Posted by: Borderless Borderguard | December 10, 2007

clothing culture in Samarkand

Couple of days ago BBC World Services reported on a fascinating phenomenon in Dushanbe, “Putin by The Metre”, which I thought was true only in Samarkand, a beautiful city in the heart of Uzbekistan. Indeed, it is the most interesting fabric culture/business which has been flourishing since collapse of the Soviet Union, or in other words, since independence of Uzbekistan, acquired in fall 1991, like many other post-soviet states on that year.


There are two fashion trends in the city, which influence the life or at least appearance of the majority of Samarkandi ladies. European fashion – usually European styled dresses, jeans, t-shirts imported from Turkey, Dubai, Russia and now even South Korea, and National fashion – fabric imported again from abroad, Dubai, Turkey, Korea, China, etc. The difference between trends is: the first trend is ready-made pieces of clothing, while the second is pure fabric.


National fashion has a hilarious naming culture. This fashion has a very dynamic nature. Only the strongest hits can survive couple of months. Fabrics usually carry names of soup opera heroes, political leaders, or historical characters. For example, Usama Bin Laden, Marianna, and newer ones, Putin, the eyebrows of Emomali (the president of Tajikistan), the tears of Shahruh (a Bolywood star) are some of the names of fabrics; it is interesting the way it is used in daily routine, like Nargiza is wearing Putin, and Madina bought Usama Bin Laden… etc. So Usama Bin Laden does not only mean a terrorist number one, but also a very beautiful fabric, which many women in Samarkand and in neighbouring Tajikistan ware on the weddings and other festivities.


Interestingly there is no proper system of naming, (I mean the fabric doesn’t get its name printed on in the factory) but as soon as the name is given by a random person, it spreads all over Samarkand, Bukhara, and cities of Tajikistan, and obviously beyond that. Amazingly no fabric has double names.



The argument goes, Tajik cities (sorry for those who will be mad now, saying that these cities are Uzbek, I do not deny it they are situated within Uzbekistan’s territory, but the population of the cities, (I lived and worked in both of them) identify the cities with Tajik, in cultural terms) such as Samarkand and Bukhara have the strongest national-dress-of-national-fabric culture in Uzbekistan. Please, ignore the word ‘national’, it doesn’t have to do with the nation, because the fabric is produced abroad, and dresses made, are not worn nation-wide and differ from region to region. National is meant as an opposite for Russian or European, this term has been developed as a result of Russian cultural presence, to distinguish between Russian/European and indigenous; the term national is used almost for everything. But back to the issue: a young Samarkandi lady receives a dowry of 40 dresses, mainly of the above mentioned national style, with the last hit fabric. Moreover, if any of the relatives appear to have a birthday, or marry, or any festivities of the sort, the ladies buy some fabric and make a dress especially for this event. Of course, this isn’t true for each and every woman in Samarkand, but the majority of the female population does so.

european-style soviet times

Well, back to the argument, I think I need your help here. People who live in or around Uzbekistan, Central Asia, do you know if this clothing culture is existent in other regions? I might be biased, because I lived only in three towns in Uzbekistan, and only in two of them, namely Samarkand and Bukhara, I experienced immensely this fabric culture.



  1. […] tells about fabric culture/business which has been flourishing since collapse of the Soviet Union in […]

  2. Hey brother, do you know anywebsite that sells Tajiki women dress?

  3. Hey Brother!
    Well, actually the only way to get some Tajik garments is to go to Central Asian bazaars. Even there, I am afraid you will find only fabric… as next you should go to dress-maker’s to get dress made for you. As far as I know there is one Tashkenti factory, which also makes traditional dresses.
    There are also some new designers from Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries, who might sell modernised old garments for quite a high price, but again, I doubt there is any Tajik woman who would afford dressing like that…

    Pay a visit to Samarkand, Buxoro, or even Tashkent and also to neighbouring Tajikistan. Bazaars there are full of hints and dresses.

  4. we are interesed about fbric dresses can you tell us the price four macedonia we have stores round of macedonia.if you are intersed to have a contact with us we will weiting your reply
    with oll osmani

  5. well, all these names of materials are not originally given by the cloth producer as you have pointed correctly. therefore the consumption and commodification of the object whatever it is makes it decentralised in a sense that even name and purpose of usage of object is changed. most of these cloths , fabrics are used not actually for making dresses, but maybe decrate the house, but the material gets its consumers in another country because they obtain them without knowing its eligible utilization. the only material famouse born with its name in central asia is Atlas (silk cloth) all other fancy ones are unfortunately mass consumption form eastern countries mentioned in ur article, so other countires are becoming developed with the help of the third world developing countries.

