Since ancient times, the Cossacks have dressed themselves in whatever turns up, and mostly in clothes taken as prey. The Cossacks of the Upper Donets towns and villages dressed in much the same way as the inhabitants of the South Russian provinces, but the suit of the lower-ranking Cossacks was a bizarre mixture of Russian, Little Russian, Polish, Tatar, Kalmyk, Turkish and Circassian elements.
Pants, invented by the Scythians, are the important element of the Cossack costume. Without them, the life of the horseman is impossible. «Over the centuries, their cut has not changed: they are wide trousers, as you can not sit on your horse in tight pants, besides they will grate your feet and hinder the movements of the rider. So those wide trousers that were found in the ancient burial mounds were the same as the Cossacks in the 18th and 19th centuries».
Cossack lampas (trouser stripes) were of particular importance. It was believed that they were introduced for the first time by Platov, but the lampas are also found on the old Cossack clothes, and even on the clothes of the Polovtsians, and even earlier — the Scythians. So, under Platov, the wearing of lampas was only legalized, and they existed before, signifying the ownership of their wearer to a free army. It is no accident that the Cossacks are so proud of them.
The Cossack trousers were not only a part of a man's suit. In the Cossacks they entered a typical Middle or North-Russian costume of women's oriental clothes.
The male suit of the lower-ranking Cossacks included a shirt of Kalmyk breed. Beshmet was put over a shirt and trousers. «For the most part, it was a waisted caftan, sometimes cut at the waist, not with ruffles, but with wedges. It was sewn from different fabrics, sometimes from silk oriental matter, on a lining, often quilted on cotton wool».
A mandatory accessory of the traditional type of clothing was zipun (homespun coat). «They wore shirts, beshmet (caftans), trousers, boots, hats with zipun». Zipun is a kind of unbuttoned clothing of a semi-adjoining, expanded to the bottom silhouette, with narrow sleeves, without a collar, worn over the shirt. It was considered such an important element of the costume that the campaigns for war spoils were often called «campaigns for zipuns.» The popularity of zipuns can be explained by their convenience, especially when riding, due to small volume dimensions, as well as relatively mild climatic conditions of the Don region.
Over zipun they put on a caftan, which descended below the knees. The caftan was made of brocade, velvet, satin, damask (silk with a single-colored pattern) of bright colors, fastened with silver or gilded ploshchas (type of buttons). The addition of the caftan were expensive Turkish and Persian shawls and kushaks (waist belts), which they wore with a knife or a sword. On top of the caftan, they sometimes wore Chokha from cloth with split sleeves and cuffs, trimmed with gold braid with sparkles.
From the outer clothing the Cossacks have long preferred the Arkhaluk (turkic. “arkha” — back, turkic. “lyk” — warm) — “warming a back” — something in between a quilted Tatar gown and a caftan.
Chekmen and chapan are also the old outer clothing of Cossacks, mostly gown-like. Chekmen by the main cut lines and by the method of wraping the right flap on the left, is similar to the Scythian caftans from ancient images, as well as the Caucasian Circassian. They wore ceremonial chekmen in plowing over the beshmet and cold arm, and the common chekmen was pulled together by a belt, on which a checker was attached from the outside.
The nature and characteristics of women's clothing are explained by the origin of the Cossacks. Women have long retained the traditional clothing of the places from where they came to the Don. On the Lower and Middle Don, where the Tatars, the Turkish women, and the Nogai women most often fell into captivity, the most widespread was a complex of women's costumes with a kubelek. In it, the influence of the East was especially felt. Ordinary women's sarafan, or kulelek, was not very long cloth. The cloth was painted in mottled colors.
The clothes of the Cossack sergeant wives were distinguished by their eastern splendor and wealth. The main part of the costume was a dress — kubelek, — resembling a Tatar coat in the cut and shape. The rich sewed it out of brocade. The bodice of the dress was fastened with silver or gold-plated buttons. At the same time, there was a second row of buttons (gold or niased of pearls), which served as decoration only. The belt (tataur), worn above the waist, consisted of interconnected silver, gilded links. There were also belts of colored velvet embroidered with pearls. Kubeleka's flats came one by one, not fastened.
In summer, women, leaving the house, wore kavrak — a dressing gown of silk or brocade. The Cossacks had long fur coats of Asian cut, in the form of a wide, wrapover gown.
Cossacks worn bashmaki — leather shoes with belts, so named because it was made from calfskin (turk. “bashmak” — calf). «In the upper villages in summer they wore shoes of rough leather on the thick soles and always woolen stockings of their own making.»
Traditional costume of the Don Cossacks was formed as a result of the interaction of different cultures. It is associated with the peculiarities of the emergence and development of this distinctive ethnic formation. Still, the eastern Turkic element played a very important role.