The following document is a translation of the website:

by Sofya la Rus (mka Lisa Kies)

Prepared using documents generously provided by

Nadya Petrova (Stephanie Ross) and Mordak Timofeevich (Tim Nalley)

As of 1 March 2006, the original webpage was not working.

Female City Costume

(Novgorod, XV century)

Authors of reconstruction

(C) Alexander Bykov, Olga Kuzmin. Penza 2002

The under clothes

Undershirt (sorochitsa)

In our ensemble, the undershirt is straight and free, with narrow sleeves and red underarm gussets (lastovitsa). It is cut out similarly to a man's undershirt. A straight slit opens to the middle of chest.  The collar of the shirt is fastened with a red twisted cord.

In the side seams, between the back and the front panel, four gores are sewn in.

The shirt is sewn from linen cloth, with the seams traced with red thread along the collar, the edge of the sleeves and the hem.

Reconstruction sources:

In the XIVth century, in describing the capture and plunder of Torzhok, the chronicle emphasized the existence of the undershirt: "And wives and maidens odirahu [undressed?] even to the last of nakedness rekshe (?) and even to srachitsy" [sorochitsa]  (PSRL VIII, with. 20, 1373).

The over shirt

The over shirt is cut out just as the undershirt, but is longer and made from a rich fabric. In our case, the over shirt is sewn from satin [atlas], and on the hem and collar it is decorated with embroidery.  The religious meaning of the embroidery is female fertility.

It is even possible to add buttoned brocade cuffs to the decoration of the shirt - zarukav'’a (op'ast’'a), decorated with glass beads [businami] and beads [biceram-implying pearls?]. They are fastened with small brass buttons.

Shirts are belted with fabric belts of woolen and silk threads. The belt is fastened so that its ends remain free. The pattern on the belt is "solar symbols ". 

On the belt hangs the handbag - a purse with pagan protective talismans. For Russia of the XVth century, it is a characteristic dvoeveriye [literally, two-beliefs] - a combination of pagan and Christian representations and symbolism.

Images of women in underclothes practically do not exist in Russia. In miniatures of the Radzivilovskoj Chronicle are represented women in dresses under which shirts are visible. In the icon "Praying Novgorodtsy," a white over shirt with small neckline is visible on Boyarynya Maria.


Patterns on clothes of East Slavs, from archeological data. Archeology of the USSR. A life and culture of East Slavs. Tab. 116, sost. Makarovoj T.I.

The Novgorod historical museum. An archeological find. Purse XVth cent.

Outer clothing.


The most typical female outer clothing of that time was the letnik – free [loose], not too long (so that the feet are visible), with wide sleeves. The letnik is decorated with additional special stripes - voshvy made of another material. Voshvy, apparently, were stored separately and could be sewed onto different letniki. So, in the will of Volockoj princess Julianii (1503) are named 4 letnik without voshv and, separately, 12 voshv. "Voshva on one were gathered, sewn with gold and set with pearls, and the pearls from it were cut off, and have remained few" (DDG, 87, with. 349 350).

Letnik is a specifically female outer garment which was never worn by men.

In our ensemble, the letnik is sewn from heavy red linen. The round collar-oplech'e [“o” means around, “plech” means shoulder] is clasped in back with three hidden buttons. The voshvy and a collar were made from black velvet [barkhata], embroidered with river pearls, mother-of-pearl and gilt beads [biser], and also small semi-precious stones. Sleeves are sheathed with fur of silver foxes.



Engraving from Radzivillovskoj annals.

Tsaritsa Aleksandra detail of Icon "George with his life," beginning of XVI century

Odnoryadka (Однорядка )

Over the letnik in cool weather was put on outer clothing similar to the man's opashen', however, judging by images on engravings and icons, they wore it clasped with numerous buttons. Boyarynya Maria is dressed in this way in the icon “Praying Novgorodtsy ". One of names of this garment - odnoryadka.

Odnoryadki were sewed from smooth woolen cloth [sukno] or other woolen fabrics "in one layer" (i.e. unlined), and thus the name. [odno means one, ryad means layer]

In this ensemble, the odnoryadka is open down the front, cut long and wide with long thrown back sleeves and holes for hands at the armhole. The collar and sleeve cuffs are sheathed with the fur of silver foxes (at that time - one of the most valuable furs).


Odnoryadka is clasped with 18 cast silver buttons by means of horizontal loops, plaited from woolen string.

The process of manufacturing of metal buttons is restored based on the foundry forms found in Moscow. Similar foundry forms are found in Novgorod.

Boyarynya Maria from the icon " Praying Novgorodtsy "







Bag and Belt:

In distinction from menswear, in the female ensemble, only the shirts, that is, the underclothes were belted. From this, it is possible to draw the conclusion, that women in medieval Russia carried the handbags (used instead of pockets) not on the belt, but over the shoulder on a thong under the outer clothing – the letnik or odnoryadka. For this purpose in the lady's upper garments special holes were left in the lateral seams so that it would be possible to get money and other necessary small subjects from the handbag. Also in the subsequent XVIII-XIXth centuries, women left holes in their sarafans when they carried pocketbooks with money under them.

A feature of the female bag is the absence of the top flap and fastener - they were unnecessary given the women’s method of carrying the bag - under outer clothing.  Similar small handbags are stored in the Novgorod historical museum.

