Kyrgyz clothes are characterised by many definite
features, typical for the clothes of nomadic people. That can be explained
by their historical mode of life, related to nomadic cattle breeding. Also
very large mark on the character of clothes left the mountain climate with
its temperature excursions. This required to have different kinds of warm
clothes, sometimes used even in summer time, such us wool robes or sheepskin
coats. Very widely were used clothes made of wool burlap, or fells of domestic
or wild animals.
In 18-19 centuries, the Kyrgyzes made most of
their clothes from the fabrics imported from China and other Central Asian
Khanates, they also wore imported clothes and footwear. In the north Kyrgyzstan
were imported the fabrics from Russia (chintz, calico, muslin, nankeen etc.)
Basic type of the clothes and its cut were spread everywhere.
The male clothes consisted of chintz or
coarse shirt and wide trousers. Over shirt wore sleeveless jacket, while in
cold weather - wool robe and wide robe made of homespun cloth. In winter wore
sheepskin coats and trousers with fleece side down. The most popular footwear
were boots with flexible soul but without heels.
On the head in summer wore hats made of fine white felt and in winter fur-caps
with trimming from fur or sheepskin. All round the year has been worn white
wool hats called Ak-Kalpak - Kyrgyz National hat. Even nowadays Kalpak is
being the most popular national male hat in Kyrgyzstan. Nobody knows exactly
how old is it and who first created it, and what means its external simplicity.
Though indisputable such properties of Kalpak as absolute form, beauty and
comfort. It is cut out of four triangles, widen in lower parts. When ready
to use the edges usually bend up, so it keep the eyes from the sun and face
from the rain and snow. White, light wool keeps the head warm in wintertime
as well as reflect sunrays in hot summers. Very hydroscopic fabric makes it
possible to wear Kalpak all round the year even in hottest or chilling cold
days. In outward appearance Kalpak reminds pyramidal shape of mountain peaks
of Tien-Shan mountain kingdom. Black or colorful edges, various patterns,
tassel, decorated the cone of Kalpak, displays the fantasy of people who make
Kalpaks in large numbers. There is also industrial production of Kalpaks in
Kyrgyzstan, but the hand-made ones are the most expensive. The Kyrgyz men
of different ages and social profiles work, study, relax in their national
hats. According to Kyrgyz traditions it is allowed to wear Kalpak indoors,
eat or even pray. Very often Kalpaks are given to the culprits of family or
public holidays, honorable guests. According to people's believes Kalpak has
some sacred guarding strength. The one have to put it on or take it off only
with two hands, and then carefully put it down on some special place or near
himself. But at the same time Kalpak might be folded down by the surface of
triangle and almost do not require any space. The up-to-date experts try to
modernize the construction and the pattern of Kalpak, nevertheless in any
of modern shapes is visible the elegance of basic and general sample of Kalpak.
The female clothes consisted of long and wide shirt,
which at the same time could serve as the dress, long wide trousers, worn
under dress and sleeveless jacket or camisole. Girls and young women wore
camisoles from colorful velvet over the dress. Married women also wore original
skirts with wide belt and bright embroidery. Such skirts were often made of
sheepskins with fleece side down and worn mostly in cold part of the year.
Female head-dress consisted of little cap (Kep-Taky'ya, Chach-Kep, Bash-Kep)
with a stripe descending on the back and bound over it turban (elechek, ileki,
kalak). For turbans used white fine fabric or muslin. Depending on form, height
and value distinguish several kinds of turbans: "Elechek" - high
and heavy (around 5 kg) head dress of married women. Wearing of "elechek"
is the art. Elder women taught just married girls to wear "elechek".
