Ukrainian embroidered shirt: the meaning of patterns, ornaments and colors

Ukrainian embroidered shirts amaze with the wonderful beauty of their patterns. And here the color of threads and fabrics is selected not only for the original composition. The color scheme of Ukrainian embroidered shirts is symbolic. A skillful combination of shades and ornaments have their own special meaning, which is taken into account by experienced Ukrainian embroiderers. Read more about what the patterns and colors on Ukrainian embroidery mean.

Embroidery Day in Ukraine 2023: when is it celebrated?

Usually Embroidery Day in Ukraine is celebrated on the third Thursday of May. In 2023, this day falls on the 18th. The meaning of this holiday is to replace your usual everyday clothes with traditional ones for one day, adding embroidery to your usual look. Anyone can join the holiday, regardless of what country they live in. Thus, Embroidery Day is actively celebrated by representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora in different countries. This unusual holiday has been celebrated since 2006 – it was then that students of Chernivtsi National University first agreed to come together in embroidered shirts on the same day.

Ukrainian embroidered shirt: the meaning of pattern and ornament

For many centuries, the colors, fabrics and cut from which the elements of clothing were made were formed, but the “power” that embroidery has, the meaning of the ornament is unchanged, so even today the ancient beliefs and protection of our ancestors are transmitted through the pattern. So, what do the patterns on embroidered shirts mean?


Geometric pattern on embroidered shirt

A square is a material symbol that speaks of prosperity, symbolizes order and harmony.
The diamond is the most common symbol of fertility, be it a harvest or new life. In addition, the rhombus symbolizes the connection of the earthly and heavenly, feminine and masculine principles.
The circle is the divine principle and spiritual energy. If the circle is transformed into the sun with rays, this means strength, accumulation of energy.
The triangle is a symbol of the trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), which has strong protection.
The cross is a powerful amulet against dark forces. The straight cross symbolizes the solar, masculine principle, the energy of the Creator. The oblique cross is a feminine, lunar element. The cross balances, provides balance and harmony.
The infinity sign is a symbol of the continuity of existence.

Floral pattern on embroidered shirt
Flowers in general denote the strength of the family, the energy of life, purity and prosperity.
Lily – magical knowledge and enchantment
Rose – continuity of life, rebirth
Poppy – protection and amulet, symbol of youth and beauty
Sunflowers – goodness and light
Viburnum is a symbol of family, strong family, mother and children
Oak is a symbol of strength and longevity for men
Hops – youth, new beginning
Tree of Life – Symbol of generation, eternity
Solar symbols
Stars, including the Eight-Pointed Star – distant worlds, harmony of the Universe, triumph of life
Water is the feminine principle, which speaks of harmony and fluidity of time
Svarga is a symbol of endless development, solar energy, prosperity and long life

Embroidered shirt: the meaning of color

Each color in Ukrainian symbolism has its own meaning. Craftswomen most often use red, black, white, blue, yellow, gold, green and multi-colored patterns to create embroidered shirts.

  • White – innocence and purity, a talisman against the evil eye. According to the beliefs of our ancestors, embroidered shirts with such a pattern can only be worn by young girls.
  • Red – energy of life, joy.
  • Black – earth and fertility, prosperity and escape.
  • Blue is a symbol of sky and water, a powerful amulet that provides protection from disease and peace of mind. Often found on men’s and children’s embroidered shirts.
  • Green – spring, beauty, youth, protection from the elements.
  • Gold or yellow – prosperity, wealth.

Embroidered shirts by region: patterns and colors

  1. Vinnytsia region: white and red colors, predominance of geometric and floral patterns.
  2. Volyn region: the use of geometry and abstraction.
  3. Dnepropetrovsk region: red and black embroidery using decorations on the cuffs and neckline.
  4. Donetsk region: patterns of plants and flowers, birds, three-dimensional embroidery
  5. Zhytomyr region: ornament with a small cross of red color in combination with black or blue. Typically used to tightly cover sleeves. Among the patterns, lines, an octagonal star, and a rhombus are common.
  6. Transcarpathian region: geometric patterns of deep colors interspersed with bright floral motifs.
  7. Zaporozhye region: plant and natural motifs: flowers, mushrooms, animals.
  8. Ivano-Frankivsk region: color patterns, floral (daisies, flowers, mountains) and geometric patterns.
  9. Kiev region: embroidered shirts using red, black and gold colors. Traditionally they contain flowers, birds, geometric motifs.
  10. Kirovograd region: realistic floral patterns in black and red colors.
  11. Lugansk region: geometric and plant-geometric patterns dominate.
  12. Lviv region: geometric patterns with three-dimensional elements.
  13. Nikolaev region: characteristic quadrangular neckline
  14. Odessa region: geometric floral pattern in tech cross. The main colors are red, black, blue, yellow.
  15. Poltava region: complex patterns made in white.
  16. Rivne region: Embroidered shirts rarely have a variety of colored decorations.
  17. Sumy region: complex patterns with plants, animals and symbols.
  18. Ternopil region: ornaments with colored thick threads mainly along the entire sleeve.
  19. Kharkov region: relief embroidery, polychrome half-cross or cross stitch patterns.
  20. Kherson region: crosses and floral motifs in white, black and red.
  21. Khmelnitsky region: natural patterns, flowers, birds.
  22. Cherkasy region: Geometric and plant motifs with red thread.
  23. Chernivtsi region: mountain flowers, birds, sun and moon.
  24. Chernihiv region: dense embroidery with a predominance of geometric patterns.
  25. Crimea. contrasting colored ornaments with plant motifs.

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