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Gypsy Costume


Gypsy costume can be of several types. Certainly, all are based on the dress of nomadic Gypsies. People who made stage and theatrical clothes studied the appearance of those Gypsies who lived in tents and vans. As a result the exotic dresses which are so famous all over the world appeared.


On this site you will find unique information from the archive of Nickolay Bessonov, who has kindly agreed to be responsible for this section of the project. As a Russian ethnographer, he has collected many photographs and reproductions of old paintings. When you look at them, you will see how different the clothes of Gypsies from different countries are. Only when you study this great variety will you realize that Gypsy style is not about any special type of dress — it is about the manner in which they wear their clothes. There has always been a touch of nonchalance and an easy attitude toward the world about the nomadic way. They have always liked loose comfortable clothes which don’t hinder movement. When pilgrims got tired they just sat down to rest on the sidewalk. Unlike Europeans, they didn’t use chairs or benches much. Usually people were careful not to dirty their clothes, but a Gypsy's appearance cannot be spoilt. This is what attracted painters so much. Gypsies were an irresistible Oriental mixture of theatrical poverty and theatrical luxury — shabby rags and glittering gold jewelry… Who else could be poor and rich at the same time?


Every nation is famous for something. Ancient Egyptians had great architecture; Spartans and Vikings became famous as brave warriors; ancient Greece gave us philosophy, rhetoric and theatre.


Gypsies did not build monuments or organize military campaigns; they didn’t sculpt marble statues. But their nomadic civilization had a great influence on European culture. Centuries may pass, but their romantic style will inspire artistic people over and overs again.  



The columnist is Nickolay Bessonov,

author of the site “Gypsies of Russia”