Vyshyvanka Day 100 years ago and today: interactive map of Ukrainian embroidered shirts



On 21 May 2015, Ukrainians celebrated Vyshyvanka Day. This is a day when people in Ukraine and abroad wear Ukrainian traditional embroidered shirts, or vyshyvankas. Most Ukrainians today have at least one of these main elements of national wear, embroidered with standardized designs. But 100 years ago each Ukrainian ethnographic region had its own distinct patterns. We chose several from each region for our interactive vyshyvanka map.

Nadiya Savchenko at the Basmanny court in Moscow

Nadiya Savchenko at the Basmanny court in Moscow

With Russian aggression threatening the country from the East, national symbology is a way for Ukrainians to state their their right to self-determination and independence. One vivid example is the vyshyvanka-clad appearance of Ukrainian political prisoner turned into symbol of Ukraine Nadiya Savchenko at one of the court hearings in Moscow.

These statements drive Russian occupation authorities in Crimea wild:  four activists and a film crew were detained for five hours for daring to don vyshyvankas on 21 May near the Crimean border. But for some, vyshyvankas go beyond simple patriotism. The promo video for Vyshyvanka day appeals to traditions and even the “genetical code” of Ukrainians: Yuriy Melnichuk, deputy director of the Ivan Honchar Museum center of folk culture in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, also goes beyond simple symbolism, insisting that the myriads of regional-, gender-, and age-specific patterns of Ukrainian embroidery each have their unique sacral meanings for the person wearing them. Whether there is a hidden meaning in Ukrainian vyshyvankas or not, in 2015 they are managing to become a unifying symbol for Ukrainians of all views and ages.

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  1. Avatar Nowhere Girl says:

    I’d love to have a vyshyvanka – I generally very much like wearing ethnic clothes from various areas of the world. Unfortunately, here in Poland they are available, yes, but prohibitively expensive…

    1. Avatar oillover says:

      Here is a suggestion, take yourself on a little vacation and go to some village market or ask around…Nadja from Denver (we can get them here from Yevshan store fairly inexpensively). Embroidery is a very fine art and one must appreciate it — it takes hundreds of hours to embroider and then sew it — they are not made in China. Sometimes, us women ourselves, don’t appreciate a “woman’s work” which is art as well. Help a little old Ukrainian lady on miserly pension survive!

    2. Avatar oillover says:

      That would be good, but I hope it doesn’t “cheapen” them — it’s a work of art and should be properly renumerated. We buy an 8 x 10 painting for $50+, why not a real shirt?

  2. Avatar Rascalndear says:

    Many of the links on the map are down. Can anything be done to restore them? I know people who are very interested in the vyshyvanka and wanted to share this with them.