CLOTHING xv. Clothing of Tajikistan



xv. Clothing of Tajikistan

Female dress. The most common traditional garment is a straight dress, widening at the bottom, worn over trousers. The long, full sleeves generally cover the hands, though in some mountain regions sleeves are closely fitted to the wrists. Another type of dress is cut straight, with a yoke and inset sleeves. Older women wear either dress full length with a high collar, whereas younger women wear a shorter, narrower version with a narrow collar. Although normally women wear only one dress at a time, in cold weather they may wear more, one on top of the other, and on festive occasions as many as seven, with sleeves of graduated lengths to permit the embroidered ends of all to show (plate cxxxiii, plate cxxxiv). The common undergarment is a short white shirt with a high collar and buttoned cuffs (Ershov and Shirokova, pp. 11-12). The trousers of mountain women are long and straight, falling loosely around the ankles. Until this century women from mountain regions did not consider outer garments necessary, preferring instead to wear several woolen dresses, but now quilted coats are worn outdoors (Narody Sredneĭ Azii i Kazakhstana, p. 599). In fact, at the beginning of this century quilted caftans became common throughout the Tajik highlands (Shirokova, 1976, p. 46). Plainswomen wear short, tapering trousers. Outerwear consists of various types of caftan, a lighter one often worn under a heavier type; a long coat fitting the body to the waist, then flaring into a full skirt, with inset sleeves tapering to the wrists; and a version with a tight-fitting bodice attached to a skirt gathered at both sides, also with long sleeves tapering at the wrists. At the end of the 19th century clothing in the southern and central regions—Darvāz, Qarategin, Kolāb, Karatag, and Bukhara—was usually trimmed with embroidery, whereas in the upper Zarafšān valley and the northern plains it was untrimmed (Shirokova, 1976, p. 145).

The traditional headdress was a large kerchief. That worn in the plains (Samarkand, Bukhara, Ḵojand) is a large square or rectangle (plate cxxxiii, above), whereas in the mountains (Kolāb, Darvāz) it more closely re­sembles a stole, with embroidered ends (plate cxxxiv, above). For festive occasions the young and middle-aged women of Qarategin and Darvāz have recently taken to wearing the kerchief over a skullcap (Tadzhiki, p. 170). On the plains elderly women also occasionally wear skullcaps (tuppī) with tubes at­tached to hold their plaited hair; they wear the kerchief or sometimes a turban over this arrangement (Ershov and Shirokova, p. 8). In addition, young women in each region wear distinctive head coverings, espe­cially during the first days after a wedding. In Darvāz and the Pamirs they tie embroidered fillets over the kerchiefs. In Kolāb and Qarategin a silver diadem constructed of alternating stars and pendants is pre­ferred (plate cxxxiii). In Bukhara fillets embroidered with gold thread are worn over the forehead. The diadem worn by women in Ura-Tyube, Ḵojand, and Samarkand is crenellated and encircled with turquoise fillets from which are suspended numerous pendants encrusted with semiprecious stones (plate cxxxiv; Ershov and Shirokova, pp. 8-9).

Female footgear is diverse. Historically the most common type was a wooden overshoe, often turned up at the toe and painted in stripes or sometimes black­ened with soot (Tadzhiki, p. 170). Nowadays, plainswomen, when outdoors, wear high boots of soft leather, into which they tuck their trousers, and leather overshoes. At home they wear shoes with small heels. The finest shoes of this kind are embroidered with silk and gold or made entirely of dyed morocco leather. Mountain women wear leather shoes or wooden clogs on three pegs. In the winter they, too, wear soft high boots, made of rawhide.

The traditional features of cut and choice of cloth are most fully preserved in ceremonial dress, which reflects a broad range of folk belief. Bridal dress, for example, consists of three separate complexes corresponding to the three phases of the transition from unmarried girl to married woman. For the wedding ceremony itself a simple white dress is worn without jewelry. For the removal to the groom’s house the bride wears numerous kerchiefs and mantles, so that her entire person is protected from the eyes of strangers. Finally, for several days she receives guests in her new home, wearing her finest clothing and elaborate jewelry. These phases are also signaled by more subtle changes, as in the shape of the collar, the hair style, the covering of the head, the type of cosmetics worn, and the jewelry.

