Kazakhstan Traditional Costumes - Outergarments, Dress, Headgear, Footwear, Kazakh costumes, kazakh outergarments, kazakh dresses, kazakh headgear, kazakh footwear, kazakh clothes.

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A modern fashioned bridal attire
A modern fashioned bridal attire.


The National State Museum of Kazakhstan is a treasure house where one can find many wonderful samples of Kazakh traditional costumes. On display here, are clothes that once belonged to prominent figures of Kazakh history, batyrs, akyns and artists, in particular, the stage-costumes of famous singers like Kulyash Bayseitova, Zhamal Omarova and Rosa Baglanova, and the celebrated dancer Shara Zhicnkulova. Outstanding among the expositions arc: the gold-thread-embroidered beshmet (a coat worn over a dress) owned by Fatima, the wife of Zhangir, the last khan of Bukrey-Orda; and robe lined with swan down that belonged to Tazhibai, the younger sister of the renowned Kazakh scientist and traveler of the 19th century Chokan Valikhanov.

Many varieties of these traditional costumes have withstood the test of time in beauty and style, which explains why they are still worn today despite their ancient fashion.
Kazakh traditional costumes were made from well-chosen materials and fashioned to suit the conditions of nomadic life and the ever-fluctuating weather conditions. It could stand hard frosts and the weary heat, Durable, comfortable, simple and practical best qualifies most of these clothes, Apart from the general men's, women's and children's wear, these national costumes fall into different classifications according to the occasion for which it is meant, namely outer garments and underclothes, occasional, seasonal and daily wear.

Daily wear really differed from the occasional in its simple design and fashion. Occasional, in contrast to daily wear, were complexly designed and tailored from valuable plush, velvet, crepe, broadcloth, satin, silk, brocade and other expensive fabrics. To make them more sophisticated, these clothes were artistically embroidered with gold and silver thread, heads, silk, and decorated with pearls, corals, and carnelian insertions. But the pains taken to do them are not in vain, for these clothes are fashioned to accentuate the beauty of these steppe inhabitants, give their natural appearance a special charm and make them more attractive and graceful.


Hide and fur of domestic and wild animals processed by a special ancient recipe were used to make traditional outer garments.
The shapan, a warm, long overcoat, is one of the ancient outer-garments of Kazakh traditional clothes. Shapans differed by the technique of manufacture and purpose and fashioned either with a turndown or a stand-up collar. From time immemorial, it was considered that what made the shapan very convenient was its wrap-fasten. A richer variety of it is the syrmaly, which is a quilted and sewn m a denser material. The Kaptal is another model with a warm lining. Another type is the shabu, which is trimmed with fur. The zhargak shapan is meant for occasions and fittingly decorated with ornamental patterns. It is the favourite overcoat of dzhigits (young men).
The shekpen is a warm homespun coat made of camel wool. Another property of this coat is that the fur from which this coat is made is water-repellant making it withstand light showers. The most beautiful shekpen, the shide is woven out of a year-old camel's wool. This very soft and delicate wool gives the shekpen its attractive look.

Fur-coats for daily wear and household work were mainly sewn from sheep and goatskin.
Another type of winter outer-garment is the ishik - a fur coat sewn with special craftsmanship out f the fur of the wolf, fox, sable, astrakhan or the like.
The kupi is a light warm coat lined with camel or sheep wool. The outer fabric is made from velvet or other coarse, durable, soil-resistant fabrics. It is a popular wear for men, women and children like. Ladies' kupi came with ornamental embroidery on the collar. The sleeve hems were furred with otter. The kupi is an indispensable outer-garment during the mild frosts in spring and autumn.


Among the Kazakh traditional ladies' wear, Kazakhstan traditional dress for girls and young women called locally koilek, takes a special place in terms of beauty. These ladies look very graceful in their long flimsy dress, which seem air-filled along the length, the sleeves and around the collar.
The most beautiful dresses are those with delicate silk fringes. The decorations around the collar were made to accentuated the delicate curves of the neck.
Kunikey koilek is made of light, fluffy material densely gathered at the waist. The long sleeves are also gathered. Usually, unmarried girls wear it. In them they seem like enigmatic, fairy beauties, literary "sun-like", as the meaning of the Kazakh word 'kunikey'.

Saukele - bridal headgear
Saukele - bridal headgear
Young men's occasional costume - headwear aiyr kalpak, overcoat shapan, and decorated high boots taptauryn.
Young men's occasional costume - headwear aiyr kalpak, overcoat shapan, and decorated high boots taptauryn.


