From ancient times, Ukrainians considered embroidered clothing something akin to a talisman, wearing them only on holidays and passing them down from generation to generation. When a baby was born into a family, a shirt was also embroidered for him or her, which was meant to protect the child with symbolic patterns encoding the date of birth, the baby's name, as well as wishes of health and happiness.
This wonderful tradition, created by our ancestors and carried through the centuries, still presents in our lives and is on the increase with the revival of the Ukrainian nation and its self-consciousness. Very often you see children dressed in clothing with elements of embroidery. Different in colours, techniques, cut, purpose, these small works of art - both original and beautiful - help turn an ordinary day into something special.
Each pattern in Ukrainian embroidery has its own meaning, forming a bond between child and family, attracting good energy, and ensuring protection from the evil eye. An embroidered blouse for a little girl is a symbol that its wearer is able to find compromise and smooth out sharp corners in any situation.
Traditionally, all symbols in children's embroidery were divided into floral and geometric patterns. Gradually, these ornaments began to unite, including birds and animals into the mix.
Boys' shirts are mainly embroidered with oak trees or geometric ornaments, as a symbol of courage, strength, and a solid character. While blouses for girls are decorated with signs of the earth, symbolising diligence, flowers - a sign of female beauty, and the viburnum - as a symbol of procreation.
The colour of the ornament plays an important role in the embroidered shirt also, where red embroidery is a symbol of fire, light, and love; blue symbolises water and the sky; yellow - the sun; green means youth; while white is a pure soul and thoughts. It may or may not surprise you, in this case, that our ancestors embroidered most often with red threads, as, in their opinion, this colour enhanced the protective nature and increased the energy potential of the child.
In different regions of Ukraine, traditional patterns differ in colours, their symbolism and techniques. Therefore, when choosing a vyshyvanka for a little one, you may want to take this into account.
Patterns, Significance, and Girls’ Vyshyvanky
We have figured out the colours and the purpose of the embroidered shirt for a child, now let's decide on the pattern. As the ornament on embroidered shirts is not just a beautiful pattern, but those that feature specific symbols with their own meanings, it’s perhaps not uncommon for a girl’s vyshyvanka to be decorated with wildflowers - cornflowers, daisies, and periwinkle are most often found. Symbols inherent in embroidered shirts for women were also used - for example, a lily or viburnum. While signs of the earth and symbols of the feminine principle featured also.
Sunflowers are a symbol of the sun, which endows the wearer with warmth, goodness, and blessings.
Chamomile is a symbol of love and youth.
Rose symbolises love and mercy. The patterns of roses mean endless movement and eternal rebirth.
Nightingales and cuckoos are signs of girls’ ritual clothing. They were usually used during ritual events and celebrations.
Poppies have an ambiguous meaning. The poppy protects against evil and promotes the fulfillment of desires, but it is also a symbol of memory, orphanhood, and widowhood.
Very often, in modern children's shirts, manufacturers depict poppy flowers only on girlish things. And this is not altogether correct. The poppy is a magical symbol, which was applied in order to protect against all evil or things otherworldly. However, nobody can disagree that the poppy and the pattern has many meanings:
Embroidered poppy flowers and their meanings
- Flowers with red petals are the blood of our fallen male heroes.
- A box of poppies protects from evil forces.
- Poppy leaves represent a family memory or a family member who died in the war.
- An ornament of seven poppy flowers in the shape of a wreath is the promise of young girls remembrance of a deceased Vyshyvanka "Pretty Poppies" family member and the promise to continue his lineage.
Patterns, Significance, and Boys’ Vyshyvanky
The oaktree is the main symbol of masculine strength, courage, and also life wisdom. Embroidering oak leaves on a shirt for her som, a mother would have wanted good health for her boy, so that he grew up a wise and courageous person. Oak leaves were also embroidered on men's wedding shirts.
Sun and water
These are two sacred symbols that are universal and can be found in almost every embroidery design. These patterns are identified with life itself, its origin, and energy. The sun and water are supposed to combine parental and maternal forces and therefore are especially appropriate on embroidered children's clothing. How can you recognise a sun on an embroidered shirt? As an octagonal star. What does Water look like? It's like a curl at two ends.
This fruit can often be seen on wedding shirts for men, because it is a symbol of the creation of a new family. However, brushes and leaves of grapes were also often embroidered on clothes for a boy - and here the patterns symbolise the entire family line.
The pattern, embroidered in the form of stars correctly assembled in rows, shows the constancy of the inner world of each boy. This looks more like harmony, which sends wishes for the little one to find his own path, his life purpose, and peace of mind.
The Modern Take
Today, the embroidered shirt is less about ornamentation and more about style. Despite this, traditions remain and the embroidery found on children’s shirts and blouses continue to act as a talisman to keep your children safe. The long-lives traditions still exist, but more modern looks are available for our smallest Ukrainian trendsetters. Check out our new collection of cartoon vyshyvanky for the newer members of your family, all custom created, with love, from Postmark Ukraine.
Used pictures: Etnokraina, Ukrainski Suveniry, Etsy and Postmark Ukraine assortment