom, with a yoke, set-in puff sleeves, and a fur shawl collar. The sides, hem, and sleeves were fringed with wide red or green fabric-lace strips. The fur coats were richly decorated with silver widgets, beads, and frills. They were much valued and passed on from generation to generation, esp. in toyon (clan head) families. Female wedding headdress (diabakka) was made of sable or beaver fur. It looked like a hood falling to the shoulders with a high top made of red or black cloth, velvet or brocade, thickly decorated with beads, lace, and buckles, and always with a large silver heart-shaped plate (tuosakhta) above the forehead. The oldest diabakka were decorated with bird feathers. Women also wore belts (kur), breast (ilin kebikher), back (kelin kebikher), neck (mooi simege) jewelry, earrings (ytarga), bracelets (begekh), braid pins (sukhuekh simege), silver, at times gold rings with engravings (bikhilekh).

Footwear: winter high boots made of deer or horse skin (fur side out) (eterbes), summer suede boots (saary) with fabric-covered legs, women had appliqué work on theirs.
Scrolls, palmettes, and meanders dominate their ornaments. Summer footwear was made of blackened leather or rovduga and it has a decorated upper part with thread and bead embroidery. The ornament comprised arch motif placed by tier in combination with stripes. Tops of winter kamus footwear were decorated with fur-tree patterns.
Yakuts in the past plentifully decorated with beads objects of horse gear (кычимы, чепраки) made of cloth and velvet. They applied traditional pattern, embroidered color beads from stamped metal circles and beads. As a rule they bordered circles with beads. The pattern made of circles and beads decorated also headdresses and footwear. And also belts were decorated with them.
The typical Yakut ornamental motifs lies primarily in the use of geometric, rectilinear and curvilinear patterns. The first is represented by zigzags, rhombs, triangles, angles, diagonal-crossed rectangles, and the second by spirals, horn-, heart-, bow-shaped, and lyre-like figures.

The most widespread seams are tambour and a slanting grid, colors - red, black, green, yellow, brown, dark blue. Headdresses were richly decorated with embroidery in particular: a eared cap with a sultan, maiden headdress of dense cloth with beaded embroidery and long silver pendants. The Yakut women till now use embroidered festive sleeveless jackets of silk, atlas, brocade etc., decorated with beads and a lace.