National costume dolls

Dolls from around the world

Latvia: Young unmarried woman in ancient Latvian dress (2)

Front view

General description:  Doll in Ancient Latvian Dress (7th – 13th century)

Dimensions 16 x 11 x 8 cm

Date when acquired 2017

Original Date Unknown

Source Flea market in Groß Schneen


Back view


The doll’s body and head are made of wood. Her features are painted on, but they are lacking the white of the eyes found in the previous doll of this design. Her bent arms are made of wire with wooden beads attached to the ends to act like hands. Her hair is white silk drawn back from a central parting and tied in a single thick plait down to her waist. The plait is tied with yellow wool


Side view


She is wearing a white long-sleeved cotton blouse over a long, wide, dark brown skirt made of a thick knitted material. Two lines of light brown stitching adorn the hem. A rough plain beige linen sash (josta) is holding her skirt in place. She has a large dark blue rectangular shawl (villaine) over her shoulders, which goes down below her hips. It is held in place at the front by a round brooch. Again the edges are decorated with lines of plain back stitch in yellow and orange. The tassels of the front edge are larger than in the other doll. Her long white cotton petticoat is also edged with white lace.

In contrast to the previous doll, the materials for the skirt and shawl appear to be made of man-made fibres, as is her hair. This seems to indicate that she is a newer version of this type of traditional doll.


View showing the bent arms and bead hands


Her jewellery is made of bronze with silver elements rather than just of bronze. She is wearing a circlet around her head with two sets of four long pendants hanging down the back. Around her neck is a sort of breastplate with four stiff silver chains over it. She also has two silver chokers tight around her neck.


Background information

See previously posted doll with ancient Latvian dress (1)

Japan: Empress (Kimekomi ningyou doll)

Front view

General description: Empress in full regalia, wearing a phoenix crown (Fengguan) and standing on a dark wooden dais. Most probably part of a Japanese Doll Festival set representing the female part (mebina, hime or O-hina-sama) of the royal pair (the dairi-bina) which form the middle point of this group of dolls.

Dimensions Doll: 8.5 x 6.5 x 4 cm / Dias: 10 x 6.9 x 2 cm

Date when acquired 2017

Original Date Unknown

Source Erbsen flea market; present from Fritz W.


Back view


From the head and feet, the body seems to be made of plaster. The doll’s hair and facial features are painted on, as is a brown band extending from the temples backwards to form a bow at the back, whose ends are almost as long as the empress’ hair. The brown band is decorated with a geometric pattern of gold lines. Her hair is straight with a central parting and is tied in a form of ponytail that reaches below her waist. The hairstyle seems to be that typical of the late Edo Period of the 1850s known as Osuberakashi (Simple Tied-back Hair).


Bronze phoenix on top of crown


As with all Kimekomi ningyou dolls, the clothing is fitted to the form and inserted into cuts into the surface before being glued. She is wearing a kimono made of orange brocade with a golden floral design covered by a very heavily padded coat-like piece of clothing, an uchikake. This is made of a beige brocade decorated with a golden scroll design.

Her overall shape is rather strange to my eyes as she seems to have a hump on her back. I have not been able to find anything like this in the dolls or pictures of Japanese dolls on the internet.

Her left hand can be seen poking out of the large sleeves of the uchikake, while the traditional large open folding fan (Sensu or O-gi) is held in her right hand. The fan is edged in red and has a meadow of flowers painted on it.

On her feet are white split-toed socks (tabi). Behind these is an area of mint green brocade.

On the empress’ head is an imposing bronze crown with a bird — a phoenix — on top. On each side are two metal chains with white beads and small squares of bronze as decoration. A metal plate like straight wings is attached to the back of the crown. A red cord is looped around the top left of the crown, one part of the loop goes to the right of the crown and then through a hole in the side of the crown and out through a hole on the left side. Both this and the other end of the loop go down to the front of the uchikake where they are tied in a bow with the cords coming from embroidered circles on each side of the chest.


Base of doll showing split-toed socks and the lower dress


Dais made of black lacquered wood.


