Dress

Suited to nomadic life, traditional costumes reflect not only the climatic conditions of Kalmykia but also the history of interaction between the Kalmyks with their neighbours, the Russians, Cossacks, and various nationalities of the Caucasus. Unlike other Mongolian groups, the Kalmyks wear unique hats, boots, belts and have ornaments and designs in their costumes that are borrowed from their neighbours and further developed in the Kalmyk context. Nevertheless, Kalmyk costumes are similar to those of other Mongolian groups in terms of used materials, including skin, felt, wool, and furs, as well as various textiles. In the past the Kalmyk aristocratic wardrobe differed from that of ordinary people both in terms of the expensive materials used and the colours. Fur and skins of valuable animals such as sables, beavers, squirrels, lambs, foals, and stoats decorated the costumes of the wealthy, which were made of white or colourful textiles. By contrast, the clothes of ordinary shepherds were simpler and darker in colour. Traditional costumes were class-, gender-, age-, and season-specific.

The three collections hosted on this page feature videos about traditional clothing as well as stories and legends about garments.

Women

Women’s traditional dress consists of two layers, tsegdyk and terlg. Tsegdyk, which is worn over terlg, is a long sleeveless garment made of durable cloth and abundantly decorated with embroidery. It has a V-shaped open collar and two crooks for napkins or purses on either side at the waist. By contrast, terlg is a long robe with wide sleeves narrowing towards the wrists. It has a small standing collar meeting at the front. Both tsegdyk and terlg are usually of colours other than yellow, which is a colour reserved for the Buddhist clergy. The traditional dress of a married woman is complemented with a special festival hat called khalmag. In every-day life, women wear several types of hats called dzhatak and byuslyachi, as well as robes called berze and khutzn.


Men

Bishmud or beshmet is a traditional man’s robe with long wide sleeves narrowing towards the wrists. Usually sewn out of dark fabric, linen, or silk, bishmyud has a V-shaped open collar. A plastron, or a false shirt-front, decorated with embroidery sewn from yellow or golden threads is worn beneath it. The robe is always worn with a leather belt, usually decorated with silver plates and ornaments. A knife scabbard, made of either silver or leather, and a flint have to be fastened to the left side of the belt. In the past, tobacco pipes and whips were also attached to the belt. Men, both young and old, wear a hat called khadzhilga.


Children

Traditionally, toddlers and babies did not have clothing peculiar to their age group. They usually wore simple clothes made of old garments belonging to their parents or even grandparents. Young children’s clothing, which was unisex, was not different either in terms of non-elaboration and simplicity. Gender- differentiated garments were worn when children began to participate in the running of the household and performing chores. For boys, it started at the ages of 8-10 when their attire gradually resembled that of grown-up men. Teenage boys wore trousers (shalvr), a shirt (kiilg), a robe (bishmud and lavshg), a vest (kamzol), a belt (bus), and a hat (khadzhilga).

By the age of 14 girls wore distinctly female clothing. Biiz is a dress for girls made of colourful materials. Worn beneath was a plastron embellished with gold and silver threads. Girls were also supposed to wear a special corset called zhelyatig over their underwear. A belt made of cloth was an essential item of traditional girls’ clothing. By contrast, married women’s dress was loose and without a belt. Kamchatka and toortsg are traditional hats for girls and young women.


Alena Lidzhieva, Devl

Alena says that her paternal auntie sewed traditional robes called devl. Her auntie also made winter coats out of animal skin. In the past everyone wore traditional dress. Trousers were also made of skin. It was usually men who wore such trousers. The poor did not have many clothes. The wealthy had Russian boots and winter coats.


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Alena Lidzhieva, Traditional Clothing