Uzbek National Dress


        ĎClothes make the maní, as the saying goes. While meeting people, it is indeed their clothes we pay attention to in the first place. If a person is dressed tastefully, it certainly makes a good impression on anyone around. And it is well-known that first impressions are the strongest. So everyone wants to dress beautifully, and it was like this at all times. Even oriental women, who used to be secluded from public view, tried to decorate their yashmaks Ė though the purpose of yashmak was to conceal womanís appearance.



       
The general evolution of oriental dress inevitably affected Uzbek national dress, though some of its distinctive and unique features have been preserved. Of course, modern caftan looks quite different from what it was, say, a hundred years ago. In the West the word caftan has been known since the Mongolian invasion and was borrowed by several languages.

        The traditional shirt kuilak was the everyday menís wear. First its length went beyond the knees, later it was shortened to reach only the middle of the thigh. This shirt had two types of collar: one was sewn to the edge of a vertical cut; the other was the border of just a horizontal shoulder-level cut. The male residents of Tashkent and Ferghana regions wore the loose kimono-like shirt yakhtak. It was made from cotton fabric and was worn by both the young and the elderly. Sometimes the collar was bordered by a decorative tape jiyak.

        One of the plainest garments of menís wear was the trousers ishton. They had no pockets, slits and buttons; they narrowed towards the bottom and reached the ankles.

       
Menís caftan chapan has one and the same style for boys and men of any age, which is the evidence of its archaism. Depending on the season the chapan was intended for, it could be made without lining, with a thin lining, or was quilted with cotton-wool inside. The sides of the caftan had vertical cuts for easier walking. The hems of the collar, sleeves and flaps were bordered with a thin band. At the chest level ether side of the flaps had a string for tying.

        Gold-embroidery stood at the top of all the city crafts; it was what the wardrobes of Bukhara emir and elite were decorated with. The most common were gold-embroidered caftans that the ruler presented his men with. He himself was also pleased to get such a caftan as present. Gold-embroidery was made on silk and velvet. Floral ornaments were the prevailing decorative patterns. Geometrical patterns were seldom used. In the past the art of Bukharaís gold-embroidery was only menís occupation; it was mostly practiced at the court of the emir. Besides caftans they also made gold-embroidered skull-caps and shoes. Today the gold-embroidered caftan zarchapan and turbans that are made of golden or silver brocade are indispensable parts of the menís wedding garment.

        The sash belbog was the most common part of the menís national dress. It is a square cotton or silk piece of cloth folded into a triangle. Men wore belbogs around the waist. They preferred their belbogs in bright colors, while the rest of the dress was usually dark. On festive occasions they wore velvet or embroidered belbogs, with ornamented silver buckles and plates.

       
The menís dress was not complete without the skull-cap kuloh or duppi. The tradition to wear a skull-cap was set up by Islam: it forbade the faithful to go out with uncovered head.

        The most common menís skull-cap from Chust, the Ferghana Valley, had a very regular almost plain shape. Yet at the same time it looked rather decorative. Chust skull-caps had white embroidered cayenne peppers and a row of 16 decorative arches around the border Ė all against black background. No man could appear in the church, at the funeral or wedding ceremony without such a skull-cap. The cotton or velvet skull-caps typical of the Tashkent region were dark-green, dark-blue or black; they had lining and are quilted manually or with a sewing-machine. The Khoresmian men wore astrakhan hats.

        The dress kuilak and the pants lozim are probably the oldest traditional wear of the Uzbek women. The dress had the cut of a tunic, was ankle-long, and sometimes it widened towards the bottom. In the Bukhara and Samarkand oases they bordered the vertical collar cuts with the gold-embroidered tape keshkurta. The sleeves were straight and long, so as to cover the hands. Later, at the end of the 19th century, there appeared dresses with a detachable yoke, with stand-up collars and cuffed sleeves. Now these dresses, made of the famous khan-satin or bright silk are still the main part of the womenís national costume.

        The pants were an integral part of womenís dress; they were worn from babyhood to death. The upper part of the pants was wide; from the knees towards the bottom they narrowed to the extent enough for a foot to go through. In the past the pants were made heel-long. The lower ends of the pants were bordered with the tape jiyak with tassels.

       
The collar of the womenís national robe was rather open and wide. The robeís breast parts hardly met. The sleeves were shorter and looser than those of a menís caftan. The women of the Bukhara and Samarkand oases wore light, long and loose robe rumcha, slightly narrowed at waist. The womenís collarless robe mursak had a loose tunic-like shape, had no collar and were cut in such a way that its foreparts overlapped each other during walking. Mursak was usually ground-long, with a lining, or even quilted. The low-neck, the cuffs and the foreparts were trimmed with a decorative tape. Mursaks were to be a part of the dowry. The elderly women also kept them for burial purpose: the burial stretcher with a body was to be covered with two mursaks.

        The womenís robe tun chapan was another traditional part of outer clothing. It had the same cut as menís caftan. It was narrower than mursak, with long narrowing sleeves. In the second half of the 19th century there appeared kamzur, a kind of camisole. It is slightly narrowed at the waist, with short and narrow sleeves, with a cut arm-hole and a turned-down collar. At the same time there appeared short sleeveless blouse nimcha.

       
Uzbek women covered their heads with headscarves. Very often they wore two scarves: one of them was put over the head, the other was rolled up and wrapped round the forehead. In the 19th century women wore a wimple with an opening for the face. Another scarf, peshona rumol, was wrapped round the forehead, and coiled into a turban at the top. In everyday life they also covered the head with a white muslin scarf doka, which was sometimes decorated with embroidery. Well-to-do women wore scarves decorated with golden or silver spangles. By the beginning of the 20th century it had become quite common among women to wear the skull-cap duppi embroidered in gold or silk thread.

        Outside the house the Uzbek woman had to wear a mursak or a menís caftan over the head. Since the 19th century it became necessary for women to wear the yashmak or paranja. It was a modified robe, large and very loose. It had to be put over the head in order to completely hide the womanís figure from the unauthorized glance. Being used for this purpose, paranja did not need sleeves. So the sleeves were first put behind the back. Later they were sewed together and turned into false sleeves. Paranja was supplemented with chachvan, thick rectangular gauze made of horsehair to cover the face. Women of all ages had to wear paranjas outside the house Ė even nine-year-old girls, who according to Islam traditions were considered to have come of age.

        In Uzbekistan paranja was not common everywhere. It was mostly worn in towns. In the villages paranjas were worn only by well-to-do women. In the 1920s, when the Soviet authorities launched a fight against ďthe feudal vestigesĒ, little by little paranja went out of use; only elderly women continued wearing it.

        It is impossible to fancy a dress of an Uzbek woman without gold or silver jewelry. Rings with shining stones, bracelets, thin ear-rings kashgar-boldak, ear-rings with cone pendants Ė they all were real works of art. The neck was decorated with strings of coral beads or with necklaces of coins. The ancient piece of jewelry bagrak was especially beautiful: worn round the forehead, it was a chain of small silver squares with turquoise settings. The head could also be decorated with tilla-kosh, a high diadem-like piece, whose lower part went parallel with the eye-brow curves.

        The Uzbek national costume is a part of the cultural heritage and deep-rooted traditions of the Uzbek people.

        Today in Uzbekistan people dress in different ways. Young people in the cities, and partially in the provinces, wear European-style clothes, though with some elements of the national dress. The elderly, especially women from the country, go on wearing the national dress. The Uzbek national dress will certainly develop further: it will acquire new elements and at the same time will retain the tradition.