Carpatho-Rusyn Heritage: Traditional Clothing

The world has become quite homogenized in the 21st century in terms of clothing styles and fashion choices. Many ethnic groups have set aside their typical styles of dressing to be brought out of the closet and shared perhaps on holidays or not at all.

Carpatho-Rusyns are among those who have left this part of their cultural heritage behind in their day-today lives. Today, folk costumes are brought out to celebrate cultural holidays or for folkloric performances.

However, in the first part of the 20th century and earlier, both men and women had typical styles of clothing for work and for celebrating.  Best clothing would be worn on Sundays, holy days and special occasions such as weddings and best clothing included colorful garments, both for females and males.

Both women and men wore blouses/shirts, often white with decorative embroidery or design, particularly on the sleeves. Another article of clothing common to both was a tight fitting vest. Men would wear pants and women wore skirts tight at the waist, but flowing with fabric.

Men also wore hats with a decoration such as flowers added. Women wore head scarves.

Around the pre-World War II era, my grandmother took part in a Rusyn pageant at St. Michael’s Church in Passaic. All participants were Rusyn and all (men and women) wore traditional clothing. I suspect that many had these clothes in their closet at home and brought the items with them when the arrived in America.

Nana, second row, second from left

About the time of World War I, Nana’s sister, Maria, and her future husband posed for a picture that was later mailed to her.

Maria, Stephen and Unknown Girl
World War I Era

Here is one more family photo from the 1920s when Nana’s brother, Michael, got married and her baby brother, Stephen was part of the picture, too.

Michael, Stephen and Maria

Lastly, here is a photo of my great grandfather, Michael Scerbak, great grandmother Anna Murcko and Nana’s little brother, Stephen.

Michael, Stephen & Anna Scerbak, c1922

Given influences from Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Romania and Serbia/Croatia, decorating styles of clothing varied a bit, but the basics of shirt/vest/pants and blouse/vest/skirt along with head coverings was typical of all Rusyn communities.

Traditional clothing can be quite elaborately decorated and is beautiful. When I was little, I remember rummaging through Nana’s clothes, but I don’t remember seeing anything that looked any different from American clothing. I wonder what she did with her pageant outfit and I wish she had saved items that she had brought with her from Europe when she returned to live in the United States.

Here are links to websites that discuss Rusyn styles or share images:

Carpatho-Rusyn Folk Costumes

Carpatho-Rusyn – Lemko Komancha

Folk Costume and Embroidery

Lemko Map & Costumes

Rusyn Board on Pinterest

Rusyn Traditional Dress

Slovak Folk Costume

Traditional Lemko Women’s Clothing


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