Background information

The two essential and most distinctive dolls of the Doll’s or Girl’s (Hina) Day (March 3) are a hieratic male and female figure. The word hina or hiina is similar to the word for “chick, baby bird” and is thought to have meant something like “little pretty thing” when it came into use both for chicks and for girls’ dolls.

The main dolls of such a set may be two-dimensional (folded paper tachibina or a picture of the dolls) or they may be a beautiful “Emperor and Empress” (the dairi-bina) attended by a varying number of other dolls: wise warriors, musicians, ladies serving sake, and other figures of aristocratic private life of the past, all arranged according to set patterns on the red steps of the tiered display (hina-dan). The Emperor (obina, tono or O-dairi-sama) and Empress (mebina, hime or O-hina-sama) sit at the top. Although these dolls represent the Emperor and Empress, they do not refer to the persons currently in those roles (with the exceptions of a very few pairs made in the Meiji era as portraits; see Alan Pate, “Japanese dolls and the Imperial image,” Doll News 2011, pp. 80–99), but rather to the idea of their roles in Japanese religion and culture.

Such royal dolls need gold screens (byobu) behind them, a pair of lanterns flanking them, and a vase or two of flowers. This is also where the talismans owned by the girl and connected to her fertility, would be displayed. Normally the male doll sits on the right, the seat of honour in the Kyoto palace; to seat him to the left is a reference to the more Westernized seating pattern of the Tokyo Imperial protocols (post-1870; see Shigeki Kawakami, “Ningyo: An Historical Approach,” in Avitabile, ed., Ningyo, p. 13).

Side view

The empress wears an elaborate phoenix crown (Fengguan) as in this doll or else a smaller tiara that came into use in the Meiji period, and carries an open fan. The fan itself is the symbol of prosperity as it spreads out when it is opened. As the fan starts from a single point and the wooden strips go out to various directions, they are considered to resemble the various paths leading us through life after the single point of birth. The colours and designs are also symbolic, with the red on this fan meaning luck. The emperor, in contrast, wears a hat (kanmuri) with a tall piece of stiffened fabric on the back, and a sword, sticking out behind. He holds a simple wooden paddle which serves as sceptre.

The empress’ phoenix crown is very symbolic. In Japan, the phoenix is identified as the Ho-ho (or ho-o) bird. As is common in East Asia, the phoenix is a sunbird and is associated with Amaterasu, the sun goddess. An image of a phoenix often accompanies representations of the goddess on top of the wooden cart or palanquin that carries the deity on processions about town from a shrine during a festival. The emperor of Japan is considered to be the descendent of Amaterasu, so it is only fitting that his consort wears a phoenix crown. One of the earliest phoenix crowns that has been excavated belonged to Empress Xiao of the Sui dynasty (6th—7th CE).

See also Japanese kimekomi ningyou dolls


Source(s) of information

Czech Republic: Plzen woman

Front view

General description: This doll is in traditional dress (kroje) from the Plzen area, but it is not a very accurate representative (see below).

Dimensions 15.5 x 8 x 6 cm

Date when acquired 2016

Original Date Possibly 1970s (as shown on the Tres Bohemes site for a Lidová Tvorba doll)

Source Göttingen flea market

The label has the words “PLZEN 15 cm — Lux, Krojovaná lourka z PVC, LIDOVÁ TVORBA — UHERSKY BROD, CIK 747 291 624 218 CSVD Praha, 4/6/76/5013, KPN 20-4-83, MPC Kcs, Made in Czechoslovakia.


Back view


Plastic with movable arms and legs. Her features are painted on. Her hair is moulded into the plastic and is painted dark brown.


Side view


She is wearing a plain red knee-length linen skirt, pleated at the back and open like a kilt in the front. Under her skirt is a single white starched mesh petticoat (unlike the many petticoats usually worn by these women). It is also pleated at the back and open like a kilt at the front. It also has white lace trim around the hem. Over her skirt is a white lace apron.

On top, she is wearing a white linen blouse with puffed sleeves to just below the elbows. The cuffs are trimmed with white lace and the sleeves are tied at the elbow with red zig-zag braid. Around her neck is a white lace ruff.

