Unia Europejska
Shlakhtov Ruthenia

Shlakhtov Ruthenia

Festive and Everyday Attire of the Shlakhtov Ruthenians

The Shlakhtov Ruthenian attire, which used to share the most similarities with the attire worn by Spiš Ruthenians, quickly began to yield to the influence of the Szczawnica Highlanders once the border in the Carpathians had been closed after the First World War. Until the beginning of the 20th century the clothing style was dominated by homespun linen, linen and cotton mixes (kanafasy) and wool, the latter of which was fulled into cloth at local fulling workshops in Szlachtowa and Jaworki, which were in operation until the late 1930s.

Men’s festive attire

Men's traditional festive attire typically included white, linen shirts (koszelesoroczky) with an oblong poncho cut (with no seams on the sleeves), with small turndown collars and long sleeves decorated with red, woven stripes on the cuffs. Ancient shirts were short (of waist-length), always tucked into trousers, hardly supported by belts. Their collars used to be fastened with a red ribbon of coarse wool (called harasiłka), and later on - with buttons. The festive peasant attire included decorative zapiąstki (a kind of wristbands) worn over shirt cuffs. They were made of navy cloth, decorated with multicoloured embroidery, and fastened with koniki (hooks and eyes). Colour-striped, knitted zapiąstki were worn as well. Spiš Ruthenians and Szczawnica Highlanders used to wear identical cuff ornaments. They were commonly produced in Jaworki and Szlachtowa.

Summer trousers (the so-called haci) were made of thick, homespun linens with plain or drill weave. They were simple, had wide legs, at the top were tied with twine and girded around with a leather belt. In winter (and in summer on major holidays) homespun linen chołośnie were worn; they were most often white, had a traditional highland portki (trousers) cut, an arched seam extending from the back, above the buttocks and connecting with the leg seams running on the outside. Chołośnie used to have one slit (called chlywek) on the right-hand side, and quite wide legs unsewn at the bottom. Earlier trousers were modestly decorated with a single red or blue, woollen cord running along the leg seams, over the buttocks and around the fly. Around the time of the First World War, under the influence of the Szczawnica fashion, the ornamentation of the Shlakhtov Ruthenian trousers developed significantly. Especially around the bottom sections of the legs, next to the slit called tanir, added were red trimmings and dense, colourful chain stitch in the form of loopy borders, sometimes enriched with stylised flowers and a woollen pompom at the top.

To complement festive outfits young men used to wear, over shirts, black, cloth waistcoats (lajbiki), which were once cut out of a single piece of fabric, and sewn together only on the shoulders. A low standing collar, rectangular flaps over the two side pockets and the waistcoat edges were trimmed with red cloth; red ribbon ran along parallel to the trimmings. Along the front slit ran a scarcely arranged row of brass, circular buttons. The waistcoat was fastened with hooks and eyes. At the beginning of the 20th century lajbiki began to be decorated with modest chain stitch embroidery (horizontally arranged stylised flower motifs), and in the 1930s they were superseded by blue waistcoats, typically worn by the Pieniny bargees, with rich floral and spangle embroidery.

Cloth czuchy (also called hunie), which had an oblong poncho cut, served as earlier outer garments worn by Shlakhtov Ruthenians. They were made of white, homespun cloth, reached down to the knees, and were flared with fold-forming gussets from the waist down. The characteristic thing about the Shlakhtov czucha was, inter alia, edge trimming made of wool (red, black or white-black) cord, and a horizontal appliqué of blue cloth, the so-called kohutek (a stylised young spruce motif) on the right-hand side at the waist. Later on, czuchy were superseded by sukmany (huńki) - white, cloth jackets slightly flared around the waist. They were decorated with red, cloth borders, and the front slit was trimmed with a number of horizontal “twigs” embroidered in multicoloured chain stitch with a predominance of red. In winter, well-off farmsteaders used to wear knee-length sheepskins with sleeves; they were white-tanned, unadorned, or edged with red, saffian binding or plaiting.

