Historically, national Sakha costume is an important part of the annual festival Ysyakh. All the festival participants would dress into their national costumes and women are adorned with silver jewellery. These celebratory costumes were handed down through generations and were highly treasured. It was considered to be a violation of a dress code to show up at the Ysyakh celebrations without an appropriate attire.
“Notwithstanding the inevitable influences of neighbouring nations on all aspects of national identity, the Sakha people managed to preserve their independent tastes and customs. This also applies to national costumes. For example, traditional Sakha costumes have distinctive colour combinations and unique style that make them stand out from patterns and motifs of other northern cultures” – noted by a famous researcher and writer, Wacław Sieroszewski over a century ago.
Women wear a traditional dress called Khaladai – a loose maxi dress made out of 7 meters of light-coloured cotton fabric. It is accessorised with a corset-like overcoat, a hat called Jyabaka along with traditional silver jewellery set. Usually women have multiple silver sets: a lighter and modest version used with Khaladai dress that is called Syurekh, and a heavy and more elaborate jewellery that is used over heavy coats that is called Ilin Kebiher.
Even in hot June weather when Ysyakh festival is usually held, men traditionally wear long kaftans that are embroidered with traditional motifs and decorated with sable fur and silver details. They accessorise their ensemble with a belt, Sakha traditional knife in a sheath, and deibiir – a fan made of horsehair and used to brush off mosquitoes.
Men’s costumes vary in colour from blue to green, burgundy to grey or brown. Men wear a hat made of braided horsehair (kyl) or a fabric hat trimmed with sable fur.
Over the centuries the fashion of Sakha national costumes has not changed much. Modern Sakha people still wear similarly styled clothes and shoes that were worn by their ancestors.