Around her waist is a belt made of red braid embroidered with a pink and purple flower design with green leaves. The braid is knotted at the front and its long ends stick out to the sides. Over her shoulders and forming a V back and front are two red ribbons which are also held by the braid belt.

On her head is a white scarf drawn back to form a square shape. It has white lace trimming the front around the face and a large white lace bow sewn to the back.

She is not wearing any stocking but has black half boots painted on her feet.





1) Plzen woman from behind showing the bow at the back of the scarf and the embroidered shawl over her shoulders

Background information

The area for the Plzeňsko folk costume spanned around 30 villages (Ledce and Záluží in the north, Dějšina and the rather far-flung Ejpovice in the east, Plzenec and Outušice to the south, and Vejprnice and Křimice in the west). The influence of the folk costume also asserted itself strongly in Plzeň itself. Since its own area was not too extensive, the costume did not show any substantial deviations between the villages.

The distinctiveness of the Plzeňsko female folk costume primarily consists of its unusual width, which Plzeňsko women achieved with a number of underskirts that was uncommon anywhere else. If five or six underskirts were the maximum for another costume, this was only the beginning for the Plzeňsko costume, because a fashionable girl wanted 12 to 15 for her wedding or sometimes even as many as 24. Therefore it was no wonder when the woman lifted them up slightly in church to make them “lighter,” because carrying their weight demanded quite a lot of effort, even from a sturdy countrywoman. There was little embroidery on the Plzeňsko woman’s costume – just a little bonnet with “wings,” adapted from ribbons known as “kalunky,” and then thin kalunky for aprons (“fertoch”). For especially festive occasions, women also wore pleny, or cloths, and white embroidered fertoch aprons only occurred rather infrequently.

There was not much embroidery, but because of its beauty it can be counted among the most beautiful examples of folk needlework ever. The embellishments, which adorned the bodices and white woollen jackets, are relatively simple and less striking so they lag far behind the magnificent white embroideries. The chemise had white medium-size bulbous sleeves. These were sewn into a woven band at the elbow, which also bordered the neckline at the throat. A small silk scarf was placed across the breast. The endings of this scarf were tucked behind the bodice. Red stockings were worn on the legs along with carved shoes on thick high heels, which were tied at the vamp by a green ribbon. These were later replaced by tightened velvet boots (“bůtky”) with a glossy indented edge.

2) Plzen man and woman

The male Plzeňsko costume is also restrained. The upper parts were tailored from good blue cloth, braided in red at the edges. All the parts had fastenings of shiny golden brass buttons. The light deerskin trousers were often adorned with stitched decorations. The boots were hard and high up to the knee or else soft turndown boots were worn.

For single and married men, an otter cap was the headgear for less festive occasions. The crown was usually red velvet and a golden string was sewn into a star six times across it, and fastened in the middle by a golden tassel. For a festive costume, men wore black stovepipe hats with a low surface and a somewhat indented crown, which had a black ribbon wrapped around it. The border was wider and also straight. Black silk ribbons were sewn along the sides from below and these were used for tying the hat under the chin.


Source(s) of information



1) Plzen woman from behind showing the bow at the back of the scarf and the embroidered shawl over her shoulders –

2) Plzen man and woman –

Czech Republic: Czech woman and man from Kyjov

Front view

General description: 

This pair of dolls is from the Kyjov (Khaa) area in Bohemian (Czech) Switzerland.

Dimensions Man: 21.5 x 10 x 7 cm / Woman: 21 x 10. 5 x 8 cm

Date when acquired 2016

Original Date Unknown

Source Bought on Ebay Germany. Present from Gisela H.


Back view


Both dolls have plastic bodies with moveable arms and legs. The features are painted on and the hair is moulded in the plastic and painted light brown.



Man: He is wearing a suit made of red felt that consists of long tight trousers and a bolero-style jacket. The trousers are decorated at the front with large looped designs that extend on each side from the waistline to just above the knee. A line of purple chain stitch is sewn up the side of each leg and around the lower buttock region at the back. A silver belt is tied around the belt region and in a cross over the stomach with a loop going across the buttocks.

