Afghan Dress

A Turkmen cap from Afghanistan, late twentieth century. A Turkmen cap from Afghanistan, late twentieth century. TRC 2016.1865.
Published in Afghan Dress

10. Turkmen traditional dress

The Turkmen are an ethnic group who speak a form of Western Ghuz (Oghuz) Turkic. Apart from Afghanistan, Turkmen also live in Iran, Turkmenistan and other parts of the former Soviet Union.

The basic costume for an Afghan Turkmen man traditionally consists of a pair of loose cotton trousers (balaq) and a shirt (koynek). Over these is worn a tight-sleeved robe (don) of striped silk. These garments are held together at the waist with a sash (qusaq). A man's headgear consists of a small skullcap (bork), sometimes with a turban or a cylindrical, black sheepskin hat (telpek). A smaller, and more expensive version is the karakuli, an astrakhan cap made famous by (ex-) President hamid Karzai.

1999.0136Turkmen headdress (telpek) from Iran, late twentieth century (TRC 1999.0136). For more information, click on the illustration.


The basic dress of a Turkmen woman traditionally consists of under trousers (balaq), a dress (koynek), and a headdress of some kind. In addition, some groups also have a face veil (yasmak), a sash (sal qusaq, bil qusak), an indoor coat (cabit or kurte), and for outdoor wear, a second coat (chyrpy).

2008.0230cTurkmen woman's cap, Afghanistan, early twenty-first century (TRC 2008.0230). For more information, click on illustration.An important feature of Turkmen dress for women is the quantity of silver and, more recently, gold jewellery. Most of the jewellery is worn on the head, down the front and back of the upper torso and on the lower arms and hands, where it is very visible and people can see the social and economic status of the wearer.

An important element of Turkmen dress, of men, women and children, is the inclusion of amulets. They may take the form of a piece of cloth enclosing a text, which is sewn onto a garment. Such a text is usually taken from the Koran. Other amulets take the form of bracteates with a specific shape or with an impressed or engraved text. The amulets are meant to protect the wearer against the evil eye, diseases, evil spirits, and other negative influences.



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