  6. Dear Sir . I want to know where I can find the Uzbek or Tajik men gowns. Which men usually wear on there shoulders. Please advise.

  7. Dear All !!

    I am not into fashion or clothes, but in something else. I would like to find the women of my life in central asia. I would like any help from you in knowing a young, beautiful, and loving ethnic central asian woman. Please help me if you can. I don’t want to go through those marriage agencies for money.

    Thanks to all of you.

  8. Dear All !!

    I am not into fashion or clothes, but in something else. I would like to find the woman of my life in central asia. I would like any help from you in knowing a young, beautiful, and loving ethnic central asian woman. Please help me if you can. I don’t want to go through those marriage agencies for money.

    Thanks to all of you.

  9. Dear All !!

    I am not into fashion or clothes, but in something else. I would like to find the woman of my life in central asia. I would like any help from you in knowing a young, beautiful, and loving ethnic central asian woman. Please help me if you can. I don’t want to go through those marriage agencies for money.

    I live in Yemen, and I am Muslim, divorced, educated in the USA, I am fluent in English, Italian (mother tongue), Arabic (mother tonngue), and speak Bulgarian too. i am financially indipendent and make a good monthly salary.

    My e-mail is

    Thanks to all of you.

  10. Ohhhh !!!! I am soooo….. DESPERATE !!!!!!!!!!

  11. Ohhhh !!!! I am soooo….. DESPERATE !!!!!!!!!!

    HELP ! HELP ! HELP !

  12. hi all
    i wana to know about Uzbekistani ladies fashion of long crdigans and sweaters in winter
    my id is

  13. I spent 3 years in Turkmenistan and they do have the same fabric/dress culture. Although the styles of the dresses vary a lot also – everyone will call it a “Turkmen koynek” but the only thing consistent between dresses is the long hem length (sleeves and neckline might show a surprising amount of skin) and the fact that the fabric was bought and then sewn into a dress. Besides fabric trends, dress styles also cycle through fads quickly. A ruffled “lettuce” edging at the hems was one that was popular while I was there, as well as wide but high boatneck necklines.

  14. […] —Nafisa […]

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  18. Assalomu alaykum Mr. Borderless borderguide.
    I do not like the criticizing undertone of your article. You say women wear binladen fabric for weddings. Some idiot decided to name a beautiful fabric with a killers name to attract attention, there are plenty of them. I never buy fabrics by their name at Syob. Selling binladens speeches as books in Dover publications (in US) catalogues does not seem to disturb anybody.
    You say you lived some time in Uzbek cities. (Those are not towns).
    You never mention how kind and hospitable people locals are. They treated you as a friend, shared their salt and bread with you. And you are, behind their backs, criticizing my peoples culture. Women around the world like to dress up for birthday parties and weddings. I do not know any woman no matter from what culture she is, willing to wear something ugly to a special occasion. Uzbek or Tajik, they are my people and I love them. I love my culture. Being different does not mean being worthy of criticism.

  19. Vaaleykum assalom Mukaddas. Thank you for the comment and for having read the article.
    1. I am very sorry to hear that you sensed some ‘criticising undertone’ in the article. Can you please be so kind to refer to the exact paragraph that you find particularly criticising. I would very much appreciate it if you can help me improve my writing.
    2. I agree that naming of the fabric is quite random, I would not go far as calling these entrepreneurs idiots, but thanks for your insight. You are right though this is done to attract attention, and at the time of writing this blog post, Osama Bin Laden was the most expensive and beautiful of all fabrics. I am sure by now there’s plenty more trends.
    3. I certainly did not allege that you buy these fabrics, sorry if it made you feel that way.
    4. You lost me with your comment on Dover publications catalogues.
    5. Again, don’t understand your comment about towns/cities. I didn’t mention how kind and hospitable local people are because that wasn’t the subject of the blog post. Your allegations are amusing. How would you know how I was treated and how I feel about them? Firstly, I don’t understand your defensive reaction against this article, and if you have read some more posts on this blog you would realise that I am Central Asian, and that I am from Samarkand, not just a foreigner who spent some time there.
    6. There is nothing wrong with dressing up. I would like to do it whenever I have the occasion. Samarkandi ladies are gorgeous and they know how to dress up well.
    7. Here I love your optimism and share it wholeheartedly. I love my people too. And if you spend some more time on this blog you will realise that I celebrate difference and I am fascinated by all the colourfulness of our land and our people.
    8. Mukaddas, may I ask you to read this blog post again without the anger just a curiosity. This was written with by a local Samarkandi who admires their culture and is very curious about it.
    9. Thanks for stopping by. And I should tell everyone that folks in Central Asia have big hearts I should know it. Take care.

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