We’ve already published a post about ceremonial towels being used as the bride’s belt at Ukrainian traditional weddings. This custom was rather popular in certain areas of several Slavic countries. A long and ornate traditional towel looks much more eye-catching than the usual belt. To prove that, we have another museum exhibit – Ukrainian bride’s folk costume that sports a hand-woven ceremonial towel instead of a belt. Note also the amount of jewelry on the bride’s neck – we can’t even count how many rows of necklaces there are!
You can find the mentioned article here: Old wedding tradition to use ceremonial towel as a belt
This vintage costume was exhibited in the National center of folk culture “Ivan Honchar Museum” in Kyiv, Ukraine. This attire is from central Ukraine. It was used by a bride about 100 years ago (or possibly even earlier).
The mannequin isn’t wearing a headdress, which would have been the most important item of the bride’s outfit. Here, we can see a kerchief – a woman would have switched her opulent bridal wreath for a kerchief during a special head covering wedding ritual. A few bridal wreaths are sitting on the bench nearby. Something like this would have been on the bride’s head.
Her attire is lovely – a snow-white embroidered shirt with whitework, a hand-woven wrap-around skirt with intricate checkered pattern, a dark apron, a huge amount of jewelry, and a ceremonial towel that serves as a belt.
The jewels are mostly necklaces. Brides also wore finger rings and earrings, but necklaces were the most catchy and attracted attention. These necklaces are coral and glass-beaded, they’re combined with silver beads. Also, on top of it all, is a huge traditional silver pendant called “dukach” that consists of a coin and its decorative setting; it is tied around the neck with a ribbon. Imagine how heavy such a jewelry set was! But any bride could be proud to own so many jewelry pieces.
The most noticeable and surprising part of this wedding attire is the belt. It is a hand-woven on a loom ceremonial towel that was specifically prepared for the wedding ceremony. It helps the bride to stand out from the crowd because, usually, only the bride and the groom were belted with towels. Sometimes though, the maid of honor also sported a towel around her waist.
Some ceremonial towels were embroidered, but mostly, people used woven ceremonial towels as belts because they were more durable and looked great. Very often, such towels were red&white, with a lot of red to make it brighter. By the way, the ornaments embroidered or woven on the fabric aren’t just pretty patterns but symbolic and protective symbols. They’re meant to give additional protection to the vulnerable bride.
If you take a closer look, you would see that she is belted with a usual narrow red woven belt underneath the towel – that’s because the towel can be put on and removed, and the rest of the garments have to stay in place.
This is how a bride dressed 100-150 years ago in Ukraine and some other Slavic countries. Very different from modern Western-style wedding dresses but unique and beautiful all the same.