The bolero is embroidered with loops of yellow around the front and on the bottom of the jacket, with loops of green just above it and across the back. A decoration made of a loop of yellow ribbon and a loop of white braid embroidered with red and blue flowers with green leaves is attached to the inside of the right front of the bolero. The top of the loops reach the chin of the man and the long ends extend down to almost his knees.

He is wearing a white cotton shirt that is only tied at the neck. The long sleeves are wide at the wrists and hemmed with white lace. A collar of white lace is around his neck with the long ends dangling down to past the waist.

His knee-high boots are made of black plastic made to look like leather. They are soled with white felt.

On his head is a black rimless rounded felt hat, with two rows of narrow red zig-zag braid sewn around it with white thread. A white bow with a white flower is attached to the front of the hat.

Side view (man)

Woman: She is wearing a short red skirt, pleated at the back and kilt-like at the front. It is hemmed with white lace. Above this is a white cotton blouse with a round neck and very puffed sleeves that have been padded with paper (it sounds like it). The puffed sleeves finish just below the elbow and are hemmed with black lace. There are red ties around the sleeves at the elbow.

Under the skirt is a stiffened open-meshed cotton underskirt. Again, it is pleated at the back and kilted at the front like the skirt. Her underpants are made of the same material.

Around the waist of the woman and running over each shoulder down to the waist as a V in both the front and back is red braid embroidered with pink roses and green leaves. The piece around the waist lies on top and is tied in a knot at the front with long pieces dangling down to the hem of the skirt. This belt also holds the pleated apron in place. The apron is made of stiffened black cotton hemmed with white lace. Above the lace is a broad band of dark blue braid embroidered with red flowers, red and green buds, and green leaves. Another layer of lace lies above the braid.

She is stockingless though she is wearing a pair of low black boots.

Over the blouse and red braid Vs is a white cotton bib that is square at the front and forms a V at the back. The bib is edged with white lace that is edged with black lace.

On her head is a large red cotton scarf tied on the back at the left. A band of white lace peeks out from under this at the front.

Side view (woman)



Background information

One day after blogging that I did not know where these dolls came from, I finally found similar dolls to these on the Tres Bohemes site whilst looking for the source of another Czech doll.

The dolls are dressed in the costume of the Kyjov (Khaa) area in Bohemian Switzerland. This region had been very sparsely populated since ancient times by a few Germanic, Slavic and Celtic tribes, but was finally colonised in the 12th century by German-speaking settlers. Until the end of the Second World War it was home to German Bohemians (later known as the Sudeten Germans). Since its German population was driven out after 1945, the area has been almost exclusively settled by Czechs. The German Bohemian/Sudeten traditional clothes are however different.

 Source(s) of information


Czech Republic: Blata man

Front view

General description: Adult man in the typical Blata costume from the Bohemia region.

Dimensions 25.5 x 9 x 7 cm

Date when acquired 2015

Original Date Unknown

Source Hanover flea market


Back view


Plastic with movable arms and legs. The features are painted on. The hair is moulded into the plastic and is painted light brown.


Side view of hat


The man is wearing a waist-length dark brown felt jacket with red trim around the neck. Red pointed felt panels are sewn at the top of the front edges and on the outside of the sleeve cuffs. The panels are embroidered with white and black zig-zags. The pattern on the sleeve panels are the same but the right and left panels on the front are different.

He is wearing black felt knee-length trousers with a front flap edged with white embroidery in backstitch and zig-zags. The trousers are held up by braces made of red (now faded) ribbon and a wide black leather belt also embroidered in white lines and zig-zags. He is also wearing white knee socks and black half shoes made of plastic.

His white collared shirt has short sleeves and is complemented with a tie made of black ribbon.

