National Ukrainian embroidered shirt: exploring the meaning behind its colors

The main element of Ukrainian national clothing is an embroidered shirt, also known as a vyshyvanka. In its traditional form, this loose-fitting shirt is worn by men, women, and children, adorned with various embroidered ornaments.

Often the shirt and the embroidery feature different colors. This is because the fabric and thread were of different colors, allowing the ornaments to stand out and convey their symbolism clearly. However, there were cases when one color was chosen for both the shirt and the embroidery.

Have you ever pondered the significance of color in a vyshyvanka? When modern Ukrainians choose an embroidered shirt, they are often guided by personal preferences and a sense of taste. But it is important to remember that each shade carries a specific meaning.

Now, consider why red and blue embroidered shirts outnumber yellow or green ones. What hidden meaning did ancient Ukrainians infuse into the colors when crafting these embroidered shirts? We invite you to discover the answers to these intriguing questions.

The primary colors of embroidered shirts and their meanings

White

White is the most commonly used fabric color for sewing embroidered shirts. It symbolizes tenderness, purity, and health, suiting individuals of all ages. However, in ancient times, white vyshyvanky were predominantly worn by unmarried girls. It was believed that the white color acted as a talisman against misfortune.

Black

In many countries, this color is considered a symbol of sadness and dissatisfaction with life. However, in different Ukrainian regions, black carries varying interpretations: it signifies death in Polissia and fertility in Podilia. Regardless, the black color is associated with mother earth; therefore, it is identified with well-being. In the past, black embroidered shirts were exclusively worn by men, believed to bestow unlimited wealth upon their owners.

Blue

Blue represents the sky, water, and physical and spiritual purity. This hue was identified with various amulets, offering protection to the wearer. In the past, women who no longer intended to have children or girls who were not planning to marry soon wore embroidered shirts in shades of blue.

Red

This vibrant color speaks the language of love, passion, and beauty. Consequently, red embroidered shirts were the most popular among ancient Ukrainians, as they believed this fiery hue could fill its wearer and the surrounding environment with vital energy. Therefore, red embroidery on white or red fabric was commonly found on women’s and children’s shirts.

Green

This color symbolizes spring, youth, and serenity, often associated with femininity. Young girls frequently wore embroidered shirts featuring shades of green to emphasize their youthfulness and freshness. Additionally, the green color was believed to protect against natural elements.

Yellow

Yellow is the color of wheat, sun, honey, warmth, and wealth. Therefore, an embroidered shirt with golden hues symbolizes prosperity and joy. It was believed that the yellow color possessed the power to bring well-being to one’s life.

Modern times

In modern times, you can find a wide variety of embroidered shirt models with any fabric or thread color. However, these 6 options are considered the most common and favored among those who understand the ancient art of Ukrainian embroidery.

By the way, most embroidered shirts feature two or more shades, as color combinations are frequent, especially in contemporary times with the availability of specialized dyes for fabric and thread. The specific combinations of colors vary by region in Ukraine, resulting in three types of national vyshyvankas:

One-color (common in the Poltava and Chernihiv regions);

Two-color (typical for the Kyiv region and most of Podilia);

Multicolor (popular in Western Ukraine).

One can endlessly discuss the symbolism of the fabric and thread of an embroidered shirt. Do they possess such a powerful force, or are they established beliefs of ancient Ukrainians? You can decide for yourself. In any case, your faith can give the vyshyvanka concrete strength. If you believe with all your heart that an embroidered shirt will become your amulet or bring prosperity, it will be so!