Except for Darvāz, Qarategin, Kolāb, and some valleys in the Zarafšān region, mourning dress is worn everywhere. It is usually of light- or dark-blue or black cotton, cut in more traditional fashion than is now common in daily wear. It is worn without jew­elry. Even in those regions where specific mourning wear is not known, grief is expressed through the setting aside of jewelry and cosmetics (Shirokova, 1976, p. 148).

Male dress. The traditional clothing of Tajik males is less diverse than that of women. The undergarments consist of loose trousers and a shirt worn over them; it is belted when worn without an overgarment. Details of the neck opening and collar decoration vary re­gionally. For example, the neck opening can be horizontal (along the shoulder), vertical, or wrapped. In the Pamirs the shirt has a high collar and is fastened at the side, a type known in Central Asia since antiquity (see v, vi, above).

Over the shirt men wear a wrapped caftan, sometimes several at once. Again each region is characterized by specific details of this garment. The version worn by Tajiks in Farḡāna is narrow and fitted, with narrow sleeves, usually of black, blue, or green cloth. At Heṣār and in the Zarafšān valley it is full and has wide sleeves (plate cxxxv), and the men of Samarkand, Heṣār, and Kolāb prefer brightly colored textiles. Bukharans are distinguished by their pink and black striped robes. High-ranking officials in the service of the former amirs of Bukhara wore caftans embroidered with gold (Goncharova). In the plains these textiles are of silk and cotton or sometimes blends of the two. Brocades, velvets, and textured silks are particularly popular. Mountain men prefer easily obtainable woolens and very seldom wear cotton (plate cxxxvi). Linen is not used for Tajik clothing.

The cap worn by men is also regionally distinctive in both shape and ornament. Among northern Tajiks the crown can be flat, boxed, or conical, whereas moun­tain dwellers and plainsmen in the southeast wear a skullcap. In the winter men wind small turbans around the caps or put on fur hats (Ershov and Shirokova, p. 11).

Shirts and overgarments are girdled with long, nar­row sashes or twisted kerchiefs with embroidered corners. Sometimes two such sashes are worn, one used as a repository for personal belongings. Formerly princes and wealthy men wore wide embroidered or assembled belts with massive buckles. Footgear is similar to that worn by women: high leather boots with soft soles and leather overshoes or similar boots with heels. Peasants wear welted boots or a type of soft shoe made from a single piece of leather, folded in half and held together by a cord laced through holes in the edges and tied around the ankle. In the mountain and the foothills men also wear clogs on three pegs. In the lowlands shoes and boots are worn with inner cloth wrappings or stockings. In the mountains colorful woolen stockings are the rule. Men in the Pamirs bind the calves of their legs with long strips of cloth before undertaking long journeys.

Minority clothing in Tajikistan. The dress of other Tajik-speaking groups differs little from that described here. Central Asian gypsies (lūlī) now wear mainly European dress, but until recently those in the Kaška­-Daryā region were distinguished by an extremely large turban (dorra). The women were commonly tattooed and preferred bright-colored clothing and abundant jewelry.

The Persians of Bukhara and Samarkand are not an ethnic but a Shiʿite religious minority. The women do not wear the caftan or the Tajik shawl (lačak) or turban (salla) but only a kerchief (pīšānaband) and an outer headcloth (sarband). The most distinctive feature of male dress is a black turban (salla). Probably because so many forms of traditional dress were lacking in this group, its members have been more receptive to new styles like the jacket with sleeves and the sleeveless vest (Lushkevich, 1989).

The clothing of Bukharan Jews generally resembled that of the Tajiks, with some exceptions. Before 1911 Jews were required by the government of the amir to wear caftans of black or dark-brown cotton tied with a simple cord. In the summer they wore a distinctive type of cylindrical velvet cap, in the winter a conical hat of astrakhan fur or velvet. The Bukharan Jew wore a turban, wrapped around a skullcap, only once in his life, at his wedding. Jewish girls also wore a distinc­tive type of headdress, a gold-embroidered cap (tūpī, tos). Women wore shawls appliquéd with metal plaques (Lushkevich, 1989; Kalantarov).