Large, black, Spiš-style hats with tall, turned-up brims were the older type of men’s headwear worn in Shlakhtov Ruthenia until the end of the 19th century. Their domes were decorated with raki - a broad strap of leather serrated at the top, studded all over the surface with little brass nails. This kind of ornamentation was quite common throughout and on both sides of the Carpathians. The Shlakhtov tradition has it that the raki straps used to be narrow, studded with a single row of little nails, but several straps were worn at a time - with bachelors wearing up to five, and farmstead owners - up to three. The hats complementing the wedding attire used to be adorned with bunches of artificial flowers and red ribbons trailing down the back. From the beginning of the 20th century onwards, hats with semicircular domes and a narrow, turned-down brim became widespread. They resembled the Podhale-style hats. They were decorated with red, woollen harasowy cord wrapped several times around the dome and tied at the back into a knot called kytyci. In winter, sheepskin caps with cupolaed domes covered with blue cloth were worn. A black fur rim was lowered to cover the ears in freezing weather.

A common type of footwear in Shlakhtov Ruthenia were leather kierpce, which for festive occasions were made of cowhide, and worn over linen or cloth footwraps, fastened with woollen cord called nawołoka. From the beginning of the 20th century on kierpce were worn over thick, woollen socks knitted by local women. In Szlachtowa and Jaworki they were mass produced to be sold. On festive occasions, well-off farmsteaders would wear leather, węgierskie(Hungarian-style) calf-length boots of the a Spiš type, with the uppers cut out in two shark’s teeth, sometimes decorated with a red strap of saffian leather. 

The festive outfits worn by peasants, young farmsteaders and sheep herders were complemented by wide (up to 30 centimetres) opaski (belts) of double leather, sewn with thong, fastened with four, decorative, brass buckles. The leather surface, sometimes dyed red, was decorated with embossment and brass ferrules. Inside the belt was a pocket for holding money and other little valuables (e.g. a pipe, flint, snuff). Belts used to be bought at fairs in Spiš towns.

Women’s festive attire        

Women’s outer blouses (oplycza) were made of white, homespun linen; they had a gathered, bezprzyramkowy cut (with no square pieces of fabric), where an ample circumference around the upper chest (encompassing the upper edges of both the pieces covering the torso and the sleeves) was deeply pleated around and the neck and set in a narrow trimming of red homespun. The sleeves were long, wide, deeply pleated at the end and decorated, on the shoulders and cuffs with the so-called smużki, that is rectangular, sewn-on flakes of red fabric with white pinstripes. The cuff edges were trimmed with white and red lace. Oplycza blouses were very short, scarcely reaching the waist. They were always worn on top of some undergarment, such as ciasnocha, that is a simple, linen, torso-covering and loose-fitting vest, which had one seam and one narrow shoulder strap sewn on diagonally at the top. A ciasnocha normally reached the knees.

 The skirts worn in Shlakhtov Ruthenia were long enough to reach the ankles, quite wide (made of at least four to six szerzyny - widths of fabric) and billowy. If they were made of expensive material, at the front attached was the so-called nadiłok (nadołek) of some old fabric, which was hidden behind the zapaska (an apron). At least until the First World War, wybijanka was the most popular type of skirt, made of homespun linen imprinted with dainty, white patterns against a dark blue, navy or indigo background. Wybijanki (plural of wybijanka) were commissioned (on providing one’s own fabric) or bought from a number of linen-printing dyeworks in southern Spiš. Worn were also white-red, striped kanafaski of densely-woven, linen-cotton drill (called kanafas, and hence the name of the skirt); they were common in both Spiš and in the Pieniny and Szczawnica Highlanders’ regions. Older kanafaski were predominantly white, had narrow, red stripes with single blue pinstripes. Later on, the proportion of these colours shifted in favour of red. On top of the skirts, dark-blue, linen zapaski (aprons) were most willingly worn; they were manually imprinted with large, floral patterns, not infrequently both sides featuring different patterns (the so-called fartuchy łabate). In addition, white, ample, linen aprons with whitework were worn.

Girls and young women would put on bodices to complement the festive costume. Until the end of the 19th century, they were made of thin, red or black cloth of good quality, the so-called anglija; they were fashioned out of three pieces of fabric (the back and two fronts), with narrow flounce below the waist or large, trapezoidal flaps (the so-called ruskie fałdy - Russian folds). Bodices were fastened with rows of brass, circular buttons; the neckline edges were trimmed with colourful serration and shop tape, and on either side of the fastening ran horizontally arranges strips of multicoloured embroidery in chain stitch. Later bodices, made of velvet or flowery tybet, were already fitted with small, semicircular kaletki (tooth-like flaps called polskie fałdy - Polish folds). If they were monochromatic, they were trimmed with tape or embroidered with bead and spangle flowers after the newer Szczawnica fashion.

