Uzbek national clothing

Traditional Uzbek costume remained unchanged until the end of the nineteenth century. As in all Muslim countries, Islamic values in Uzbekistan were reflected in the style of dress. Men and women alike had limited items in their wardrobe; these included a long tunic shirt, pants, and a coat. The style of a garment was not subject to change and was similar for both sexes and all social classes. For example, the only difference in a tunic shirt for men and women was in the neckline openings—horizontal for men, vertical for women. Wealthy people could be distinguished from the poor by the superior quality of their fabrics, their more expensive jewelry, and the presence of decorative elements in their costume, such as embroidery, studded stones, and beads.

Despite similarities in costume style, each ethnic group created a unique look, artistically combining the elements of design, color palettes, textile patterns, and trims. Within an ethnic group or region, costume differed because each family had to spin, weave, and dye its own fabrics to make clothing. This led to the colorful variety in Uzbek traditional dress.

Men's Clothing

 

The most important part of Uzbek men's costume was the loose-fitting cotton coat, called the khalat. The khalat was long-sleeved, knee length or longer, and made from fabric with a variety of colorful stripes. The bottom of the sleeves, center edges, hem, and neckline of the coat were sewn round with a decorative braid, which was believed to protect a person from evil powers. The side seams were slit for ease when walking, riding a horse, or sitting down. Wearing two or more coats at the same time was common in both winter and summer, and gave a man a certain prestige while showing the prosperity of the family. The outer coat could be padded with batting. A white tunic shirt was worn under the coat. The coat or shirt was tied with a big folded handkerchief or a band. This band was an important accessory, and could be made of fine fabrics, decorated with complicated silver embroidery, studded with stones and silver coins, and hung with little bags for tobacco and keys. Pants were loosely cut but narrowed to the bottom and were tucked into soft leather boots with pointed toes. Skullcaps were popular all over Central Asia. The tubeteika is an Uzbek cap made of velvet or wool, beautifully embroidered with silk or silver threads. Over the cap men could drape a turban, or chalma, in different colors. Fur hats were also worn.

Women's Clothing

 

Women's traditional dress consisted of a tunic, pants, a scarf, and a coat. The long, loose tunic had wide sleeves reaching to the wrists. Loose-cut pants were often made of the same fabric as the tunic, or out of complementary fabric. The bottom of the pants was gathered and decorated with embroidered braid. Women's coats were similar to men's khalat.

For centuries cotton has been used extensively for clothing in Uzbekistan. Home-woven striped and white cotton were the most common fabrics for everyday wear. Textile patterns often included up to six or seven different colors in the typical geometrical or stylized floral design. Fabrics were brightly colored, in shades of red, yellow, blue, green, violet, and orange. The color of the costume was an important signal of a person's age or social status. Red and pink were common for girls and young women; middle-aged women were supposed to wear shades of light blue and gray. White was the most popular color and appropriate for all ages, especially for the elderly. Black, dark blue, and violet were colors of mourning.

It was not appropriate for a woman to be seen bare-headed, even by family members. The scarf was tied round the head, leaving long ends hanging down the back. Similarly, a woman was required to cover herself with a cloak when outside of the house. In different ethnic groups a big scarf or a special kind of stylized coat, or parandja, was used. Parandja was worn with the neckline resting on the top of the head, partially covering the woman's face and draping around the entire body. In many Muslim countries females are not allowed to show their faces in public, and one common cover in Central Asia was a black net made of horsehair. The length of the net varied, depending on the region, from waist-level to the hip-level, or sometimes longer. Only in large Central Asian cities such as Tashkent, Farghona, and Bukhoro was the veil a necessary part of a woman's wardrobe at the end of the nineteenth century. In villages, women used the hanging ends of the scarf tied round the head to cover their faces when in public.

Women's long, black hair was braided into two or more plaits. In addition to common Central Asian jewelry, it was popular among young Uzbek women to pierce the nose and decorate it with a ring set with stones. Shoes were made of felt or colored leathers and had low heels.

Clothing in the Twentieth Century

 

Russian influence was seen in the early twentieth century. Shirts and coats became more comfortable and closer fitting with the introduction of shoulder seams, cut armholes, and rounded sleeve caps. The traditional tunic shirt evolved into a dress with a waist seam and, later, a front yoke. Today the dress with a yoke is considered the traditional Uzbek women's costume.

In the 1920s, during the Civil War and the creation of the Asian Soviet Republics, Western clothing began to appear in Central Asian wardrobes. This trend first developed in larger cities. Men added pieces from military uniforms as well as civil Western dress to their everyday attire. Although women were more conservative and slow in reshaping their wardrobe than men were, they started to appear in public with uncovered faces.

The modern version of traditional women's costume consists of the dress, pants, and headwear. Dress length varies from the knee to calf level. Pants, which are still an irreplaceable part of an Uzbek woman's wardrobe, can be very long, draping over shoes, or shortened for young women. A hip-length jacket or a waist-length vest can be worn over the dress. The skullcap, or tubeteika, is now extremely common. A tassel is placed on the top of a woman's cap for festive occasions.

At the end of the twentieth century, Western fashion dominated, but fashionable styles are still produced with native design elements and in traditional multi-colored textile patterns and hues. Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the creation of an independent Uzbekistan in 1991, the culture as well as the economy has been in transition, influencing modern Uzbek appearance.