Firstly they put on the head small scull-cap, then with a small rectangle
piece of fabric covered neck and chin. Then above all wind round turban made
of 15-20 metres of white fabric. "Tokol" has the same forms as "elechek"
but being quite smaller, it was worn in everyday life. "Karkyra"
- made of fine fabric was totally embroidered with Kyrgyz ornaments. They
were worn by the young wives of "Bai's"- the rich men, because not
every family could afford themselves such expensive thing. "Elechek"
was considered as holy. It was the only thing that could stay along with holy
book of Koran. (In the past, when the Kyrgyzes lived in yurts, those two items
were placed on the special shelf on the female part of the yurta.) After death
of mistress, white turban, which she wore being alive, served her as shroud.
Tebetei - female head dress made velvet and symbolises freedom
from conjugal ties, was worn by the young girls. Winter types were trimmed
with marten fur and decorated with feathers of eagle owl.
Wedding cone-shaped head dress called "shokulo" was made of bright
brocade and velvet. It should be done a long time before the wedding. According
to traditions "shokulo" was made and decorated by "Djene"
(elder daughter-in-low). After wedding, bride's "shokulo" was kept
in her parents house while her girlish tebetei was passed to her younger sister.
Class affiliation also played an important role
in the appearance of the Kyrgyzes. Poor people were content with robes from
burlap. Herders and servants were paid for their services by second-hand clothes
of one of the members of rich or prosperous family.
About close relationships of the Kyrgyzes lived
in Issyk-Kul area with inhabitants of Eastern Turkestan in the middle of 19th
century evidence male and female caftan called "Chapan" with stand-up
collar and variegated cords with buttons on the bosom. At the same century
originality to Kyrgyz clothes gave such elements, as women shirt with embroidery
on the bosom, or separately put on plastron "onur" or "djaka"
widely embroidered with colourful sewing; male trousers from curried skin
or chamois (chalbar), or from roe or mountain goat skin (kandagai, djargak,
shyle); male and female boots from red Russian leather - yuft, with long bootlegs,
narrow and slightly curved toes, high wooden heel and sewed in edging from
In north Kyrgyzstan, the herders and horse-herds still use ancient types of
outer clothing: overcoat (kementai) made of brown or white felt which perfectly
keep from rain or snow and wide, long coat (chepken, chekmen) with wide and
long sleeves made of homemade cloth and worn over the other outer clothing.
Winter clothes in Tien-Shan and Issyk-Kul areas
were traditional fur coats (ichik), covered by dark fabric with fur collars
and sheepskin coats. In south regions sheepskin coats had big fur collars
tinctured to yellow, white or black colours. The coats were differently trimmed:
lap and collar were sew round with stripes of fur or black fabric, embroidered
stripes and triangles from fabric on the shoulders and below at side cuts.
Kyrgyz traditional clothes, as well as the clothes
of any other nations, can be valuable source for exposure ancient ethno genetic
and cultural links. They appeared as original product of centuries-old synthesis
of Central Asian cultural phenomena, at the same time keeping many features
of costumes of ancient turks-stock-breeders and hunters.
People in Kyrgyzstan wear different types of clothes. In villages
you will observe women wearing traditional clothes like long skirts, kerchiefs,
etc. In cities they are less traditional and more modern. As for male clothing,
most men wear pants more often than they wear jeans. Shorts are worn rather
rarely, and by city folks mostly. Also, you may notice that, to your taste,
people dress too classy for everyday things like work (especially women),
and not classy enough for special occasions. It is not unusual to see men
dressed in three-piece suits for a football match, or men wearing jogging
suits for concerts at the Music Hall. Or you may notice women wearing see-through
blouses and high heels to work during the day. All of this may strike you,
but it is yet another cultural difference you should be aware of.
The summers often get very hot here, that is
why many people, including government officials and even the Prime Minister
himself, won't wear a suit to work from May through August. A shirt and a
tie for men, and a summer dress for women in an office environment in the
summer are perfectly acceptable. There is one more cultural thing about dressing.
In western countries people tend to alternate their clothing daily, but in
Kyrgyzstan it is not very typical. You can see that your co-workers, students
and people around you wear the same clothes two or three days in a row. It
does not mean that they do not have enough clothes, or they put on dirty ones.
It is just not very traditional to wear different things every day. Do not