Women’s costume. Karaites. Middle of the 19th century. Taurida Province


Women’s costume. Karaites. Middle of the 19th century. Taurida Province


Costume, women's


There are two historic Karaite communities, Trakai and Crimean, both related to the Crimean Peninsula by origin. The dialog on the origin of Crimea’s Karaites is a permanent one. Clashing in it are two historical/genetic opinions, one relating the Karaites’ ethnogenesis to the world of non-orthodox Judaism, and the other, to heritage of an early Turkic empire, the Khazar Kingdom. Definitely, the formation of the Karaite culture of everyday life was related to the Crimean land and the time when both moments of their initial ethnic history were in place. In the epoch of the Crimean Khanate, the Karaites took shape as a local confessional ethno-professional group of the Crimean polyethnic community, oriented at horticulture, handicraft, commerce, military and civil service. For several centuries from the 14th century, the Crimean Karaites lived in the fortress complex of Chufut-kale. In the Russian time, such restraint was disturbed. It is important that from the epoch of the Russian Emperor Nicholas I the Karaites were relieved of some restrictions imposed in Russia on votaries of Judaism, which promoted development of the group’s competencies and inclusion of Karaites in the business and intellectual elite of the nation. By the end of the 19th century, the men’s clothing of the Karaites was replaced by European clothes, while the women’s clothing retained its ethnical color. The traditional costume of Karaite women embraced the rich traditions of the Ottoman Empire, Crimean Khanate, and Middle East, reproducing the basic elements of oriental clothing in its pattern. They are a multilayer structure, with underwear and outerwear; harem pants, waist cinched with a belt, split bottomwear, lots of decorations: embroidery, appliqué, braiding, and required wearing of headgear. The costume’s color gamut was quite rich, widely displaying scarlet, cherry, green, blue, violet, and blue. Such a costume was kept and passed down from generation to generation. The costume components covering the body parts most vulnerable to the evil eye were abundantly decorated by lace and embroidery. The embroidery techniques and materials, and complex designs reproduced the traditions of Damascus, Baghdad, and Jerusalem. A widely known hairdo of the Karaite girls included up to 100 little braids; women did up their hair in two plaits down the back. The hair was covered with velvet and silk headwear with decoration of pearls and coins, including Turkish gold pieces. Wealthy women wore headwear with pearl-embroidered stars and a lunula, with hanging clusters of pearls and emeralds, other precious stones, and golden pendants. Home clothing differed from outdoor clothing, which implied a mantle-type cape. The festive costume included forehead bands with sayings in the Hebrew or Arabic language. A coin necklace was a required decoration even of a woman of modest means. Every Karaite woman had a smart traditional costume; relatives gave coin necklaces to girls from poor families as a wedding gift.