Wearing of traditional headgear dates back to the 15th century when Kazakh Khanate was formed. And From the kind of headgear a person wore, it was easy to determine from which class of society he belonged. For example, a bai (rich man), mapile (man of nobility) or a biy (.iteppe judge) wore the aiyr kalpak - a high pointed cap with a divided turn-up. It was sewn from expensive fabric d richly decorated with ornamental patterns. One part of the divided turn-up symbolized wealth, the other - power.
Summer varieties of this cap were made from white felt. The kalpak is elegant, convenient, and protective from the heat in summer and keeps out the cold during the winter.
Another traditional men's headgear is the borik - a rounded warm cap, trimmed with astrakhan otter, marten or raccoon fur. In the harsh winter cold, the men wear the tymak, a fur cap with three flaps - a pair for the ears and a longer and broader flap for the hind head down to the back.
One of men's headgear models widespread since the ancient times is kulapara, a type of hood, worn by hunters, berkutchi (those who train and hunt with the golden eagle), shepherds and herdsmen. The one with a ponited top is worn when raining, while the winter variety has a rounded top like the takiya, and gives good protection from the cold and strong wind. To camouflage the animals, hunters wear a white kulapara in winter, a green one in summer and a yellow in the autumn. The main distinction of the kulapara is that unlike other headgears, it is attached to the collar of the outerwear.
The takiya is a light, rounded men's headgear made with a lifted, flat or pointed top. Decorations on this cap are usually in the form of zoomorphic embroidery or floral patterns of complex compositions of 'horn' or 'bindweed' shapes.

This headshawl, kimskek was purposed for occasions.
This headshawl, kimskek was purposed for occasions.

Women's headgears are much more complicated in make and more richly decorated. Ladies' takiya. for example, is embroidered with gold and silver thread in addition to the decorative coins, beads, beautiful buttons and precious stones. Girls sport such festive headgear on occasions, but the married women wear it under the kimishek - a type of head shawl, made from very light material, like the one usually worn by Muslim women. The ends around the facial opening are hemmed with beads, pearls or coral.
The most beautiful traditional ladies' headgear, saukele, is worn by a bride on her wedding day and during the first year of their marriage. Every pattern on the saukele had its significance. A quick glance at a bride's saukele is enough to tell those who know the significance of all these symbols much about the bride. Saukele like the takiya is richly trimmed with embroidery, precious stones, beads and valuable fur. Ladies' borik much resembles the men's by shape, except that it carries much more decorations. The type trimmed with otter's fur is called Kamshat, the one decorated with gold galloon - altyn, and that decorated with corals - kalmarzhan.

Ladies high-boots - saiyan.
Ladies high-boots - saiyan.


Shoemaking was a well-developed craft with the Kazakh people. All the primary materials needed for making the shoes like rawhide cords and straps, skin, sinew threads as well as the professional devices and various lasts were made by the shoemaker. Ancient Kazakh footwear had one peculiarity. The soles were cut square, which made them fit either foot.
Such footwear really took a lot of time to wear out and did not need time to make out which one was meant for which foot.
Summer boots were made from light leather in contrast to the winter foot wear which were from much thicker leather and tailored with exceptional craftsmanship.
There are a few types of men's footwear. Riding boots, kaykayma or kayky has often had a pointed turn-up. Such hoots were heelless with very thin soles. Young men used to wear such boots at the weddings.
Saptama-boots is ancient winter footwear made from well-curried horse or ox hide, Worn with special felt stockings that usually reached the knee protruding out of the boots. For this reason the bootlegs were made long and wide.
Men's working boots called shokay, were made of rough leather with hair. The wide bootlegs were fastened with rawhide belts. These boots like the saptama-boots were worn on felt stocking-boots baypak, which might as well be worn seperately wrapped with velvet, skin or other material. Another kind of felt boots is the buiyk, a sort of valenki that were worn over other boots to keep the ' warm during the most severe frosts, snowstorm or night watch.

The daily wear: headgear borik, zhargak shapan, beldik, zhargak shalbar and high-boots
The daily wear of young men comprises of the headgear borik, a suede coat, zhargak shapan, decorative belt beldik, suede trousers zhargak shalbar, and high-boots made from suede.

There existed occasional boots of different style too. For example, taptautyn - the exquisite hoc with turned-up toes, incrusted with silver that were mostly made out of horse croup skin. Another kind was the shonkayma - the high-heeled boots, usually worn at festivals by Kazakh sere (wandering poets-musicans).

In making these boots, Kazakh shoemakers for the first time began to use different lasts for the t and left foot.
Boots for daily wear were made of cattle skin. They were of simple cut, stitched on the outside had a straight sole. That was the footwear preferred by the cat tic-breeders, shepherds and hunters. The boots with soft sole were called zhumsak taban. Those made of rawhide, kok, had no heels and were comfortable for walking on rocky grounds.
The masi are soft thin boots with thin soles. Galoshes - skin (kebis) or rubber (lastyk) - were n over the masi to protect it from dirt, dust and moisture. The galoshes had thick sole and highheels. Besides the ordinary ones, kebis were made with short bootlegs like overshoes.

There also existed a diversity of ladies' and children's footwear, which looked more smart and exquisite, They were as usual specially decorated, The summer models, unlike the men's, were always made with short bootlegs or without ones altogether making them resemble sandals.
Women's masi, for example were made of chagrin leather or some other delicate skin with the bootlegs trimmed with fur or leather of another colour. Ornamental patterns usually served as decorations on them. Kebis to be worn over ladies' masi were always made high-heeled with pointed curved toes.

Kazakh traditional clothing are a treasury of folk art that fades into antiquity and is strongly linked with nomadic traditions. From them, one can easily decipher all the familiar shades of colours closely linked with the steppes. It is a treasury that has not yet revealed all its secrets and has much store to make wonder even the modern masters of fashion in search of new ideas.

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