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Outfit >>> Replicas >>> Ritual harvesting dress

From:
Vologda region.
Time:
1850s.
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 with 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 Vologda region looks totally different from the harvesting dress of Yaroslavl 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 lastovica (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 has a lot of red details on it:

First, there are triangles ("rays of energy") on sleeves and a bottom of the shirt (harvesting woman radiates energy of fertility as the sun radiates heat)
more "rays" on a bust level (the symbol is clear: a woman "breastfeeds" the Earth)
three "drops of blood" at the bottom
long vertical stripes (they depict the flow of vital energy from a woman to Mother Earth).

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"