His most imposing piece of clothing is his wide-brimmed hat. It is made of light green felt and has a broad dark green silk ribbon round the crown and two white feathers tucked into the back of it. This silk ribbon has also been used in a sunburst style to cover the under part of the brim which is stiffened with wire to form a frame for the face. On the right side of the front is a piece of red braid with a design in white flowers and hearts printed on it. Green lace is used to edge the top and bottom part of this braid panel. There is a rather interesting ‘brooch’ made of red and green pipe cleaners attached to the panel. The hat is tied under the man’s chin with narrow green ribbons.


Close-up of the hat decoration




1) Blata man and woman

Background information

The Blata folk costume is found in Bohemia in the region between České Budějovice, Tábor, Jindřichův Hradec and Vodňany. A lovely collection of pictures of clothing from this region was made by Ignác Šechtl before they were renewed and simplified during the national revival in second half of the 19th century (see In fact, it was the picture shown here which led me finally to decide what this doll represented (I had spent lots of time hunting through costumes from Austria, Switzerland, Southern Tyrol and even southern Germany).

This costume was formed in the 19th century. The women’s costume is richly embroidered and decorated with beads and sequins. The women’s shirt also it has an unusual collar called “výkladek“. The brightest and richest part of the costume is a large scarf called Blata plena. It is worn over a soft, three-part bonnet.

2) Two women with Blata plena scarves on their heads

Source(s) of information


1) Blata man and woman-

2) Blata plena scarf –

Czech Republic: General information

According to the results of a 2011 census, there are 7 ethnicities living in the Czech Republic. The majority of the inhabitants are Czechs (63.7%), followed by Moravians (4.9%), Slovaks (1.4%), Poles (0.4%), Germans (0.2%) and Silesians (0.1%). However, as ‘nationality’ was an optional item in the census, a substantial number of people left this field blank (26.0%).According to some estimates, there are about 250,000 Romani people in the Czech Republic.

1) Ornate Czech clothing made from hemp (Vlčnov, Slovacko)


Archaeologists have found evidence of prehistoric human settlements in the area, dating back to the Palaeolithic era (before 10,000 BCE). In the classical era, from the 3rd century BCE Celtic migrations, the Boii and later in the 1st century CE, Germanic tribes of Marcomanni and Quadi settled there. Their king Maroboduus is the first documented ruler of Bohemia. During the Migration Period around the 5th century CE, many Germanic tribes moved westwards and southwards out of Central Europe. In addition, Slavic people from the Black Sea–Carpathian region settled in the area (a movement that was also stimulated by the onslaught of peoples from Siberia and Eastern Europe: Avars, Bulgars, Huns and Magyars). In the 6th century, the Slavs moved westwards into Bohemia, Moravia and some of present-day Austria and Germany.

During the 7th century, first known Slav state was set up in Central Europe, Samo’s Empire. The principality Great Moravia, controlled by the Moymir dynasty, arose in the 8th century and reached its zenith in the 9th when it held off the influence of the Franks. Great Moravia was then Christianized, with a crucial role played by the Byzantine mission of Cyril and Methodius. They created the artificial language Old Church Slavonic, the first literary and liturgical language of the Slavs, and the Glagolitic alphabet.

The Czech state was first formed in the late 9th century as the Duchy of Bohemia under the Great Moravian Empire. After the fall of the Empire in 907, the centre of power was transferred from Moravia to Bohemia under the Přemyslid dynasty. In 1002, the duchy was formally recognized as part of the Holy Roman Empire, becoming the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1198 and reaching its greatest territorial extent in the 14th century. Besides Bohemia itself, the king of Bohemia ruled the lands of the Bohemian Crown, he had a vote in the election of the Holy Roman Emperor. Prague was the imperial seat in the period between the 14th and 17th century. In the Hussite wars of the 15th century driven by the Protestant Bohemian Reformation, the kingdom faced economic embargoes and defeated five consecutive crusades proclaimed by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.

