Since olden times, an attitude towards clothes was tremulous and respectful in Ukraine. Embroidering clothes for their children, mothers put all their tenderness and prayer to God for safety of dear children. Ukrainian vyshyvanka served not only as a decoration and talisman but also as a kind of document by which it was possible to determine the location from which the owner of the vyshyvanka was origin from.
Vyshyvanka for every day was embroidered, of course, much simpler and more modest. Festive clothes, on the contrary, were embroidered more thoroughly and richly. Ukrainian wedding vyshyvanka was, in general, the subject of a very special attention. Through mysterious language of the wedding embroidery, many wishes of family well-being were passed to young couple.
Whatever hard times the Ukrainian people experienced, the love of the traditional embroidery has never faded from them. Ukrainian people have cherished and multiplied national traditions of embroidery in creative workshops. With the help of thread and needles, Ukrainian masters have created unique pieces of recognizable worldwide Ukrainian attire.
According to Old Slavic traditions, you shouldn’t wear someone else’s vyshyvanka. People believed that, in this way, you could “take on” somebody else’s fate, but you wouldn’t give your fate in turn. You should not give anyone your embroidery as well. Traditionally, there were decorated with embroidery those pieces of clothes, through which, according to our ancestors, evil spirits could enter into the human soul. In fact, the main purpose of embroidery was a protective mission. Collar, cuffs, hem, and neck slit were embroidered with embroidery-guardian. The fabric itself was considered impregnable for evil spirits because it was manufactured with use of tools on which the incantatory pattern was presented in large quantities. Based on such concepts, it was important to give the edges of the garments, in the places where it is in contact with an open body, a protective function. Traditional embroidery was existed, namely, for this purpose. By the language of the mystical symbolism, traditional embroidery blocked the path of the negative forces through the edge of the garment to the man’s body and soul.
Our ancestors believed that as an embroidered towel protects every house the same an embroidered shirt protects man from evil thoughts and envious looks of bad people. You need to understand that this is not the archaic beliefs of people who are far away from technological progress. An important psychological aspect is used here: when a man walked into the house, the first thing, on which his gaze was directed, was embroidered towels. Thus, a man was distracted by the intricate patterns and, if he had an evil intention, he unwittingly let the evil force, which could harm the owners of the house, go out from his soul. Embroidered shirts had the same role. Colorful embroidery simply distracted an unkind look of the man with evil in his soul from the owner of the shirt. Thereby, looking at the patterns of embroidery, unkind person could forget about his bed thoughts. Based on these very practical considerations, both an embroidered towel and embroidered shirt were a real talisman for people and house.
There was a belief that if a shirt made and embroidered with good thoughts and for a good life, it would reliably protect the owner. Women embroidered shirts for her sons and husband. If Ukrainian woman waited for someone from a long journey, she began to embroider a new shirt so that person could come back faster. Speaking about the lucky man, Ukrainian people often use the following expression “born in a shirt” (English equivalent is “be born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth”). By using “a shirt”,we mean, namely, embroidered shirt. Thus, it becomes clear that embroidered shirt has become very important household item in Ukrainian culture.
Elements of traditional Ukrainian embroidery are often used in the collections of Ukrainian fashion designers; thus, they popularize the national traditions of embroidery not only in Ukraine but also abroad. Embroidery is a symbol of health, beauty, purity of thought, and unity with the soul of our ancestors and Ukrainian nation.