Woman's Apron, Hutsul Culture, Ukraine

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Clothing and Dress


Woman's Apron, Hutsul Culture, Ukraine


ca. 1919 - 1939


29.75 inches (75.6 cm) long; 24.8 inches (63.2 cm) wide


The apron is first and foremost a garment. It is worn in two panels over an embroidered shirt, called a vyvhyvanka, covered at the waist by a wrapped belt, called a krayka, and topped with many overgarments (UATV English, 2017). The two-panel nature of the skirt is an adaptation for horseback-riding, which is the mode by which both men and women transported goods down from the mountains for trade (Slobodianiuk & Pryimak, 2014) (UATV English, 2017). Wool is a preferred fiber for warmth, durability, and water repellency. The apron is perhaps better described as a wrap-around skirt, called a zapaska, and is worn at the natural waist in two panels, front and back (Olijnyk, 2013).

This garment most closely matches the materials, construction, and design of aprons of the Hutsul culture. Part of the Carpatho-Rusyn ethnic group, Hutsuls are highlanders found in a mountainous western region of Ukraine, sometimes called Hutsulshchyna (Figlus, 2009). Hutsuls are first mentioned by name in 1816, but their settlements are listed in the fifteenth century and archeological evidence of human existence in the region dates much further back (Pavliuc, Sichynsky, & Vincenz, n.d.). The region contains the highest elevations as well as concentrations of forest in Ukraine, with warm and sunny summers paired with long and frosty winters (Figlus, 2009). Due to the lack of arable land and plentitude of pasture, sheep herding is the primary occupation (Slobodianiuk & Pryimak, 2014).

The Hutsuls were dominated by Polish and Hungarian nobles for centuries (Pavliuc, Sichynsky, & Vincenz). Seeking autonomy after years of Austro-Hungarian oppression, the region briefly declared independence, with Yasinya as its capital, before joining Czechoslovakia in 1919 with a promise of autonomous rule (Brown 2012). Following the political turmoil of WWII and Soviet rule, Hutsulshchyna is now mostly situated in Ukraine (Figlus, 2009). The label attached to this apron at accession states it was made for a “Carpatho Russian” woman in “Jasina district, the most Eastern section of Czechslovakia.” “Jasina” is a little-used translation of Yasinya, dating the acquisition and likely manufacture of the apron to the limited life of the Czechoslovakia state.

The characterization of the Hutsuls is perhaps best captured in the speculation into the etymology of their name. Some scholars propose that it arises from a Ukrainian word for nomad, while others argue it derives from a Romanian word for brigand (Pavliuc, Sichynsky, & Vincenz, n.d.). Though these names were ascribed by neighboring tribes, the righteous brigand or outlaw identity resonates with Hutsul legends in response to a long history of oppressive lords (Haratyk, 2014). They are known for their distinctive folk dress and artistic handiworks, which served as significant income sources (Pavliuc, Sichynsky, & Vincenz, n.d.). The hard lifestyle required everyone to contribute; both boys and girls were taught to weave on the looms in every house and young girls embroidered a multitude of linen shirts for their dowries (UATV English, 2017). Due to the remoteness of each settlement, they developed distinctive features captured in the quotes “in every cottage a different tongue” and “in every village a different song” (Haratyk, 2014, 72). This spirit of local distinctiveness is captured in the color and design differences of zapaska.


Brown, G. (2012). Blaming The Bourgeoisie: The Czech Left-Wing Response to Perceived Czech Imperialism in Subcarpathian Ruthenia, 1931-1935. New Zealand Slavonic Journal, 46, 71-90. Retrieved April 1, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/24429434

Figlus, T. (2009). Past and present of Hutsulshchyna as the Carpathian borderland region. Remarks on changes of spatial structures, ethno-cultural specificity and heritage. Państwowy Instytut Naukowy-Instytut Śląski w Opolu, Wydawnictwo Instytut Śląski, Katedra Geografii Politycznej i Studiów Regionalnych Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego.

Haratyk, A. (2014). The Forming of the Ethnic Identity of Hutsul Highlanders. Czech-Polish Historical and Pedagogical Journal6(1), 68–76. http://doi.org/10.2478/cphpj-2014-0008

Pavliuc, N., Sichynsky, V., & Vincenz, S. (n.d.). Hutsuls. Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine. http://www.encyclopediaofukraine.com/display.asp?linkpath=pages\H\U\Hutsuls.htm

Slobodianiuk, A. A., & Pryimak, N. V. (2014). Hutsuls and Hutsulshchina.

UATV English. (2017, December 4). Hutsul Clothing, Part 1 | Heritage [Video file]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKTVIDHvRQ0


Donor: William and Clarice Metz

This apron was purchased by Herbert McKenney along with the entire contents of a house and subsequently donated to the University of Rhode Island Historic Textile and Costume Collection in 1971 by his sister and her husband, Clarice and Wiliam Metz. The original collector and labeler of the items is unknown, though the house belonged to a Mrs. Bessie Atwood in Hyannis, Massachusetts. The accompanying donated items include another labeled as Czechoslovakian, two coverlet fragments, and an object from Africa.


URI 1971.02.04


Michelle Leung


wool twill weave fabric
metal-wrapped core yarn
cotton thread

The design of this woolen apron is composed of red twill interspersed by three main weave patterns, two of which use metallic yarns.


“Woman's Apron, Hutsul Culture, Ukraine,” Historic Textile and Costume Collection, accessed February 20, 2024, https://uritextilecollection.omeka.net/items/show/378.