For many centuries a headdress has been an important part of the Russian national costume.
There was a tradition in Rus’: young girls and women always had to “cover their hair”. Russian people believed that the hair could attract evil spirits, especially the hair of a married woman. Till nowadays we have been using a word “oprostovolositsya” -“to tousle the hair” – that means “to disgrace oneself”.
How did Russian women do their hair?
Not married young ladies used to braid their hair. “The main girl’s beauty was her tress”. The hair was parted in the middle and braided low on the back of the head. The headdress always matched the hairstyle. The headwear left the crown of the head and the tress visible, showing the girl’s beauty.
Russian married peasant women usually made two tresses and arranged them on the head; or wore their hair in a bun. They concealed all the hair under the headdress, as according to the ancient customs, married ladies were not allowed to show their hair.
The headdress could “tell” us much not only about the woman’s origin, but also about her age, marital or social status.
Russian young girls used to wear metal narrow headbands with temple rings and other decorations. Leather or birch bark headbands(обруч), covered with clothes and richly decorated (with beads, embroidery, river pearls and precious stones) became a diadem. Diadems could also have three or four “teeth” and a front removable part, so called “otchel’e”.
People believed that the diadem(повязка) is a wreath variation, one of the most ancient girls’ headdresses in Russia. Wreaths were initially twined of field and meadow flowers. Later, the wreath flowers were fixed on a birch bark or metal headband and richly decorated with beads, gold or multicolored ribbons.
Centuries ago flower wreath(венок) was an important part of every pagan rite; a young girl was participating in (herb picking, jumping over the fire). Young girls used to twine their wreaths of field flowers to drop them into water. The girl, whose wreath would be the first to reach the other river bank, would be the first to get married among her friends.
Married peasants were usually dressed in “sorokas”.
Soroka is one of the oldest Russian headdresses of married women. According to the archaeological data, women had already worn the soroka in the XIIth century. Since that time it had been wide spread in Russia. Every peasant woman knew how to sew a soroka. This headdress was usually composed of several elements: a kitchka, a posatylnik, a nalobnik and a shawl. The kitchka (from the word “kitchet”, that meant “swan”) was a small round cap, made of canvas. On its front was fixed a firm wooden part (of linden, elm or birch tree). The kitchka was famous for the variety of shapes: horn-shaped (in Ryasan’, Tula, Kaluga, Oryol regions), spade- or hoof-shaped (in Arkhangelsk and Vologda provinces), circle- or oval-shaped, etc.
The soroka itself was a long woven cloth, fixed on the kitchka and falling down to the back and shoulders. The temple hair was concealed with a posatylnik – a cloth on a firm base. The front and the temples were covered with an embroidered ribbon, so called “nalobnik”. Over the soroka was tied a shawl.
The word kokoshnik was first mentioned in the documents of the XVIth century. Unlike the dailyheaddress (a soroka or a shawl), the kokoshnik was initially a holiday, even a wedding headwear. No wonder the kokoshnik was an element of a bride dress, as its shape resembles the domes of Russian churches, where the wedding ceremony always took place.
There is a great number of kokoshnik types. Слово “кокошник” происходит от древнеславянского слова “кокош”, означающего курицу-наседку или петуха. Тем не менее уже в погребениях Новгорода, относящихся к X-XII веку встречаются некоторые подобия кокошника: твёрдого головного убора, низко сидящего на лбу и закрывавшего голову полностью до ушей.
Province women used to wear kokoshniks of different shapes and decorations. The ladies from the Central Russia preferred triangular-shaped kokoshniks, looking like a half-moon. The Northern women used to decorate this headdress with river pearls. The firm part of the kokoshnik was sewn to a small cap covering all the head. Its front part was often embroidered with pearls, beads, falling down to the front; and a muslin shawl was fixed on the top. Kokoshniks were made by special artists in towns, villages or convents and were sold in fairs. In the XVIIIth century some kokoshniks could cost ten times more than a good horse.
Many women headdresses in Russia came from high antiquity. A headwear had its special symbolic for a Russian woman. Old traditions were always closely connected to the headdress, whether it was a flower wreath or a diadem – symbol of maidenhood; or a kokoshnik for a bride. Headdresses were gently passed from mothers to daughters to keep the memory of our ancestors.
If you would like to see Regional Russian Headdresses go here http://www.strangelove.net/~kieser/Russia/kokoshniki.html
More information in Russian http://larussie.narod.ru/odezhda/od06_01.htm