Voronezh residents celebrate the 86th birthday of the region on Saturday, June 13. RIA Voronezh decided to recall the region’s folk traditions, namely, the traditions in clothing. How Voronezh peasants used to dress, what the details of their costumes meant, and how they varied depending on the settlement. In preparing the material, we used the books of Pyotr Ponomaryov and Svetlana Tolkachyova with the same title - “The Folk Costume of the Voronezh Province”.

The formation of the folk costume of the Voronezh Province


In general, Russian clothing is divided into peasant outfits of the North Russian and South Russian provinces. Clothing of the Voronezh Province belongs to the second type. The originality of the local folk costume is associated with the history of the territory’s population.

The active population of the future Voronezh Province began in the 11th century, and many of the settlers were from Ryazan since the Voronezh land was the outskirts of the Ryazan principality. The folk clothes and the dialect of residents of the Voronezh and Ryazan regions are almost completely the same.

In the subsequent centuries, serfs and runaway peasants were moved here, but the systematic settlement of the region began with the construction of a defensive line on the southern borders of the Russian state in the XVI-XVII centuries. In those times, the majority of the population consisted of military men. Their descendants were later ranked as smallholders. Their clothes were similar and the differences depended on where they had come here from.


In the XVII-XVIII centuries, the Black Earth Belt began to be inhabited by state peasants. Voronezh land was also inhabited by Zaporozhian Cossacks and immigrants from Ukraine.

“Their traditional Ukrainian clothes were gradually assimilated; only a white female shirt, the sleeves of which were embroidered all over with large red flowers with black leaves, had remained from it.”

from the book of the Voronezh decorative and folk artist Pyotr Ponomaryov

Although the clothes of the Voronezh peasants were diverse, the South Russian type prevailed in it together with local features. Moreover, the costumes could vary even within the same village.

The material


The clothes were made of homespun materials with factory-made ones having replaced them later. Svetlana Tokmachyova, a senior researcher at the funds department of the Regional Museum of Local Lore, draws attention to the fact that one of the favorite colors in the Voronezh Province was black as the color of earth and peace. While in other places, white wool was preferable, Voronezh residents were more likely to buy black wool which cost several times more.

Outfits of peasant women

Ponyova and sarafan


Female peasants of the Voronezh Province dressed depending on their status: married women wore a ponyova-type complex of clothes, and girls wore sarafan one. Ponyova is a homespun woolen skirt, one of the oldest clothes of the Eastern Slavs. To tailor a ponyova, they used three or more equal-size pieces of cloth assembled on the hips. A lace was passed into the hollow fold to adjust the size to fit the body shape.

“The main part of a ponyova was usually black and was divided into squares by red, less often bluish, even vertical or horizontal 0.5-1-centimeter-wide strips. The black windows of the squares symbolized sections of a Black Earth field, and stripes symbolized ravines, roads, trails, side-land, and rivers on the ground. In each village, these cells were of different sizes. It was rumored that the size of the cells indicated whether farmers owned a lot or a little land in the village.”

from Pyotr Ponomaryov’s book

The lower edge of the ponyova was decorated with an oklad - a strip of fabric 10 to 25 cm wide decorated with geometric patterns. Its details symbolized the plants growing from the earth. The richness of the decoration of the oklad depended on the wealth and skill of the owner.


Women of the Voronezh Province wore shirts with slanting poliks (parts of the cutout connecting the front and back of a shirt) made of homespun canvas. It was sewn down to the waist; in many places, this piece of clothing was called a stanushka. The bottom of the stanushka was sewed with a supporting piece of canvas with a palm’s length below the knee. The sleeves of the woman’s shirt, that is, of a married woman, were decorated more vividly and richly than those of the girl’s.

“Each woman had a whole set of shirts for every occasion in her chest: everyday, festive, Sunday, wedding, feast day, and mourning shirts. The sleeves of festive shirts were decorated with a great artistic taste.”

from Pyotr Ponomaryov’s book

On top of the shirt and the upper half of the ponyova, a peasant woman girded her hips with a black woven pokromka (a strip of cloth used as a belt or a lacing strip) up to 2.5 m long and up to 6 cm wide with woolen ends. Pokromka symbolized the black earth. It was believed that if a married woman would wear a double-belted pokromka, she, like the earth, would be fertile. A girl first wore a pokromka when walking down the aisle.


Over a shirt belted with a pokromka or over a ponyova, married women wore tunic-like clothes called a zapan, with or without sleeves. Its variety is a zaveska (an apron-like piece of clothing) or an apron.

