Kyrgyzstan's traditional clothing reflects local way of life

Central Asia in the narrow sense includes five countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. They share common cultural aspects and even dressing styles. However, Kyrgyzstan and the other countries still have distinct features.

Kyrgyz clothing reflects the region and the local way of life, with designs and materials drawn from nomadic life.  

Wool, felt, leather, animal hide and coarse cloth constitute the primary materials of Kyrgyz clothing, and decorations are based on tribal traditions and also drawn from nature. 

A Kyrgyz man on a horse. /VCG Photo

A Kyrgyz man on a horse. /VCG Photo

Kalpak, a tall hat made of white felt, is probably the most iconic item of clothing in Kyrgyzstan. The kalpak is a mark of distinction between Kyrgyz and other ethnic groups. Honored guests will sometimes receive a delicate embroidered kalpak and felt coat.

A kalpak is usually worn by males after the age of six. Kyrgyz men also wear the “Chapan,” a high collar coat, a suede or leather trousers. 

Kyrgyz women usually embroider traditional patterns on their dresses. “Beldemchi” is a traditional Kyrgyz skirt with a slit in the front over a dress. During festivals or ceremonial occasions, women will also wear embroidered vests and tall hats, with feathers decorated on top.

A Kyrgyz woman on a horse. /VCG Photo

A Kyrgyz woman on a horse. /VCG Photo

“Elechek”, a large hat made of wrapped fabric, is also very popular for women to wear during ceremonies and other festive occasions.

The Kyrgyz people attach great importance to dress etiquette. For example, stepping over someone’s coat or hat is considered impolite.

Nowadays, the style of dressing for people in Kyrgyzstan is much more Westernized.