Ribbon in hair is perfect complement to your outfit

Weddings are, without question, one of the happiest times in life — especially for girls, who always prepare meticulously for their ‘big day’
By Lyudmila Minakova

These days, women are spoilt for choice when it comes to dresses and veils: silk, satin, lace and other rich fabrics make wedding outfits utterly beautiful. Moreover, brides can shop online as well as in town. Even a hundred years ago, their choice was far more limited. Our grandmothers and great grandmothers would have probably sewn their own outfits and headwear or asked neighbours and friends to help.

Here, we look at traditions regarding bridal headwear: which flowers were interlaced into a chaplet? What was the difference between a houve and hood? And why were veils wrapped around the neck?

Keeping away the evil eye 
“For a long time, brides tended to wear chaplets on their heads,” explains Veronika Bogacheva, a lecturer from the Costume and Textiles Department at the Belarusian State Academy of Arts. “At the end of the 19th-early 20th century, traditions began to change, with veils beginning to be worn. Initially, veils were placed over the chaplet; then, headwear with visors came into fashion.”

Veronika distinguishes three types of chaplets: a twisted chaplet of flowers, a chaplet-headband (on dart or frame) and a chaplet on a solid base of split, elm or cardboard. “You could use a simple sieve, wrap its bad side with ordinary canvas, and the good with expensive fabric such as velvet and silk. You then decorated it with various flowers,” explains Ms. Bogacheva.

There was also linen headwear, like a folded towel, tied behind, with embroidery at the forehead and ends. For her wedding, a girl could wear an ordinary neckerchief tied under the chin, or a povivailo. “It was another popular form of wedding headwear: a large piece of fabric covering the bride’s face, according to the old tradition of hiding her from others’ eyes. On the way to the church, she would be covered with several blankets, to prevent her attracting the evil eye,” notes Veronika.

On the head... garland
While some types of wedding headwear were popular across all regions, others had local characteristics, explains Veronika. “They were unique in their construction, technology and design, but were used only across a small region, mostly in Western Polesie. This garland, using several colourful ribbons, isn’t known today, so we don’t really know how it was fastened. A chaplet-cap with a frame made of wire or twigs was lined with feathers and painted in green: the colour of innocence. Some girls married wearing a padvichka, bound with a whole bouquet of flowers (imagine your bouquet on your head rather than in your hands). Perhaps, the most prominent and well-known bridal headwear was the ‘staubunovy’ chaplet. It consisted of three parts and was richly decorated. I held one once and it felt alive, moving and trembling, like a bouquet of flowers.

As a rule, headwear was colourful, as was the whole wedding outfit; only orphaned brides did not wear colourful clothes, rather choosing white or light colours. 

It only became fashionable to wear white wedding dresses in the first half of the 20th century, although they were long decorated with flowers. “As a rule, the flowers chosen were rue, asparagus, mint, periwinkle and, sometimes, fern,” Veronica tells us. “Green was considered a symbol of virginity, worn only by virgin girls.”

‘Crown’ on loan
Bridal headwear could be made from live or artificial flowers, as well as lace, beads and cotton-wool wrapped around a twig and dipped in wax. Most were made on the eve of the wedding, on Saturday: usually by the bride and her friends. If the groom were rich, he would order the wedding headwear to be made, creating a richly decorated crown. The chaplet was usually burnt after the wedding, or sewn into a cushion and placed behind an icon. It might also be disassembled, with various elements distributed to friends.

“During the second half of the wedding ceremony, brides changed their headwear to show that their status had changed, to being married,” Ms. Bogacheva explains. “The main difference between a girl’s and woman’s headwear was that the girl’s did not cover the back of her head; this showed her virginity and unmarried status. Married women wore a povoinik (usually for everyday wear), kerchief, houve or hood (houve with ears).

“Fashions change of course. Our modern dresses are often quite revealing in the neck and chest areas,” notes Ms. Bogacheva. “However, our grandmothers and their own mothers would have tried to hide naked places with a veil, keeping the bride from others’ eyes.” We may have something to learn from our wise forebears.
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