Girls of the Voronezh Province wore a black solid sarafan (a jumper dress) made of thin woolen fabric. It was sewn from six to seven gussets on the back and one straight-through piece of fabric in front. The openings for the head and arms were decorated with strips of kumach (red cotton fabric) and embroidery, and the bottom was bordered with a red belt. The sarafan was put on over a shirt and girdled at the twice with a sash. On top of the sarafan, they wore a circular necklace of porcelain beads. According to tradition, the girl had to embroider the sleeves of the shirt herself, otherwise, the villagers would laugh at her as being idle, and she might not even get married.

“The most frequently used figure in Voronezh embroidery and weaving is a rhombus. Most often, the rhombus motif formed the basis of patterned compositions but sometimes served as a complement to other motifs. A rhombus in the form of a square placed on a corner was called a "circle". Often the sides of the rhombus were supplemented with straight lines in the corners which seemed to extend its sides. The popular name of this motive is “bur”. The angular arms of the "bur" sometimes had a more complex shape and were supplemented with hooks or angular curls. Since ancient times, the image of a rhombus with hooks symbolizes fertility, and it could mean land, plant, or woman at the same time depending on its location in various compositions. In the decor of Voronezh shirts, you can see images of the sun in the form of a swastika, a Greek or oblique cross. These solar symbols can be traced in the culture of many nations.”

from Svetlana Tolkachyova’s book

Multi-layer clothing that hid the body shape was typical for the South Russian regions.

Kokoshnik, kichka and shawls

As for headdresses, women wore the kichka (an ancient women’s crown-shaped headdress often with horn-like elements on its sides), the soroka (a kichka without “horns”), the kokoshnik (an ancient women’s half-moon-shaped headdress), kerchiefs, shawls, and podshalniks - small kerchiefs worn under a shawl. Kichkas were different in shape - horned, spade-shaped, semi-oval.

“Horned kichkas in the shape of a horseshoe with small horns protruding at the ends were made on a solid basis made of glued canvas or bast. They were typical for women's headdresses of Korotoyak, Biryuchensk, Zemlyansk, Zadonsk, Ostrogozhsk, Nizhnedevitsk, and Bobrov counties. As a rule, a horny little kichka that secured the hair was worn with its horns back. Shovel-shaped kichkas were worn in Nizhnedevitsk and Zemlyansk counties, flat horseshoe-shaped ones - in Korotkoyaksk county."

from Svetlana Tolkachyova’s book

Most often, the kichka was part of the soroka and determined its shape. Until the 40s of the last century, a kichka was worn under a kerchief in many villages.

Girls could walk around with their heads uncovered, and on holidays, they wore open headdresses - kokoshniks, head hoops.


After the marriage and before the birth of the first child, a woman would wear a kichka or a soroka all the time, after that - on Sundays and holidays. Older women wore only kerchiefs and shawls.

The Voronezh Province had its own type of kokoshniks. Rare craftswomen sewed it from gold galloon (less often from brocade) and decorated it with colored patterned ribbons, beads, glittering, jewels, peacock feathers, and other materials. Kokoshniks were worn only on holidays, and not every family had one, but if it did, it was often inherited. The height of kokoshniks was 12 to 16 cm depending on the village.


A kerchief appeared on the Voronezh land around the 16th -17th centuries. Women wore kerchiefs over kokoshniks and kichkas while girls wore them on a bare head. Women had large sets of kerchiefs, they were presented on holidays, as gifts from a fair, after the birth of the first-born, and this was a welcome gift.

Kerchiefs and shawls were made in the Voronezh Province. The downy shawls of the serf weavers of the Voronezh landowner Vera Andreevna Yeliseeva from the Nizhnedevitsk county were well-known - they were very expensive and sold only for gold.

“Voronezh shawls and the precut fabric called cashmere soon attracted the attention of foreign business people. Turkish merchants, for example, begged Yeliseeva to sell them at least the precut fabric. They took it to Turkey, cut it into pieces, sewed their fringe to them, and then sold them in Baghdad and Basra posing as the shawls from the Kashmir Indian principality, world-famous at that time. Representatives of the English royal court considered it an honor to purchase a Voronezh shawl from Vera Yeliseeva.”

from Pyotr Ponomaryov’s book

The craftswomen of Pavlovs, Ostrogozhsk, and other counties of the Voronezh Province also wove linen and made printed kerchiefs, podshalniks and rastopyrkas (a type of a kerchief) from wool and silk. According to Ponomaryov, "these were true wonders, joyful symphonies of color."