2) Taborsko man and woman

Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the whole Crown of Bohemia was gradually integrated into the Habsburg Monarchy alongside the Archduchy of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary. The Protestant Bohemian Revolt (1618–20) against the Catholic Habsburgs led to the Thirty Years’ War. After the Battle of the White Mountain, the Habsburgs consolidated their rule, eradicated Protestantism and re-imposed Roman Catholicism, and also adopted a policy of gradual Germanization. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Bohemian Kingdom became part of the Austrian Empire and the Czech language experienced a revival as a consequence of widespread romantic nationalism. In the 19th century, the Czech lands became the industrial powerhouse of the monarchy and were subsequently the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia, which was formed in 1918 following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I.

The Czech part of Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany in World War II, and was liberated in 1945 by the armies of the Soviet Union and the United States. The Czech country lost the majority of its German-speaking inhabitants after they were expelled following the war. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia won the 1946 elections. Following the 1948 coup d’état, Czechoslovakia became a one-party communist state under Soviet influence. In 1968, increasing dissatisfaction with the regime culminated in a reform movement known as the Prague Spring, which ended in a Soviet-led invasion.

The first separate Czech republic was created on January 1, 1969, under the name Czech Socialistic Republic within federalization of Czechoslovakia, however the federalization was implemented only incompletely. Czechoslovakia remained occupied until the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when the communist regime collapsed and a democracy and federalization was deepened. On 6 March 1990, the Czech Socialistic Republic was renamed the Czech Republic. On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved, with its constituent states becoming the independent states of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

3) Hanak

Traditional clothing

The national clothing of the Czech Republic is very bright. It consists of a mix of different eras and styles. Shawls and kerchiefs on the head came from Gothic period when people began to wear various kinds of cloths that covered the hair. Pleats and lace collars came from Renaissance era. Bell-shaped skirts and large puff sleeves came from Baroque era. The beautiful Slavic embroidery found on the Czech costumes is typical for all Slavic countries. The clothes were made from wool and homespun linen (good for winter), while during the summer, Czechs wore lightweight fabrics such as silk. However, serfs were prohibited from using valuable materials (such as silk and velvet) and farmers wore simple clothing.

The traditions in clothing in the Czech Republic are different for its various regions, although the styles can be divided into two groups: the Western style in Bohemia and mid-Moravia, and the Eastern style in Moravia and Silesia. In general, women’s traditional clothing consisted of two aprons, tied in the front and back, and a white blouse. For men, a typical outfit included long breeches and a loose jacket.

Nowadays, people in the Czech Republic do not use traditional costumes in everyday life, but they wear such clothes at ethnic festivals, carnivals and other national events. In the eastern part of the country this tradition is much stronger than in the west.

4) Chodsko (South-West Bohemia)


Residents of Plzeň wore traditional clothing until the late 19th century. Women in the city wore several layers of thin skirts, a distinguishing feature. The primary fabric was cotton, decorated with ribbons and a silk scarf tied across the chest.

Dress in the Prácheňsko region differed by generation. The typical dress for a teenaged boy would include a short jacket, narrow trousers and high boots. Older men wore long coats instead of jackets. Women’s clothing had a number of differences between the young and old, too. Married woman wore long skirts (indicating their status), and a white scarf was tied around the head. The caftan consisted of a skirt and bodice.

5) Nové Paky, Northeast Bohemia

Bohemian-Moravian Highlands

Residents of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands dressed more simply. Young boys wore short undershirts, and the most elaborate element of traditional male clothing was a fur coat.

6) Moravian and Bohemian costumes


In Haná, folk dress was traditional and indicated occupation; dark, simple colours were worn by working people. Women wore a long dress or a high-belted skirt (oplicko) with a short bolero jacket with a stand-up collar. Hanakian women wore a coloured scarf (uvodnice) on special occasions. Like many areas of the Czech Republic, white (sometimes black or yellow) wool coats were popular. Men wore narrow breeches (cervenice), made of yellow leather in the rural districts near Brno. In cool weather a long, white coat was worn, followed by a dark cloth coat in cold weather. For holidays and festivals, coats with wide, gathered collars were worn. Fine clothing featured yellow, white or black embroidery.

7) Moravia

Moravian Slovakia

Compared to other Czech traditional costumes, clothing in the Moravian Slovak highlands was simple.

