Arctic people’s clothes




L.V. Korolkova – author I.A. Karapetova – author K.Yu. Solovyeva – Album compiler

Karelians and Saami clothes

The clothing sets of the northern Karelians and Saami still retained ethnic and local specific features in the 19th century. The Karelians’ clothes included a pinafore and a skirt set. Men wore linen shirts, trousers, short or long caftans, fur coats, straw caps and hats (in summer) and felts and furs, woolen socks, stockings and gloves in winter.

The clothes of various local Saami groups differed in headwear type, color palette, and costume finishing. In winter girls, women, and men wore deep caps with small ear flaps made of cloth and fur. In summer they wore soft-sole shoes and pointed curved shoes; in winter, it was yary, long boots of young deer hides hair outside, or fur trousers stitched together with footwear. In cold weather they wore a pechok, closed-up garment of deer hides sewn with fur outside and laced with a string at the collar over cloth upper body garments. In the second half of the 19th century, the Saami’s summer clothing set began to include a pinafore with a jacket and skirt with a jacket, and large silk and woolen shawls. These clothes were borrowed from the Russians of Archangel Province. 

Ludmila V. Korolkova

Arctic people’s clothes

The traditional costume of each of the northern peoples had strongly pronounced ethnic specifics manifesting in cut features, decorations, and décor arrangement; it was an example of adaptation to harsh climate. The design of traditional garments took into account not only heat insulation, but also lightness, softness, elasticity, and ability to maintain a microclimate natural for the body.

The basic materials for making clothes were skins of game animals, and mainly the deer. Deer pile had a special structure: each filament was a hollow tube, which enabled accumulating and retaining the human body heat under the clothes even in heavy frost. All parts of clothing were sewn together with tendon threads, which did not tear in the cold and organically joined the materials sewn together. For warmth, the seams were lined with deer hair.

Common among sea hunters and tundra deer farmers were closed-up garments, most suited for protection against snow, wind, and frost. On the contrary, women’s clothes of the Nenets, Khanti, Nganasans, and Enets were worn open. This was because women, unlike men, spent more time indoors. The clothes were worn pile inside, but in winter it was double, as a rule: fur inside and fur outside, and made from skins of the autumn kill, which had thicker warm pile.

The basic fur garment for taiga hunters was a short straight-cut parka worn open fur outside, to which the Evenki added a plastron. A special type of upper garment was overalls, a specific women’s one typical for the Chukchi, and children’s one. Kamus, fur from deer’s legs, served as winter boot making material for the peoples of the North. These boots were worn both by tundra deer farmers and by taiga hunters. Sea hunters used seal skins for bootmaking.

The Izhma Komi who took up the Nenets deer farming culture, and via them also the Saami and the Russians of the Arctic coast adopted the malica and sovik, Nenets closed-up fur outer garments, and kamus footwear. 

The North explorers and first polar navigators duly appreciated lightweight, warm, and comfortable clothes of local dwellers. 

Today, traditional fur clothing remains an important element of culture of Northern and Siberian peoples; it is used as hunting and winter clothing and worn over machine-made dresses and suits.

Irina A. Karapetova