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Garments of old made new
If you are not quite happy with what “fashionable” fashion designers of today have to offer along the lines which are considered to be fashionable, and if you want something entirely different, something that will make you stand out in any fashionable dressed crowd, and yet be stylishly dressed, there is a place and people in Kyiv to turn to.
There is a designers’ atelier in Kyiv which calls itself Shlyakhetny odyah. Shlyakhetny odyah can be rendered as “Noble Clothes.” The atelier designs and makes clothes which are replicas of authentic Ukrainian traditional dresses and garments worn mostly — but not only — by the upper classes in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. They also make clothes in a style they call “Ethno Casual.” And they “reconstruct” age-old clothes which come from the family trunks, and which were once worn at weddings, at various solemn ceremonies, on Sundays to church, or at any other occasions that required something fancier than everyday wear.
The group of like-minded designers and tailors who work at the atelier is headed by Ms Lyudmyla Sivtseva-Klymuk who is not only highly enthusiastic about the beauty of the attire of the past, but is full of ideas of how to make such clothes wearable today. The Shlyakhetny odyah people believe that it is a much greater chic to appear in such an attire at a glamorous party than to wear modern-style clothes purchased from the top designers.
Says Ms Sivtseva-Klymuk, “We are very careful in choosing fabrics, accessories and all the details to make our clothes look truly authentic. We do some considerable research into all the stages of making clothes in the traditional way. We take into consideration the peculiarities of color schemes and other features of clothes depending on the geographical area they originally come from. We do our best to use fabrics which are as close as it is possible to the original fabrics in texture, we use the original patterns and cuts once used to create replicas which retain the most important features of the originals…
“Also, we take care to preserve the symbolism of certain parts of the dress. The shirt, for example, is a sort of the second skin and the embroidery “guards” the parts that give access to the skin proper — the cuffs, the opening round the neck and the slits, and the lower parts. The approach to embroidery in men’s shirts and in women’s shirts is different too.
“Different parts of the women’s dresses had different functions and also had different symbolic meanings — zapasky, plakhty and obhortky (sort of skirts and aprons) were regarded as protection and enhancement of the reproductive power of the woman; belts of various kinds had, in addition to their function as a part of the dress, a decorative and protective function as well. The ornaments and decoration of the dress indicated the social and family status, and we have to be very careful in using ornamental and decorative patterns in the dresses we make today in order not to violate the age-old traditions. Even the way certain parts of the dress were put on differed depending on whether it was a married or single woman who used them…
“We do believe that the dresses we design and make, help people who wear them relate to the past of the country they live in, to the traditions and thus we open the way to a heightened national awareness. People learn of ancient customs, traditions and symbolisms through the dress. People wearing our dresses turn up at all sorts of ethnic-culture events — ethnic-culture conferences, soirees, and music festivals. We also attend them.
“We do our best to make traditional culture a part of everyday life, not just a fleeting fancy to be indulged as a whim.”
The atelier’s philosophy is based on the precept that dress is much more than covering, or clothing and accessories, for the human body. The varieties of dress are immense, varying with different sexes, cultures, geographic areas, and historic eras. The Ukrainian traditional dress, particularly that of the upper classes but not necessarily so (the traditional rural women’s and men’s Sunday dress was highly picturesque and colorful as well), provides an inexhaustible source of ideas for making dresses to be worn today.
Traditional dress reflects ages of clothes making and of sophisticated skills of adornment and decoration. Besides, almost every detail and accessory in the traditional dresses carries some symbolic meaning in addition to the sanction of the ages. Traditional dress was supposed to protect the wearer against the pernicious influence of “the evil forces,” and to show the status and taste of the wearer. Things made by hand with loving care were believed to retain the positive energy of the maker. A bride would make an embroidered shirt for her beloved and her love would be encapsulated in the particular design of the embroidery and in its colors, and in the general design of the garment.
The Shlyakhetny odyah atelier uses only top-quality fabrics and materials, some of which, incidentally, are made at the atelier; this and the dexterous and skilled hands and the perfect taste of the designers and clothes-makers guarantee top quality of their products. They do not slavishly follow the patterns and cuts they find in the authentic traditional clothes — they introduce whatever changes are necessary to make the wearer feel comfortable and snug in the clothes created at the atelier.
The Shlyakhetny odyah do thorough research into the history of costume to come with the best ideas and a great variety of options for their customers to choose from. They seem to have achieved the impossible — Shlyakhetny odyah clothes look both absolutely faithful to tradition, and yet reflect the basic contemporary concepts of clothes design and comfort. A great care is taken to make every little detail and accessory matter in the overall scheme.
At the time when globalization robs people around the globe of their age-old traditions, traditional clothing included, the Shlyakhetny odyah atelier makes sure that its customers will be highly distinguished — both in the literal sense of “standing out” and in the metaphoric sense of ‘being different” — at a reception, presentation, soiree, masque or any other occasion which requires a dress that transgresses the bounds of the ordinary.
Rebellion against the established or dominant fashion has been a constant theme in the history of costume. The reasons prompting such rebellion are various: to shock, to attract attention, to protest against the traditional social order, and to avoid current trends. Cultural rebels have often chosen to adopt antique fashions in order to reject, or at least distance themselves from their own time or to identify with what they believe to be a distinctive age.
Artists have similarly often preferred older fashions, but this is usually because they wish to achieve an effect of timelessness. The desire to make the wearer look highly distinctive has led to many rebellions in fashion, and the Shlyakhetny odyah atelier is proud that it supplies such cultural rebels with its highly distinctive products.
The Shlyakhetny odyah atelier also makes clothes which retain basic elements of the traditional dress, and at the same time are of a kind that are good for everyday use, providing the wearer with the desired level of conspicuousness among the drab standard modern clothes and emphasizing the personality of the wearer, and yet without any clownish or masquerade effect. The desired degree of casualness, which has marked the general trend of world fashion since the mid-twentieth century is happily achieved by the Shlyakhetny odyah designers.
Clothes designed and made at the Shlyakhetny odyah atelier find a compromise between the sartorial demands of today and the respect and love of traditions.
Kuntush (light overcoat for a child); detail.
Embroidered shirt, pansky (noble) style.
Genuinely old necklaces.
Sleeve of a woman’s shirt (detail).
From the Land of Volyn.
Hetman’s hat and a Cossack leader’s belt
Dress of a noble woman. Early 18th century.
Dress of a Cossack leader. Early 18th century.
Woman’s zhupan (a sort of a jacket); detail.
Early 18th century.
Stanik (a sort of a vest-corset); detail.
Zakavrash (a sort of a cuff); detail.
Stanik (a sort of a vest-corset).
From the Land of Volyn.
Vest. From the Land of Poltavshchyna.
Woman’s zhupan (a sort of a jacket).
From the Land of Poltavshchyna.
Belts and sashes.
Fashion designer Lyudmyla Sivtseva-Klymuk,
head of the Shlyakhentny odyah atelier.