On cold days, women used to wear white, short homespun huńki - resembling the ones worn by men - decorated at the front, along the slit with appliqués of red cloth with fine serration along the edge (the so-called piłka), and perpendicularly to it, on the right-hand side, slightly above the waist - sewn-on, cloth kohutek (just like on huńki worn by men), but in this case it was red with little, yellow stars.Long, white, linen rańtuchy (shawls also called obrusy) were worn do przyodziewku (as a shoulder-covering garment) on festive occasions; in the 20th century these were displaced by factory-made shawls offered in a wide variety of patterns and colours at fair stalls. Older housewives were more inclined to wear thick, patterned kerchiefs called kulaste. In winter, well-off women would wear white-tanned sheepskins with dark-coloured trimmings (oprymki), decorated at the front and at the back with appliqués of colourful saffian leather and modest embroidery.

Older, married women used to wrap their hair around a wire disc (hymla) at the back of the head, and cover it with a colourful, tybet mob cap with a ząb(a tooth-like flap) over the forehead (like in Spiš). Mob caps used to be trimmed with patterned ribbon and colourful tapes, and on the outside edge - with black, crocheted lace (forbótka). Another Spiš borrowing was a tkanka – a kind of headwear used by brides, in the form of a rich wreath of artificial flowers with a broad stream of ribbons trailing down the back, and fixed to a rectangular, cardboard pad. When going to an Orthodox church service, young, married women would most often complement the festive attire with navy kerchiefs (called wybijanki) imprinted with light-coloured patterns, while well-off women - with flowery kerchiefs made of woollen tybet. They were folded into triangles and traditionally tied at the front, under the chin. In the interwar period, young, married women would also tie their headscarves at the back, and lower them right over their eyebrows. In those days, unmarried women tended to wear white or red, shop, imprinted kerchiefs, which they decorated at the corners with pompoms of red wool.


Well-off housewives would complement festive outfits with Hungarian-style calf-length boots, at the top trimmed with bands of red saffian leather; poor women would settle for leather kierpce (kyrpci) laced up around calves with cord called nawołoka and worn over wollen (in winter) or linen (in summer) footwraps.

Casual clothing

Everyday outfits were made of thicker, less bleached, worse-quality homespun linen or hemp fabrics, as well as homespun cloth. Men’s everyday linen clothes, such as shirts and summer work trousers, were commonly hand-made by women at home. They were unadorned, had no collars or cuffs, and only narrow trimmings. While working in the farmyard and doing household chores people would usually wear old and shabby festive linen clothes. On a daily basis, men would wear, as outer garments, old, shabby, festive, cloth hunie and cuchy, and in winter - sheepskins. On cold days, over shirts worn were - instead of lajbiki - short, unadorned, white-tanned sheepskin serdaki (jerkins). In summer, it was usual to walk barefoot, and in winter homemade świńskie (pigskin) kierpce were worn over footwraps. At home, cloth “socks” made of old clothing were worn as well. While mending pots, tinkers from Biała Woda, would wear, over cloth chołośnie, loose-fitting, protective trousers called szurc, made of thick homespun linen.

On a daily basis, women would more and more often wear shabby festive outfits. Besides, they would alter clothes worn by older household members to make them fit the younger ones, or would make new clothes of worse-quality materials. In summer, while working, they would usually wear unadorned blouses of worse-quality linen, which were put on top of a shabby, older ciasnocha (which was also used for sleeping). Also, long, billowy, linen skirts were worn: underneath - an undyed one, on top - a dark one home-dyed one colour (navy, indigo, siwy - silver grey), or a shabby, patterned wybijanka; a dark-coloured, linen zapaska; an ordinary, white kerchief of homespun linen. In winter, on a daily basis, they would be clothed in thick, woollen shawls in darker colours, sometimes with checked patterns. They used to be either old and shabby or of worse quality. Occasionally, two kerchiefs were worn at once - one with the ends crossed on the bosom and tied around the waist at the back; the other one - flung on top. As headwear, they would wear thicker, woollen headscarves, the ends of which were wrapped around the neck. Around the house, women and children would walk barefoot. In winter, well-off housewives would wear the so-called węgierskie (Hungarian-style) calf-length boots, while poor ones - pigskin kierpce worn over woollen footwraps.


Maria Brylak-Załuska



Roman Reinfuss, Próba charakterystyki etnograficznej Rusi Szlachtowskiej, na podstawie niektórych elementów kultury materialnej [An Attempt at Ethnographic Description of Shlakhtov Ruthenia on the Basis of Some Elements of Its Material Culture], Lublin - Kraków 1947;