From Folk Wear to Fashion Week: Ukraine’s Vyshyvanka

From Folk Wear to Fashion Week: Ukraine’s Vyshyvanka

The traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirts called vyshyvanka, once relegated to souvenir shops and folk dance performances, made a huge comeback in 2015.  The shirts date back at least a hundred years, when the embroidery on the vyshyvanka’s sleeves, front, neck and cuffs was different in each small region of Ukraine; different colors and varying motifs told a detailed story about the person wearing it.

Luba Rudenko, Director of MIR’s Ukraine affiliate office, showing off her vyshyvanka. Photo credit: Michel Behar

Luba Rudenko, Director of MIR’s Ukraine affiliate office, and friend showing off their vyshyvankas
Photo credit: Michel Behar

High Fashion FolkFast forward to 2015, when Ukrainian fashion designer Vita Kin’s upscale hand-embroidered “bohemian” creations appeared in the pages of Vogue and were spotted in the audience at Paris’ Fashion Week. The red and white Slavic patterns also adorned both short and long dresses on the runway at Valentino’s Spring 2015 Couture fashion show.

Luba Rudenko, Director of MIR’s Ukraine affiliate office, was born and raised in Western Ukraine, where the Hutsul tradition of embroidering and wearing peasant shirts was particularly strong. Here’s her take on the sudden popularity of Ukrainian folk motifs.

“Nowadays very often, watching people dressed in Ukrainian clothing, I recollect my childhood, when in the 60s my grandmother wore her vyshyvankas in her everyday life. She had several for ordinary days and special Sunday ones for visiting the church, and the most beautiful ones for big religious holidays. She had not only vyshyvankas, but a lot of accessories that went with them. Even now in my mind I have a very clear picture of her dressed in a colorful and stylish national costume. As a child I admired the intricate patterns and colors, and felt some kind of message coming from them – on an intuitive level I felt them, but knew very little about them.

At that time, I thought everything related to the national Hutsul culture was old-fashioned and local, and did not have any idea of my own cultural heritage. Being a 100% Soviet era baby, I preferred everything that did not remind me of national/religious/old style fashion – as the Soviet propaganda presented it. Only now I realize how much we have lost not inheriting a single garment from my grandmother.”

Ukrainian PatriotismLuba feels that Ukrainian fashions have come to the forefront partly because of the struggles the country has gone through in the last year.  People on the street in Kiev are wearing their vyshyvankas as declarations of Ukrainian patriotism.

“During recent years vyshyvanka has taken on a deeper meaning than just a fashion trend. It has become an essential part of the formation of a political nation. It’s brought to life everything national – traditions, customs and, of course, the fashion of wearing traditional clothes.”

Luba’s grandmother used to have exactly the same holiday winter costume as this one on display at a recent exhibition in Kiev. Photo credit: Luba Rudenko

Luba’s grandmother had holiday clothes like these, on display at a recent exhibition in Kiev
Photo credit: Luba Rudenko

Vyshyvanka DayUkrainians at home and abroad will be wearing their best embroidered vyshyvankas on May 17 2018, National Vyshyvanka Day, when there will be parades in Lviv, Kiev, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and other smaller towns, as well as in the U.S. and Canada.

Young Ukrainians in fashion, in Odessa, Ukraine. Photo credit: Joanna Millick

Young Ukrainians in old/new fashions, in Odessa, Ukraine
Photo credit: Joanna Millick

Travel to Ukraine with MIRMIR has more than 30 years of travel experience in Ukraine and has an affiliate office in Kiev. We have a roster of contacts that can take you to places that you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.” 

You can experience the rich folk traditions of Ukraine on MIR’s small group tour, Belarus, Ukraine & Moldova, or on the private itinerary, Essential Ukraine.  You can also create your own Ukrainian exploration with the help of our custom & private specialists. 

Chat with one of our destination specialists by email or by phone at 1-800-424-7289 to start planning your 2016 travels now.

Top photo: Traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirts called vyshyvanka, worn with hand-stitched vests at the egg-shaped Pysanka Museum in Kolomiya, Ukraine. Photo credit: Mariana Noble

PUBLISHED: January 20, 2016

Related Posts

Share your thoughts