“It is amazing how this nation invented clothes that can fit all seasons and needs, well thought of and used in many different ways,” ————-Author unknown, but it is said that he or she was a medieval European traveler visiting Mongolia for the first time.
Mongolia, which borders both China and Russia, boasts a population of approximately 3.9 million people. Given its proximity to both Asia and Europe, Mongolia has a very interesting history, all of which has made its way into their unique attire.
The Notion of Layering Takes on New Meaning
If you live in a climate with diverse seasons, you are familiar with the notion of layering. An undershirt, a short sleeved shirt, a sweater and an overcoat if necessary should allow you get through a typical Spring or Autumn day. Cool in the mornings, warm by noon and by the time you leave work, it’s already cool or cold again.
Imagine, if you will, the temperature is 50° in the morning, by 10:00 a.m. there is a sand storm and by 2:00 p.m. snow is beginning to fall and it’s 20 degrees cooler suddenly. Now with this image in mind, picture yourself leading a nomadic lifestyle.
So, What’s a Nomad To Do?
Clothes that are as practical as they are aesthetically pleasing are the only way to go for a fashionable Nomad; brightly colored long gowns allow for the most flexibility. For example, long sleeves, which can rolled up when it’s warm and quickly rolled down if begins to snow, suddenly. Something that slips over a person’s head means there are few buttons to have to fumble with when the temperature drops suddenly. A single hook over a brocade button just below your shoulder and you’re snug as a bug in a rug. The nomads of the Mongolian steppes were long adept at dressing according to the mercurial whims of Mother Nature. While every stitch they would wear in the course of a year was as varied and unique as the nomads themselves, they were also highly adaptable and interesting, while being imminently practical at the same time.
Mongolian hats tended to differ between both sexes and within different age groups, with shapes and purposes to suit seasons, holidays, and ceremonies as well as hats for occasional and everyday wear. In addition, they differed between tribes, and on a personal level, were often reflective of a person’s social standing within one tribe or another.
The customary calf-length tunics worn by Mongolian nomads were just as diverse as their hats. The one unifying feature was the cut and form of the shirts – typically long-sleeved, loose fitting with a high collar. Called a ‘del’, Mongolian tunics are differentiated by social standing within the clan as much as by the season. The cut and make of a shirt tended to remain the same between the sexes, with only the color and fit adjusting between them. Males wear slightly larger and more reserved shirts, while the females don brighter colors. In the frigid Mongolian winters, dels are often padded with sheep’s wool or layered cotton.
To finish off the typical Mongolian ensemble, boots are sturdy, handsome pieces, with upturned toes. Arguably this makes the typically rigid and hefty boot both easier to walk in, and capable of helping the nomad to retain his or her seat whilst a-horse. Made of thick leather, they can be joined by thick, soft felt socks in the winter, or sans socks in the summer.
The clothing will vary from the simplest everyday use to the gorgeous and full colorful custom made outfits that will speak of the sex and age, the status and welfare of the person. Also, they will correspond to cultural events and specific celebrations. Mongol clothing will slightly differ according to the ethnic groups like their dialects.
The clothing will correspond to the four seasons of the year. During the hot and short summer the nomads wear light dels made of cotton. In harsh and very cold long winters they wear warm dels made of lamb’s skin. In between during the spring and autumn the nomads wear both heavy and light dels due to highly contrast weather.
The immensely varied and rich presentation of the Mongolian nomad’s wardrobe is highly appropriate, don’t you think, considering the ancient and proud heritage boasted by these robust people of the steppes.