In all Slavic countries, there are some common traditions, especially those connected to the wedding and marital status. In the past, there was a very clear difference in appearance of unmarried girls and married women – in arranging the hair and in the look of headdresses. Today, these marital traditions are old-fashioned and don’t work anymore, but 100 years ago, it was a big deal and women followed the tradition thoroughly. Let’s see the difference between the headwear of unmarried and married Slavic women.
Unmarried Slavic girls always wore their hair not covered. They braided it, some females made updos, etc. Little girls could go with their hair loose. Even when girls used headdresses, these were headpieces that didn’t usually cover the head fully – ribbons, crowns, headbands, wreaths, and similar pieces. It should be mentioned that such items were festive and weren’t worn in daily life.
A wreath was one of the most favored headgear among unmarried women. It could be made from fresh or artificial flowers, foil decorations, yarn pom-pons, ribbons, various beads, etc. Wreaths were also ceremonial and bridal headdresses.
Modern replica of a girl's wreath
Another peculiarity is that unmarried girls in Slavic countries were allowed to wear headdresses that covered the hair, like kerchiefs and headscarves, but married women weren’t allowed to go without them. In winter, when it was cold, people wore warm headpieces to protect the head from the cold, so it was fine for children and teenagers to wear kerchiefs. The difference is that married women never took their headdress off in public, they could do it only at home.
Variety of headpieces used by unmarried girls and brides
Interesting fact! If a young girl lost her hair (because of a sickness or mishap) and didn’t have the desired length and thickness, her mother sometimes cut her own braid and attached it to the daughter’s hair (especially if the color matched). As the mother would hide her hair under coifs and kerchiefs, no one would notice that she doesn’t have her braid anymore.
Married Slavic women had a wide variety of headwear. And there were some common and some specific headpieces for a certain country or area. Married females could wear kerchiefs, bonnets, coifs, headscarves, etc. Some constructions were rather complicated and expensive.
Embroidered coifs of married Ukrainian women
A popular set of headgear was a combination of a coif and a kerchief. The former kept the hair in place and didn’t let it come loose, the latter covered the whole construction. We should mention that under these headdresses, women had their hair braided or just pulled up and pinned to the head like a bun or crown. Often, there were hair accessories used – pins, cords, bands, combs, hard frames, etc.
Two kerchiefs used by married woman
Even the way of draping a headpiece could tell a lot about a woman. For example, in some countries, married females with and without children draped their kerchief differently. Also, elderly women oftentimes draped the headgear differently than younger married females.
Coif + kerchief = married women's headdress
In general, Slavs traditionally showed off their marital status by their hairstyles and headpieces. You could easily tell if it was an unmarried girl, potentially available for courting, or a married woman in front of you. Lucky Slavic men didn’t have problems with determining these things. They didn’t have to look for a wedding ring, which can be lost or taken off (though, they had wedding rings as well). In modern times, it’s much harder to determine the marital status of a person you meet. Unfortunately, even then, men didn’t wear any specific garments that showed their marital status))).
Married women's headpiece called "namitka"
Married women's kerchief