Natasha (Troitskoye village) in a traditional girl's shift (rubakha) with a ritual Trinity bearch wreath (Kaluga province). Photo Sergei Minyonok        The existing folk woman's costume includes an embroidered shift (rubakha), an archaic unsown skirt (ponyova), an embroidered apron (zanaveska), a married woman's headdress (povoinik) and a pair of bast shoes (lapti).Popular Russian clothes traditionally have a straight cut and free, flowing lines. The cutting is determined by the breadth of the homespun or factory-made fabric. The length is always considerable, especially that of the sleeves of women's shifts; decorative details are set in a specified pattern, and a distinctive superposition of garments is much favored. All these are features dating back to the Old Russian period.

Ania (Troitskoye village) in a wedding sarafan with a ritual Trinity bearch wreath  (Kaluga province). Photo Sergei MinyonokOld women keep claret colored sarafans and old linen embroidered with red and black shifts in their chests and bundles. These clothes were worn by their great grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers. When they were young these women did not know stereotypical skirts and shifts bought in a store. "The spring has come, and girls went to the meadows. Here they go as flowers in blossom. Shifts are white, sarafans are blue and scarlet and green!" (From the interview with a performer).

Folk costume was of great importance in selection of future bride by parents of a young man. The quality and color of flax, sleeves' and collar's embroidery of girl's shift demonstrated girl's skills and, therefore, what kind of a wife she would make.Nastia (Troitskoye village) in a traditional girl's embroidered shift  (Kaluga province). Photo Sergei Minyonok

Folk costume, as does a song, combines a strict canon with the possibility for creative activity. For example, the cutting of clothes and decorative patterns were strictly regulated. But the ornament itself varied in numerous details indiscernible at first sight. Every village has its own cutting of clothes and its own embroidered ornaments built on common rules. But it is impossible to come across two identical shifts in one village. The strict tradition encouraged the imagination of folk embroideresses to bring delicately individual details to the clothes.A volunteer Amanda in a traditional girl's embroidered shift and sarafan (Smolensk province). Photo Yelena Minyonok

Description of weaving and spinning techniques, traditional cutting, ways of wearing clothes, rites and beliefs related to different parts of a woman's folk costume may clarify the complex folklore and ethnographical picture of Southwestern Russia.

Embroidered homespun ceremonial scarves (rushniki) are the accessories of ritual complexes concerned with the most important stages of human life such as birth, marriage and death. We will try to ascertain the symbolical meanings and functions of scarves in these rites.

Flowers, oak-leaves, figures of women, figures of horses, lace decorations are not simply aesthetic peasant notions. Embroideries convey information about the embroideress's age, in the village where she was born and raised, the purposes for embroidering this ritual scarf, her mood during her work, and the mood she would like to transmit to those who would admire her scarfA ritual scarf (rushnik) from Kaluga province, Voilovo village. Photo Sergei Minyonok.

The ritual scarves embroidery preserves numerous archaic details of Old Slavic decoration. Our studies of them may also shed light on the complex history of the cultural heritage of this area.

Floor-cloths (poloviki) are a feature of every peasant house even today. Old shabby clothes were torn into narrow strips of fabric and then the rainbow floor-cloth was made on a loom. Thus the basic law of peasant economy was realized. No goods should become nothing, should be thrown out. Old things, unfit for use, are remadeA boy in a traditional man shift (Kaluga province). Photo Yelena Minyonok into new, useful and beautiful ones.

The harmony of alternate color strips demonstrates the delicate taste of folk weavers. Parquetry and carpets of modern flats are not always capable of creating coziness and peace, a sensation which everybody would feel once entering a peasant's house.

We will have to study color harmonies of floor clothes, to measure the length of strips, to describe the correlation of the size of a strip and its color.

The separate parts of a costume, patterns, details of embroidered and lace decoration will be photographed. Beliefs related to folk clothes, explanations about who wears this or that costume and when (for example, girls, women, old women; during hay time, during wedding ceremony, etc.) will be audio recorded. The same method will be used with ritual scarves and floor cloths.

Aspects of material culture by their nature can not be adequately described verbally. Video recording allows us not only to reproduce the image of an embroidered shift or scarf but to present a living picture. A photograph can not compete with a video recording because of its static character and flat nature. Video recording reproduces what a costume is like when it 'comes to life' on a human body.