Outfits of men


The traditional men's clothing was a tunic-type kosovorotka (a skewed-collared shirt) shirt, which was named due to the skewed cut at the collar on the left side of the chest. Belarusians, Ukrainians, and Cossacks had a straight cut. Scientists associate the creation of a kosovorotka with the separation of the Russian people from Ukrainians and Belarusians at the turn of the XV-XVI centuries.

Initially, the kosovorotka was made of thin narrow canvas that ended below the knees. Gradually, it began to be sewn from purchased calico and kumach. The richer peasants used cashmere of green, red, and raspberry colors - this kind of kosovorotka was worn mainly by young men.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Voronezh peasants wore hand-made pants of printed and painted home-made canvas. The canvas was printed into a juicy and “dense” blue color with vertical straight white lines. The spaces between the lines were filled with trails, rhombs, and small squares. Poorer people simply painted the canvas blue and made pants out of it.

The pants were narrow but comfortable for movement thanks to the crotch between the legs. The size of the pants was adjusted using a lace.

Men wore a kosovorotka over their pants and girdled it at the waist with a belt made of wool yarn, later - with a leather belt. The belt was only tied on the left hip - a reference to the pagans who wore a shield and later a saber on the left side. The ends of the belts were decorated with lush tassels, beads, glitter, colored stone buttons, and sometimes even pearls. On the right side of the belt were a kalita (a handbag with a wooden comb for hair, mustache, and beard) or a purse for money made of rawhide. As outerwear, they used a fur coat, a karatai (Russian women's and men's demi-season outerwear) or a robe belted with a colored woven sash with ends tucked it on both sides.


As a headdress, the Voronezh peasants wore a greshnevik - a felt cylindrical hat with an oval top and narrow brim. They also used black sheepskin kurkul hats with the fur outward and a canvas lining inside. In the middle of the nineteenth century, men wore the malakhai (a conical fur hat with big earflaps) made of the fur of sheep, foxes, wolves, and hares, and at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was replaced by the ushanka (a hat with earflaps) or the treukh (a winter hat with earflaps, the predecessor of the ushanka). From the second half of the nineteenth century to the twenties of the twentieth century, they wore a knitted hat made of lambskin similar to a cap with a smoothly rounded top. It was worn by grooms, and, as a rule, on one side to show their curls - for foppery.

Shoes of Voronezh peasants

As for shoes, men wore mostly leather boots and black felt boots. The boots were one-piece or with sewed-on heads. The festive version of the boots is boots with pleats. Wealthy peasants wore boots with stitched ornaments - lapels on the top of the bootleg. Bast shoes were not really used in the Voronezh Province - there was a lack of raw materials for their manufacture; in addition, the people here were relatively wealthy.

In addition to black felt boots, the peasants of our region mainly had casual leather shoes, festively decorated chereviks (pointed heeled shoes), everyday and festive leather boots with low heels, and patent-leather chuni (galoshes). The work shoes - porshni (one-piece leather-hide sandal-like shoes) - were universal for women and men and were made from a piece of rawhide, unkempt skin fit around the foot with a leather strap threaded into holes.



Voronezh peasant women wore earrings of various shapes and pushkas - home-made accessories for the ears made of multi-colored wool, goose, or duck skin. Voronezh women liked to wear round mesh collars made of large beads on their chests - necklaces and bredens (an accessory made of beads worn around the neck).

A common female accessory in the Voronezh Province is chest and back gaitan - two strips of fabric woven from multi-colored beads and connected at the bottom or a woven cord stringed with beads to which an icon or a cross was attached. In many counties, on holidays women wore several beads of different shapes made of glass, amber, smalt, and garnets. In Zemlyansk, Nizhnedevitsk, Zadonsk, and Bobrov counties, they especially loved ribbon decorations. The women of Zadonsk and Pavlovsk counties wore round collars made of fabric or ribbons. Temporal jewelry that was attached to the headdress over the temples was also popular in the women's costumes of the region.


On holidays, both women and men wore a gribatka around their necks - an ornament of two stripes of black braid with beads, embroidery with colored threads, buttons, and glitter. Several round rosettes of cardboard coated with multi-colored wool were attached to the strips. Another type of man’s accessories is a garus, that is, a black cord made of soft fleece with the ends sewn together symbolizing the sun and plowed black soil. In addition to the pectoral cross, men wore cypress crosses on a garus gaitan or a garus. Each cross indicated a pilgrimage to a holy place. Women did not wear crosses, but medallions depicting saints and great martyrs with the same names as the pilgrims.