Printed-pattern headscarves in Kihnu cultural space

  • Mari Pukk

Abstract

This article provides an overview of the unique tradition of wearing headscarves as practiced by the islanders of Kihnu. I discuss the importance of cotton print headscarves in the traditional clothing of Kihnu women and explain the meaning of kallisseltsi headscarves as an intra-community phenomenon, giving an overview of the origin and characteristics thereof.

Printed cotton headscarves are considered an integral part of Kihnu traditional clothing, but as purchased goods they have, up to the present, remained beyond the scope of ethnographic studies. Headscarves are classified by material, origin and purpose. Even today, seven different types of headscarves are known ; names were assigned to the different types based on their patterns.

Headscarves must always be worn in harmony with the main item of clothing: the skirt. The colours and stripes of the skirt convey the events that take place in the course of a woman’s life. Adherence to the rules is supervised by the elders of the community and by the more knowledgeable members who look after the preservation of the island’s traditions. As with wearing, there are also specific unwritten rules concerning the care, storage and folding of headscarves.

In the Kihnu community, the most valuable cotton headscarves are those made of red printed cotton fabric that were produced in Russia, in the factories of Aleksandrov County in the Province of Vladimir in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Elsewhere in the world, the headscarves are also known by their main colour – Turkish red. Owning kallisseltsi headscarves is, in a way, a status symbol in the Kihnu community: the owner of the largest number of headscarves is considered the proudest and richest. The circulation of headscarves is very carefully monitored, and the most valuable ones are only worn during important life events.

Keywords: Kihnu cultural space, folk costumes, headscarves, communal clothing norms

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Published
2019-11-05