Mõtteid Mulgi rahvarõivaraamatust / Thoughts about a book on the folk costumes of Mulgimaa
Tiina Jürgen’s substantial volume The Folk Costumes of Mulgimaa was published in the autumn of 2015, in collaboration with the Estonian Native Crafts Department at the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy and Viljandi Museum.
The numerous books about folk costumes that have been published in the last decade have had different emphases, ranging from parish-level overviews to discussions on the component parts of the costumes (footwear, skirts, etc.).
Collecting information relating to the folk costumes of Mulgimaa – artefacts, photographs, descriptions preserved in the archives – has taken a tremendous amount of work. People fascinated by folk costumes have been rewarded with a delightful book and the extensive collections of the Viljandi Museum have reached the craftsmen. The detailed views of the artefacts, pattern schemes, and illustrations showing the cuts of the clothes are invaluable in helping those who wish to make a national costume for themselves.
The book begins with a brief overview of the history of Mulgimaa by Ain-Andris Vislapuu, followed by a short description of the folk costumes of Mulgimaa by Tiina Jürgen. The bulk of the book has been divided into four large chapters, thus adhering to the principle of parochial division: Halliste, Karksi, Helme, Paistu, and Tarvastu. The discussion on each parish begins with a characterisation of the region and presentation of the distinctive features of local clothing, and is followed by the descriptions of the component parts of the costumes by first concentrating on women’s and then on men’s clothing. Since the information has been scattered across different parishes, seeing the big picture is very difficult. Content related repetitions are to a certain extent mitigated by the excerpts from archival material and captions that are used when describing the component parts of the costumes.
Several sources, for example the references to A. W. Hupel or the materials available at the Estonian Folklore Archives of the Estonian Literary Museum, have been referred to via newer works and therefore the overviews contain some inaccuracies, which could have been avoided if primary sources would have been consulted instead.
Despite some drawbacks, we should celebrate the fact that those skilled in handicraft now have a valuable handbook and an overview of the history of local clothing.