Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Kuspuk - an Alaskan Tunic

Since I live in Alaska, I wanted a kuspuk, which is kind of like a tunic traditionally worn by Yu'pik women here.  I have seen Yup'iks and other Alaskans wear these, but mostly, for dress and traditional cultural celebrations.  On occasion, I see women wearing them at places like the airport (and mostly, it seems,  these women are on their way to places like Bethel, which is a large Yup'ik village in western Alaska).

 I made mine using fabric and trim inherited from Nick's mom, Carol.  She was an artist and a quilter, and when she died, I got some of her cottons. Most of these are now used up -  I  made a lot of aprons a while back and gave them as gifts.  But I have a few pieces, still, and the print on this dress is traditional for a Kuspuk -  usually they're made of printed cotton with rick rack trim, or similar other trim.

 This is the pattern I used.  Being that I'm in Alaska, I was able to pick it up easily at a local quilting store.  I don't think they're easily found outside Alaska, except by webstore/mail order.  At least, I never saw one of these before I came to Alaska a year and a half ago. 

The pattern is pretty basic and not fitted,  but I found the  instructions are a little obtuse.  Since the design is not complicated, I just did what I knew would work.  I changed the directions around so that I sewed the zipper in on the flat, and made a few other construction order changes, such as hemming the skirt before it was gathered and attached to the body of the tunic.  This made it easier.  Also, I made the pocket much smaller than the version on the pattern.  The version on the pattern spanned the width of the front, which seemed wierd, so I made the pocket smaller.  There is a lot of variation in Kuspuk design, so anything would work, I suppose.  I do know from talking to Alaskans, that with Kuspuks, depending on who makes them, each maker might have variation on on hood shape, pocket placement, and trim placement, depending on where the wearer is from (that is, if the wearer is Yupik).  Being that I wanted to honor the Alaskan tradition of Kuspuk, but I am not affiliated with any one town or village, I felt I could use creative license, as long as I honored the integrity of the garment overall.

 Here is a great website from a lady who makes and sells Kuspuks.  You can see here some different design variations. 

The hood is traditionally used to keep out bugs - and it is nice to have when the day gets a little chilly.  Mostly, I'm planning on wearing this inside, or in warmer temperatures.  But this evening (the first time I wore the Kuspuk), it got a bit cold outside, so the hood came in handy.

I think I will be making a second Kuspuk, but the second one will not be of traditional printed cotton.  I'm thinking a lightweight silk might be interesting. 


RhondaBuss said...

You are truly embracing Alaska! I had no idea this garment existed. I'll have to Google it and see Other variations.

Lisette M said...

I love learning about different costumes!