In our ensemble, the bag was sewn from a dark blue leather with the pattern executed by punctures through which are passed through a red thread. In the bag lie wooden combs and a coin purse.


In this ensemble, rich city women is wearing in imported summer footwear of the West-European model.

[Translators note:  Lots of examples of Russian-style footwear have been found also, for those in Rus who did not have regular commerce with the West.]


According to the table made Aloetic (the Archeology of the USSR, the Life and culture of East Slavs), in Novgorod is found imported footwear, including those below

Footwear beginning XV century of Western Europe (from the book Mark Carlson Footwear of the Middle Ages, 11 November 1995 (Electronic Version 8.4 - 7 September 1999)


The sources of data about female headdress of the XIV-XVth centuries are few. In beginning of the XVth century, On the testimony of Zhil'ber de-Lannua [Gilbert of Lannua], women in Novgorod wore their hair plaited in two braids hanging down the back, that is, visible, not hiding the hair, as in other regions of Russia. In the icon mentioned already "Praying Novgorodtsy " the notable Novgorod woman is represented in a polotentse [towel] headdress, however, she is shown in church where it was obligatory for women to cover their hair.

The polotentse, one of the most ancient female headdresses, was presented as a panel of a white linen fabric, length from 70 to 300 cm., width from 39 to 45 cm, decorated on the ends with embroidery and a fringe (Russkoj Traditionij Costyum. The illustrated encyclopedia. - 2001). We also see such a polotentse on Boyarynya Maria in the icon. Married women always wore the polotentse with a povojnik (soft little cap, gathered on a cord, completely closing hair). The towel was arranged to that it entirely covered the povojnik.

On the icon, the method of fastening of the towel is not represented, but by the manner of its wearing (one end hanging on a chest, the second in back), the polotentse is fastened at the nape of the neck in knot. Such a method of wear is known from ethnographic materials.



The second variant of a headdress is more complicated and includes besides the povoya [povojnik] and polotentse, the kika. The appearance of the kika is restored based on ethnographic materials of the Novgorod area. The kika of Novgorod represented a firm cylindrical hat with a flat top and a flat/simple [uploschennoj] back part, with a small widening that covered the ears. The kika was made of red silk or velvet [barkhata], decorated with golden embroidery, pearls, beads. At the ochel''u [the forehead area] a dense pearl net, the podniza, was sewn. Atop the kiki was put on the veil [ubrus] or covering [pokryvalo].

An image of a kika is found on a fresco of the XVth century in Uspenskij Cathedral in Vladimir.

The popularity of earrings in Novgorod and across all Russia proves that the women’s headdress was worn in such a manner that the ears remained uncovered.

We see on the fragments of icons specified here, examples of how it is possible to cover hair but to leave the ears uncovered to show the earrings. These images also prove that the church considered such a liberty permissible.

About the Novgorod women a proverb was even preserved: "To a well to get water, without putting on gold earrings, do not go".


From an icon " Praying Novgorodtsy "

. . .

Holy Ul''ana. First half XIV cent. Pskov.

Image of kikas on a fresco of XV century in Uspenskom Cathedral in Vladimir



In this ensemble, the most typical ornaments for XVth cent. Novgorod are presented.

A necklace [monisto] (a necklace [ozherl’e] in modern sense of the word), consisting of two strings of alternating glass beads and semi-precious stones.

A silver ring with rubies

A bilonovaya [silver/copper alloy] chain with a silver medallion-zmeevik [the only translations I’ve found so far are a coil, or a dense green rock].

Silver earrings of three pendants [ser'gi-trojchatki].

Silver cross-tel'nik [related to the word for body] on a fine silver chain.

Sources of reconstruction:

М.В. Седова Ювелирные изделия Древнего Новгорода X-XVвв. - М., 1981.

M.V.Sedova Jewels of Ancient Novgorod X-XV cent.- M., 1981.

Boss of a bronze ring from 70-80th years of the XIVth century, executed in the form of a rosette with goffered thin band surrounding a socket for an inset stone. Similar goffered metal band is applied as design for settings on the cuffs of metropolitan Alexey and on the cover of the icon “Affection of the Mother of God” in the Collection of the Armory Museum.

The little cross with three-petal krinovidnymi [?] ends and a rhomboid in the middle of the cross, kept within the timeframe of the beginning XIV to the beginning of the XVth cent.

Three-pendant earrings [ser'gi-trojchatki] are made of a round, not closed, shvenzy-ring and three suspension brackets which are made from short, straight metal rods, wound on the shvenzy, and strung with various combinations of cast metal cylinders, decorations of false granules, pearls, beads, drilled semi-precious stones, and mother-of-pearl grains. Trojchatki received a wide circulation since the XVth cent. (Russkoj Traditionij Kostyum. - SPB, 2001, with. 321).


The zmeevik was found in a layer dated dendrochronologically to 1313-1340. It is cast from a tin-lead alloy in a bilateral foundry form. On each side of the waist-length figure of the Mother of God, is located a backward inscription: on the right - M, on the left - PY. The image on the face side recalls a zmeevik from the collection of the Hermitage, dated to the XVth century. However, on the Novgorod zmeevik, instead of an inscription, along the edge there is a pattern of two rows of triangles and concentric circles.