8) Man and woman from Moravské Knínice, a village and municipality (obec) in Brno-Country



1) Ornate Czech clothing made from hemp (Vlčnov, Slovacko) –

2) Taborsko man and woman –

3) Hanak –

4) Chodsko (South-West Bohemia) – (white coat)

5) Nové Paky, Northeast Bohemia –

6) Moravian and Bohemian costumes – (womwn)

7) Moravia –

8) Man and woman from Moravské Knínice, a village and municipality (obec) in Brno-Country –

Russia: Umarried Russian girl

Front view

General description: Unmarried girl wearing a special headdress kokoshnik showing off her long hair and a sarafan dress ensemble typical of European Russia. This is my largest doll.

Dimensions 56 x 37 x 20 cm

Date when acquired 2000s

Original Date 2000s

Source Flea market in the Bochum area. Present from Fritz W.


Back view


Plastic doll with moveable eyes, arms and legs. Her blonde hair is drawn back from a central parting to form a single long plait tied with two red ribbons: a small one at the end and a long one attached to her headdress and tied at the nape of her neck. The ends of this ribbon fall down to below her knees.



The doll’s long sarafan dress is made of red cotton painted with grape vines in green and yellow down the front of the skirt and in a broad band around the bottom of the skirt. Under this is a narrow band of green ribbon sewn  on to the skirt, a band of green vine leaves painted on the material and then a band of yellow zig-zag braid is sewn directly on the lower edge of the skirt. The same yellow braid is sewn around the neck and armholes. The sarafan is buttoned up the back with five white buttons. A long narrow cream braid sash is tied around the waist with its ends falling to almost the bottom of the skirt. Tassels made from red and yellow wool are attached to the ends of the braid.

Her white cotton blouse (dunyasha) has long slightly puffed sleeves gathered at the cuffs. The blouse is gathered around the neck with darts. Yellow zig-zag braid is sewn to the cuffs and neck and just below the shoulders of the sleeves. A line of green ribbon like that on the skirt is sewn above this sleeve decoration.

Under the skirt is a stiffened white cotton petticoat. A ruffle forms the lower edge of the petticoat and its hem is covered with white lace. The doll is also wearing a pair of white cotton underpants.

The doll’s red boots are made of plastic.

On the doll’s head is a headdress in the form of a tiara, the so-called kokoshnik. It is made of plastic but is cut to form a messwork of geometric designs, decorated with green beads. On each side of the kokoshnik, by the ears, lies a single chain of five green beads. The kokoshnik is held in place with a red silk ribbon tied around the back of the neck and in a bow around the top of the plait.

Side view


She is wearing two bead necklaces around her neck: a smaller one with green beads and a larger one with red beads.


Background information

See Russia: general information.

Russia: Married Russian woman

Front view

General description: Married woman in a poneva ensemble typical of the southern regions of European Russia.

Dimensions 21 x 11 x 7 cm

Date when acquired 2015

Original Date 2015

Source Moscow, Russia. Present from a former student.


Back view


China doll with moveable arms and legs. Her features are painted on. As with all decent married Russian women, she does not show any of her hair.



Her cotton blouse (dunyasha) has long sleeves decorated with red lines painted as if they were embroidered. Her cuffs are made of red braid decorated with red and green flowers with a white geometrical design between them. The edges of the braid are decorated with loops of yellow silken thread. The collar of the blouse is made of red silk ribbon. Her long black cotton skirt (poneva) is hemmed with a piece of braid painted in yellow, red and brown stripes. Around the waist of the skirt is a piece of cream braid with an eyelet edging. A long woollen belt made of red and green wool is tied doubly around the woman’s waist with a loop and the double ends hanging down on the left side. The ends of the sash have orangey-yellow tassels attached to them.

Side view

A long white cotton apron, reaching from above the woman’s breasts to the knees, hangs down from a piece of brown ribbon that reaches to the back of the skirt in a V-shape and a piece of red ribbon attached to the ribbon around her neck. The apron is gathered at the top and is decorated in the bottom half with decorative stripes of different geometric forms in brown, black, yellow and blue. A piece of braid with a geometric design in yellow, red and grey and a red lace border lies on the top edge of the apron, which is itself hemmed with red ribbon. I n the front she wore an apron.

