Kogumik „Mulgi rahvarõivad“ Eesti rahvarõivaalase kirjanduse kontekstis. Uurija ja meistri vaade / The collection The Folk Costumes of Mulgimaa in the context of the literature on Estonian national costume from the viewpoint of a researcher and craftsman


  • Inna Raud




Estonian folk costumes were foregrounded as a cultural phenomenon in the records written by the leaders of the Estonian national awakening already in the late 19th century. The statements made by them emphasised the importance of wearing and preserving folk costumes.

The main research activity based on museum collections has historically been centred primarily on artefacts, with the aim of the reconstruction of the historical development of each type, taking the origin of the artefacts found in the collections into account. Approaching the subject matter by focusing on the artefacts and classifying them into certain types does help one to gain an understanding of regional specificities, but not of an outfit as a whole. As a researcher and seamstress of folk costumes, I recognise the need for both artefact-centred studies and regional studies.

 Estonian folk costumes have previously been treated in three nationwide monographs that have focused on different regions. In addition to instructions on how to make folk costumes, the monographs also contain a selection of technical instructions and illustrations showing the cuts and patterns of sample outfits. At present, there is a need for conducting an in-depth research that would concentrate on each parish separately.

The greatest value of Tiina Jürgen’s book The Folk costumes of Mulgimaa (2015) is the presentation of the variations between the five parishes, together with stories and legends through which we understand people’s relationship to clothing. In addition to such formal aspects, the book also pays attention to clothing as a social phenomenon.

It would make sense to use the book for the purpose of putting together an outfit. After mentioning the component parts of the costumes by concentrating on each parish separately, detailed descriptions of the artefacts are presented in chronological order. Although the repetitions may at first glance appear superfluous, they are needed for those readers who are only interested in their own region.

Lively photographs and illustrations, which, for example, depict clearly the ways of tying a headscarf, wrapping girdles, and attaching wide textile girdles, allow us to visualise the outfits as process. The foregrounding of both summer and winter clothing is commendable. Children’s clothing has unfortunately been disregarded, although it certainly deserves special attention with the Estonian Song and Dance Festival in mind.

In addition to mentioning certain techniques, the process of making folk costumes requires exact descriptions of the materials, cuts, and patterns involved. The most precise information craftsmen can find in this book is related to girdles and edges, but at times questions remain over the nuances of craftwork. Although it is well-known that it is difficult to create faithful reproductions of old pieces of clothing with modern materials, creating a piece that resembles the original as much as possible is more and more often the goal.


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