Making a Russian Kokoshnik


Our LARP group is having a “formal” encounter at our first event this year, so I made myself a dress out of plum colored microsuede.  In addition, My Try Something New Every Month project for April is beading embellishment, and I felt like this the dress was the perfect piece to start on.  Once I finished the dress, though, I contacted my friend Rachel who is a photographer and asked her if she would be willing to do a photoshoot in the mountains of me in my dress, and she agreed!

We aren’t able to get together until this coming Sunday, and the dress will have been done for nearly two weeks by then, so I thought I would try my hand at making a headpiece to go with it.  After researching several options, I settled on the Russian Kokoshnik because it could be made relatively easily from materials I already had on hand.

The kokoshnik is a traditional Russian head-dress worn by women and girls to accompany the sarafan (a long, trapeze-shaped traditional Russian jumper dress), primarily worn in the northern regions of Russia in the 16th to 19th centuries.  Historically a kokoshnik is a headdress worn by married women, though maidens wore a headdress very similar to a kokoshnik, but open in the back, named a povyazka.


While in the past kokoshnik styles varied greatly, currently a kokoshnik is generally associated with a tall, nimbus or crest shaped headdress which is tied at the back of the head with long thick ribbons in a large bow. The crest can be embroidered with pearls and goldwork or simple applique, usually using plant and flower motifs. The forehead area is frequently decorated with pearl netting.

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During the revival of Russian national culture in the early 19th century, diadem-shaped tiaras became part of the official court dress for royalty and for ladies-in-waiting.  These “kokoshniks” were inspired just as much by Italian Renaissance fashions and by the French hood as by the authentic Russian kokoshniks still worn by the middle class and wealthy peasants of the time.

I did not follow a tutorial or any instructions because, quite frankly, I couldn’t find any in English, or any that translated from Russian in an understandable format.  After much research and looking at pictures of the different parts, I made my own pattern from a manilla file folder.  I made the pattern the size I wanted the finished headpiece.  I cut one of each out of stiff peltex, and then I traced approximately 3/4″ on the wrong-side of the plum microsuede fabric I planned on covering it with.


I cut one of each out of stiff peltex, and then I traced approximately 3/4″ on the wrong-side of the plum microsuede fabric I planned on covering it with.  I then traced the line of the peltex on the right side of the microsuede so I had a beading guide, and then I sewed alternating pearls and plum iridescent beads on the upper edge and smaller pearls and plum seed beads on the lower edge.

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Once the “lines” of beading were finished, I added the same detail to the center top of the kokoshnik that I added on the front of the dress, and voila, the beading is done!


After adding a layer of thin batting to each side of the peltex, I used my iron to fuse the layers together with the fusible (I ended up ironing from the other side so I didn’t damage the beading and pearls), which made attaching the fabric much easier!


After wrapping the front piece around the peltex and pinning it, I hand sewed the fabric to the peltex with whip stitches.  I followed the same process for the “lining” or back piece of microsuede, but instead of wrapping it around the peltex, I folded it under and whip stitched it to the folded over edge of the front piece of microsuede.


Instead of lining the inside of the band portion with microsuede, I used a piece of gray felt – I think it will stand up to the contact with hair (i.e. hair products, etc.) better.  After attaching the band to the front piece, I added gold ribbons to each end to keep with the traditional kokoshnik design.  The ribbons would originally have been used to tie the kokoshnik on the head, but the headband fits well enough I don’t think I will need to tie it to keep it on.

This is a good look at the front, front side, and back of the kokoshnik to see how it is put together and how it sits on the head.

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I didn’t originally think that this headpiece fit the time period for the dress, but since I made it, I did some more research and found that while not abundant, the general design and shape were common, though usually worn with a veil attached to the back.

My finished Russian Kokoshnik:




I am so happy with how this headpiece turned out, and making it has given me the confidence to make more head wear, especially since my Try Something New Every Month project for August is Hat and Mask Making.

This project is one of many I have on My Finish-A-Long Quarter 2 Project List.  So far I feel like I am staying on track to get most of the projects finished, though we’ll see what happens when Emma’s wedding gets even closer!

Linking up with Confession of a Fabric Addict, Crazy Mom Quilts, Thank Goodness Its Finished Friday, and Show off Saturday.

12 thoughts on “Making a Russian Kokoshnik

  1. Wow, you did a fabulous job! I always admired these on the girls when I watched Ukrainian dancing. Amy you come in as a no-reply blogger, did you know? Luckily I did some detective work and found you are “a contributor to” this blog (love the name!). The No Bake Jolly Bar is a snap to make, but look out, you may get hooked. I did. Very few garments since!

    1. Sandra – thank you for the heads up with the “no comment” issue. I didn’t know that was going on. I’ll have to research how to fix it. Thank you for the comments about the kokoshnik, I am so pleased with how well it turned out, especially since I have never made any sort of headwear before! I made all our kids quilts last year for Christmas, and now Todd wants one. I’m thinking the Jolly Bar would be perfect!

  2. What an interesting post! I loved learning about the kokoshniks and seeing your lovely purple one! Thanks for showing how you did it too!

  3. This is amazing Amy! Thank you for showing how to make a kokoshnick! I love your plum fabric! A great project for your beading! I look forward to seeing the photos of you, wearing your kokoshnick with the dress.
    Barbara x

  4. I am so happy that you linked up to TGIFF! I had no idea what a kokoshnik is but your post does a great job of explaining it and showing that they look like. I’ve dabbled in headgear but nothing like this. Yet, you made this seem much easier than it can possibly be. I want to try making one, just to see if I can! Well, also because it’s interesting. I bet my little granddaughters would love a kokoshnik “crown” for dress up! Thanks for the well-written post.
    Mary @

    1. Thank you, Mary! I had no idea what a kokoshnik was either, but when I stumbled across them, I thought it would be perfect! I think you are right – your granddaughters would probably love them! You could even make “blanks” for them to decorate themselves!

      Thank you for the very nice comment!

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