Silk embroidery on canvas

Wool, weaving, embroidery, appliqué

Wool, weaving

Headdress. Cap
Galloon, silk ribbons, velvet, mother of pearl, colored glass, stringing

The literary critic, Vasily Botkin and Afanasy Fet once travelled around the villages of Oryol Gubernia. Botkin then wrote enthusiastically to Ivan Turgenev: “It is impossible to describe the women, or to be more specific, their clothing. It is said that the womenfolk of smallholders have dressed in this way for a long time. To be specific, they wear shirt with high collars, in the male fashion, with wide sleeves that narrow at the end; a wide, red skirt, trimmed with a black or blue border that fits tightly to the torso. It is difficult to imagine more graceful or enchanting attire, especially for young girls”.

Smallholders in t he Russian Empire were a particular class of military farmers living in the outskirts of Muscovy during the 16th and 17th centuries. They were responsible for protecting the border of t he city. For this reason, in many respects the smallholders preserved the traditional way of life, as well as costume, and lived in local groups in the former frontier towns of the central and black earth gubernias of Russia — Voronezh, Kursk , Oryol, Tula, Tambov, Penza and Ryazan. The government gave the smallholders small parcels o f land and one family (homestead) of peasants to work the land. In practice, the smallholders occupied a position somewhere between the squirelets and peasants, however due to the distinctive features of t heir everyday culture, they were not subsumed into one or the other.

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