N. N. Ershov and Z. A. Shirokova, Al’bom odezhdy tadzhikov (Album of Tajik cloth­ing), Dushanbe, 1969.

P. A. Goncharova, Zolotoe shit’ye Bukhary (The gold embroidery of Bokhara), Tashkent, 1986.

F. D. Lushkevich, Ètnografiches­kaya gruppa ironi. Zanyatiya i byt narodov Sredneĭ Azii (The Ironi ethnic group. Occupations and way of life of the peoples of Central Asia), Trudy Instituta Ètnografii 97, Leningrad, 1971.

Idem, “Odezhda tadzhikskogo naseleniya Bukharskogo oazisa v pervoĭ polovine XX v.” (The clothing of the Tajik inhabitants of the Bukhara oasis in the first half of the 20th century), Sbornik Muzeya Antropologii i Ètnografii 34, 1978, pp. 123-45.

Idem, “Odezhda ètnicheskikh grupp naseleniya Bukharskogo oazisa i prilegayushchikh k nemu raĭonov. Pervaya polovina 20 v.” (Clothing of ethnic groups among the popu­lation of the Bukhara oasis and neighboring regions. First half of the 20th century), in Traditsionnaya odezhda narodov Sredneĭ Azii i Kazakhstana (Traditional clothing of the peoples of Central Asia and Kazakhstan), Moscow, 1989.

G. Maĭtdinova, Kostyum rannesrednevekovogo Tokharistana po pamyatnikam iskusstva i arkheologii (The costume of early medieval Tokharistan, as shown in monu­ments of art and archeology), Ph.D. diss., Dushanbe, 1991.

A. K. Pisarchik, “Materialy k istorii tadzhikov Nurata. Starinnye zhenskie plat’ya i golovnye ubory” (Material for the study of the Tajiks of Nur-ata. Traditional women’s dresses and headdresses), in Kostyum narodov Sredneĭ Azii (Costume of the peoples of Central Asia), Moscow, 1979, pp. 119-22.

Z. A. Shirokova, “Traditsionnye zhenskie golovnye ubory Tadzhikov. Yug i sever Tadzhikistana” (Tra­ditional women’s headdresses of the Tajiks. South­ern and northern Tajikistan), in Traditsionnaya odezhda narodov Sredneĭ Azii i Kazakhstana (Tra­ditional clothing of the peoples of Central Asia and Kazakhstan), Moscow, 1969, pp. 182-203.

Idem, Traditsionnaya i sovremennaya odezhda zhenshchin gornogo Tadzhikistana (Traditional and contemporary dress of the women of mountain Tajikistan), Dushanbe, 1976.

Idem, “Traditsionnyĭ kostyum zhenikha u gornykh Tadzhikov” (The traditional bridegroom’s costume among the mountain Tajiks), in Kostyum narodov Sredneĭ Azii. Samarkand (vtoraya polovina XIX v.—nachalo XX veka) (Cos­tume of the peoples of Central Asia. Samarkand [first half of the 19th—beginning of the 20th century), Moscow, 1979, pp. 123-27.

O. A. Sukhareva, “Opyt analiza pokroev "tunikoobraznoĭ" sredneaziatskoĭ odezhdy v plane ikh istorii i èvolyutsii” (Cuts of the "basic tunic" in Central Asian dress from a historical and develop­mental point of view) in Kostyum narodov Sredneĭ Azii, Moscow, 1979, pp. 77-103.

Idem, Istoriya sredneaziatskogo kostyuma. Samarkand (vtoraya polovina XIX v—nachalo XX veka), Moscow, 1982.

“Tadzhiki” in Narody Sredneĭ Asii i Kazakhstana (The peoples of Central Asia and Kazakhstan) I, Moscow, 1962, pp. 599-604.

Tadzhiki Karategina i Darvaza (The Tajiks of Qarategin and Darvāz), 2nd ed., Dushanbe, 1970.

(Guzel’ Maĭtdinova)

Originally Published: December 15, 1992

Last Updated: October 25, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. V, Fasc. 8, pp. 818-822

Cite this entry:

Guzel’ Maĭtdinova, “CLOTHING xv. Clothing of Tajikistan,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/2, pp. 96-99, available online at (accessed on 30 December 2012).