Each and every community whether it is an ethnic group or a nation or just a particular people has certain attributes that is characteristic of them that is nurtured over time. Anthropologic and historical studies have revealed that these attributes are always expressed in aspects such as art, music, social and economic activities and even ceremonies. However, in addition the way of dressing is also an attribute that can be used to characterize a particular people (Levon 1). As outlined by Levon (1) Armenians for a long time have expressed their rich heritage and culture through such aspects as ‘art, architecture, beliefs, lifestyle, religion and books. In all traditional communities of the world the way of dressing was different in many aspects in comparison to the present world. For instance, in the traditional setting different costumes were worn on different occasions and traditional festivals to symbolize different aspects. The present day Armenia is just but a representation of the traditional Armenian kingdom that was much bigger. The current Armenia represents a settlement of a people of whom some migrated from the Diaspora to occupy the current Armenia (Sanna & Phyllis 65). In addition, ethnography studies reveals that artifacts, books and some other historical objects related to Armenians have been have in very distant regions. In addition, clothing in the traditional setting was mostly influence by aspects such as climate and religion rather than fashion as is the case today.
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Armenian costumes have actually been influenced by many aspects of their surrounding including weather and religion. Traditionally, dressmaking for the Armenian was a reserve for men and therefore factors that directly affected women also affected the kind of dresses they made. Some major distinct characteristics of Armenian clothing is that they were adorned with many colors, had laces and ornaments that varied from place to place depending mostly on individual taste. The color was mostly obtained from a special kind of worm that was cultivated from Mount Ararat. The basic materials for making clothing were silk, cotton and velvet. Armenians had knowledge in the cultivation of silkworm and they used the silk to make clothing. Another general observation is that the traditional men clothing were much freer since most of the activities conducted by men were outdoors. Women on the other hand wore clothing that were not as free because they spent most of their times outdoors. (Orjanhadan 1) points out that traditionally, Armenian costumes have always been adorned with many colors. Armenian traditional costumes are varied with regard to such aspects as age, gender and season. In general men wore marching trousers and shirt that were full of colors. The shirt, which was made either of silk of cotton, was characterized by a small collar that was buttoned at the side. On the other hand the trouser was generally wide as it moved downwards and it was mostly made of cotton or silk and was generally dark. There was also additional attire that was usually worn over the shirt called the ‘arkhaluk’ which also had a small collar and was also fastened at the side. The fasteners were not the conventional buttons but were more like hooks. Due to the characteristic cold weather of the region, additional heavier attire was worn over the ‘arkhaluk’called the ‘Chukha’ which was usually made of wool and had a belt that fastened it across the waist. For men, the belts tied across their waists became a districting factor because of varied from one region to another. Although, later on the traditional costumes changed significantly as they were influenced by styles from Europe and Asia, the original costumes could still be found in many villages around Armenia. There was also the observation that men wore clothing according to their social classes. Very rich men wore clothing that was adorned with various ornaments laced with jewellery. There were various classes of men ranging from those who did servant jobs to the ones that were royals. It was therefore a distinctive aspect of men from different social classes.
Women also had their characteristic clothing that was distinct from men. The general clothing consisted of a long dress which more or less resembled the ‘arkhaluk.’ In addition the dress also had slit on the chest and on the hips probably for purposes of style. Additional clothing was worn around the waist and it resembled a scarf. It is also observable that in Armenia women from the Western region and the Eastern region wore distinct clothing. Women from Western Armenia wore characteristically more colorful clothing than their counterparts from Eastern part. Women also wore an additional head gear that came in different varieties. In the Eastern part of Armenia women wore head gears that characteristically had fur and was usually knitted while some were also woven. In the Western part, women wore head gears and bands that had ornaments (Advantour 1). History has it that the costumes that were worn by Armenian women begand in the region of Uratu. Later on the clothing that were worn by Armenian women adopted some charcteristics and styles borrowed from the persians. The Armenian women were really talented when it came to cloth making as they employed various skills including ‘weaving, spinning, dyeing, cutting, fitting and needlework’ The costumes were in one volume and the women used the clothing as a way of expressing their feelings and emotions. Although rich inculture, the Armenian costumes were also influenced by styles some from Europe and other from Asia. (Orjanhadan 1) Since there were various classes of women ranging from the servant women to the queens. It was thereore possible to idnetify the class that a particualr woman came from just by looking at the clothing. According to Orjanhadan (1), the costumes collected by historians showed that most of the dresses were made of silk and some were even adorned with gold threads. The influence from Europe and Asia was only significant in changing the styles of the dresses but it did not affect the basic essence of the Armenian dresses in terms of being adorned with many colors.
Tha Armenian national dance is an important activity for all Armenians and the dance has a rich history. The dance began periods before the advent of christianity in the region and the heritage has been carried on to this period (Redgate 12). The dance is not only a national heritage and symbol but an object of pride that is believed to express the very essence of being an Armenian carrying with it the Armenian spirit and enotions of different persons. The folk dance was characterized by rituals that today can be observed to be a combination of both the influences of religion and the traditional Armenian beliefs. The dance was basically peformed in various festivals including marriages and it involved both men and women. During the dance the colors on the clothing were also signgificant and even more pronounced than the normal Armenian clothing. The women wore more free clothing to help them move more comfortably during the dance unlike the times when they were always indoors. However, the men’s clothing generally remained the same (Bakhit 45). During the dance women wore head gears of various designs and colors with each one thriving to be the one with the most beautiful and more pronounced one. Armenians had and still have different festivals including the tomato festival and the general observation is that the trade mark coloration is always significantly evident. The decorations and laces in women’s clothing during festivals were done more artistically and anyone wishing to see the real Armenian costumes only needs to attend the festivals. Very few modenr Armenians were traditional costumes and walking through the cities it is observable how western influence has had on the way Armenians dress. However, in some few villages where women still make clothings on their own it is possible to identify some aspect of Armenian art in the clothing.
The traditional Armenian costumes just like other aspects of their culture and heritage has been much influenced by aspects such as environment. The costumes therefore significantly has the capacity of informing people the history and the various traditions of the Armenian people. For instance, when aspects of clothing of Armenians were found in distant places such as Turkey, it implies that Armenians had contact with these people. The implication is that Armenians are a community that has always been distinct and can be charactersized by various common aspects clothing being one of them. Therefore, it is important that such an important apsect of culture be preserved for future generations so that they can learn how their ancestors use to live as a source of identity. This rich culture can also be preserved by ensuring that the traditional Armenian festivals where various costumes were worn are not forgotten. Currently, even the Armenians in the diaspora like to indulge themselves in traditional festivals where they wear traditional Armenian costumes as a way of identifying with their culture.
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