Outfits >>> Replicas >>> Ritual harvesting dress

Yaroslavl region.
Age group of a wearer:
from "the age of marriage" to the end of childbearing age.
Social category of a wearer:
a young bachelorette or a married woman.
Made by
Irina Zhoukova.

Paradoxically, in Russian villages each "true Christian" person had to have several ritual pagan outfits for different occasions. Style and decoration of such a costumes were archaic. They were kept with no changes from ancient times till mid-1900's. Ritual costumes were made of a homemade bleached (so called "two-year") linen as a base and red-colored one as a decoration. Striped parts of a dress were made of a special homemade cloth called pestryadina ("motley"). Its warp yarn was linen, and its woof could be wool, cotton, or hemp.

In accordance to ethnographic records of 1880s, each region (often even each village) in Russia had its own style of clothing at that time. So, the harvesting dress of Yaroslavl region looks totally different from the harvesting dress of Vologda region.

This dress is the ritual outfit ALL village women (married and non-married yet) supposed to be dressed for the first day of harvesting. The dress is of so-called "northern" style: rectangular paliki (red shoulder details), cuffs with no frill, red astovica (armpit details), and red "fire lane" (neck-wrist-bottom). Because this dress is for harvesting, the rich decoration and embroidery is at the bottom (not at shoulders): the woman must show her respect to Mother Earth, not to heaven's spirits.

According to agricultural beliefs, Mother Earth literally gives birth to a harvest and spends some of Her power for it. So, harvesting people suppose to give some of their energy back to Mother Earth (as a reward). If they wouldn't do so, nothing would grow next year. Red color in Russian tradition symbolizes blood and vitality, so the harvest dress's bottom is completely covered with red stripes. It depicts the flow of vital energy from a woman to Mother Earth. In Yaroslavl region a dress's bottom decoration is especially rich (it could be one-and-a-half yard wide).

Sleeves are decorated with red stripes too (because a harvester takes the ground and crops by her hands).
Red stripes on real dresses were woven. For this dress we used red (and red-and-white) ribbons (it is cheaper and easier nowadays). However, a stripe's pattern was copied exactly from the museum masterpiece.

Above red stirpes, on the abdomen level, the dress usually was decorated with ritual embroidery (Ladies of Fertility, Tree of Life, Sun Birds, Sun Chariot, and other designs connected with soil's fertility and productive energy of the Sun). On this dress you can see Ladies of Fertility (both Holy Mother and Holy Daughter) in the center, and Tree of Live by sides. Unfortunately, we could not find the ritual embroidery from Yaroslavl region, so we used here the ritual harvest design from Olonec region. Embroidery technique used here is called rospis' ("painting").

Sources (in Russian)
  1. "Russian Traditional Life" (encyclopedia)
  2. "Men and Women (male and female roles and parts in traditional Russian culture)" (encyclopedia)
  3. N.Sosnina, I.Shangina "Traditional Russian Costume" (encyclopedia and photoalbum)
  4. F.M.Parmon, "Traditional Russian Costume as a Source of Ideas"
  5. B.Socolov, Y.Socolov. "Tradition Life of Belozierie Region" (issued originally in 1915, re-printed in 1997)
  6. V.Ya.Propp, "Russian Agricultural Rituals"
  7. G.S.Maslova, "Designs of Traditional Russioan Embroidery".
  8. Sources taken from Yaroslavl University of Ethnography. http://www.iro.yar.ru:8101/resource/distant/music/kostum/kostum.htm