Nowadays hats are not that important as they were hundreds years ago. At that time the traditional headpiece could tell a lot: if a woman was married, if she had children and in some regions even how many children she had. The skillfully decorated, heavy and large headpieces were inherited from one generation to another and used only on special occasions.
The girl’s headpiece was simple in old Rus. There was a tradition to show off the hair braid which was often tied with a silk ribbon. Or some girls wore small wreaths or tiaras (“venets”), beautifully decorated in the front. The hair was unbraided, arranged around the head at the wedding ceremony. Since then the hair was always hidden under a hat and it was a great shame to demonstrate the married woman’s hair.
Volosnik was a gauze-like bonnet that was put on the hair and tightened around the head. Not a single lock should not be seen. The volosnik hat was not hidden in the layers of the hats, usually covered with other traditional headpieces such as povoynik, kika or soroka. Even though volosnik was not demonstrated, it was often embroidered with pearls or golden threads. Another traditional hat povoynik was also considered as an internal hat covered by scarves or kokoshnik. Later on povoynik became a separate, independent hat.
Kika means “hair’ in the old Slavic language. The kika hat is one of the most ancient headpieces, related to pagan cults and rituals. The kika hat looked like a cow head with horns that were a symbol of fertility and abundance. That is why the kika hat was worn only by the married women. In some regions, there was a tradition to give a kika with small horns to a just married woman, then to change to another one with bigger horns after the first child delivery. The most respected woman wore the biggest horns. The front part of the kika hat was artfully embroidered with beads, pearls and goldwork. Women believed that skillful, rich décor and pearly pendants may hide the real age and distract from the wrinkled face.
The soroka hat was the most complicated headpiece from Tula region. It had fourteen separate pieces, to put them on was a time-consuming and complicated procedure. It had a kind of a peacock “tail” that looked very bright and impressive.
The kokoshnik word came from the old Russian word “kokosh” (hen). It looks that the name was inspired by the hen tail. In fact, the kokoshnik shapes were varied, from flat to sharp ones. Women also created double-combed kokosniks. Pskov region had an original variation of the kokoshnik with pearly cones. There was a saying:” The more cones, the more kids.” The kokoshnik became an original symbol of Russia.
Peter the Great tried to change old traditional Russian life into a European way and issued a special decree that forbade to wear kokoshniks. Thanks to Catherine the Great the kokoshnik hat was rehabilitated, as she reanimated the fashion "a la russe". At the beginning it was mainly a masquerade attribute. But after the war of 1812 the kokoshnik hat came back to the wardrobe of noble ladies as a patriotic sign. And finally according to the decree of Nicholas I of Russia the kokoshnik was officially considered a part of the court dress in 1834.
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