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Comprehensive new book shows unique beauty of Seto folk costumes

A new book has been published about Seto costumes.
A new book has been published about Seto costumes. Source: Mirjam Mõttus/ERR

A comprehensive new book about Seto folk costumes has been published. The book, which is over 600 pages long, contains 710 photographs as well as articles, which provide a wide-ranging account of the unique beauty and characteristics of Seto folk costumes and details about how they have changed over the years.

According to Ingrit Kala, who came up with the idea for the book, the new volume is a dream come true for many Seto women.

"It provides an overview of women's, men's, as well as children's clothing and customs. We tried to show the details, we tried to show things as a whole, and we also showed how they are in sections. There are section drawings in the book and, of course, there are photographs. One of my own favorite chapters is the one on how Seto materials are used in modern-day fashion," Kala said.

Much of the material presented in the book was collected six years ago during the annual Seto Folk Costume Days. The comprehensive new work is interspersed with articles written by 20 different authors, each providing detailed information about traditional Seto folk costumes. The articles also detail changes to the costumes over time, as well as the styles in which they have been worn.

"In the old days, when a Seto woman wanted to decorate the sleeves of her costume, the only material available at home was linen, because cotton was expensive. Nowadays, there are all kinds of materials (they can use, like) jewelry, ribbons or pearls," said Elvi Nassar, a researcher and curator at the Estonian Open Air Museum, and one of the book's main authors.

A new book has been published about Seto costumes. Source: Mirjam Mõttus/ERR

Nassar said, that the new book is a good guide to the world of Seto folk costumes, and will be of interest to anyone interested in Seto culture, even if they are not Seto themselves. She also hopes that the book might help to show people the correct ways to wear Seto folk costumes.

"What has been bothering me, for example, is the way shawls are worn (nowadays). It's not very nice to see people at parties tying shawls around their necks. In the old days, this was only allowed in everyday situations, (such as) when they were milking a cow," Nassar said.

Maret Tamjärv, the book's editor, who is also a researcher at the Estonian Open Air Museum, highlights the rich selection of photographs in the new work, as well as the attention to detail in the articles written by a wide range of authors.

"There are contemporary images of objects, as well as objects from museum collections and from (people's) homes, which have been taken for this book. However, the historical photographs are of enormous value," Tamjärv said.

However, according to the book's creators, the work is far from definitive. There is still a lot more information about Seto folk costumes waiting to be discovered in Russian museums as well as among private collections.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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