Her red boots are painted on and she is wearing a pair of cream cotton underpants.

The woman’s traditional headdress (soroka) consists of three elements: (1) a piece of material (nalobnik) that covers the forehead and temples and completely conceals her hair; (2) on top of the nalobnik is a high domed hat, the kichka; and (3) the soroka, which falls down to the top of her shoulders. The nalobnik is made of white felt with a piece of gold braid painted with white and black flowers with green leaves. The kichka is also made of white felt. The soroka is a piece of green felt-like material lined and hemmed with red felt. A rectangular piece of white felt is sewn to the top to hold it to the kichka.

top of headdress



Background information

See Russia: general information.

Russian dolls

The Russian folk doll boasts rich traditions and history. Russian dolls fall into three categories according to their purpose: amulet, playing and ritual dolls.

Ritual dolls

Throughout the Slavic world there was time when dolls saved people’s lives by replacing human beings as victims in rites of sacrifice. The dolls were made of anything available at hand: of straw, clay, wood, baste, corncobs, grass roots, cinders, branches and boughs of trees, and whatnot. Such ritual dolls were sacrificed to various gods, such as Kostroma (Slavic fertility goddess), Morena (Slavic goddess of harvest and witchcraft), Kupalo (Slavic god of fertility and sexuality), Yarilo (Slavic god of vegetation, fertility and springtime), etc, and were given their particular names. In return people asked for happiness, love, plentiful harvests, health and well-being.

1) Vepskaya doll – the symbol of the female soul

Other ritual dolls were held sacred and kept in the Holy corner of Izba (nowadays, icons are kept in such holy corners in Russian houses). It was believed that if a family had a homemade Fertility doll in the house, it would reap good harvest and enjoy wealth.

The Bather doll stood for the beginning of the swimming season. It was floated down the river, and the straps tied to its hands took away all people’s illnesses and sorrows with them – such was the concept of the all-purifying power of water.

The famous ritual big doll of Maslenitsa (Shrovetide) was made of straw or baste, yet with an indispensable thin stem of a birch tree.

A cinder doll was presented to a newly married couple at their wedding as an old symbol of the family’s continuation and a mediator between the living and the other world. In a way it stood for the spirit of the ancestors addressing their descendants.

Some ritual dolls were used for healing. Among them were Kozma and Demyan dolls made of curative herbs, such as yarrow, chamomile and others.

2) Amulet dolls

Amulet dolls. It is interesting to note that fabric dolls did not have their faces featured (see Ukraine: Motanka). The custom was associated with olden believes, in particular, with the talisman role of a doll as a magic object. Such ‘faceless dolls’ served as sacred objects: the absence of a face showed that the doll was an inanimate thing and thus was not accessible for evil powers to settle in it. The doll dresses were always bright-coloured and embroidered with meaningful magic symbols.

Playing dolls were meant for children’s amusement. They were made either by stitching or folding material. The folded dolls needed neither a needle nor a thread: a wooden stick was enveloped with a thick piece of fabric and then tied around with a rope; then a head and hands were tied to the stick, which was smartly dressed afterwards. Some playing dolls did not need even a stick: a piece of fabric was just rolled round its axes and tied with a thread. In the same way the head and hands were made.

In the days of old, dolls were never left lying upside-down in a house, but were carefully kept in a basket or in coffers with embossing, or in baste chests. In this way they passed on from one girl to another. It was believed that in order to become a good mother in the future, a girl had to play with dolls.

Unfortunately nowadays the old traditions of making dolls have lost their popularity and almost fallen into oblivion. Exceptions include, probably, the big dummy-doll of Maslenitsa, which is burnt in the last week before Lent to bid farewell to winter, and brownie dolls kept in some houses as amulets or, rather, as amusing souvenirs.

3) Maslenitsa doll being burnt during the Shrovetide celebrations



1) Vepskaya doll – the symbol of the female soul. –

2) Amulet doll –

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