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Traditional 'taraz' costumes and photoshoot

Traditional 'taraz' costumes and photoshoot image

Visitors exchange painted silk fabric in a craft workshop. (Photo by Areg Vardanyan, My Armenia Program)

Like almost every young Armenian girl, Hasmik Khachatryan learned to sew from her mother and grandmother. However, what makes Hasmik so special is that she restored traditional methods of sewing and tailoring in her home city of Gyumri by opening Zanan Cultural House. At Zanan today, you’ll find traditional handmade costumes, lessons in the art of fabric painting, and even opportunities for capturing it all in photographs.

Gyumri is a historic city with rich traditions of couture, which brought tailors from across Europe and Asia to weave together distinctive tapestries of artisanship. Refined over generations, Armenian festive clothing became defined by its fabrics and decorations, with dresses made from broadcloth, velvet, silk, and wool—and with a special Gyumri touch of gold thread. Over the years, Gyumri fashion evolved, thanks to other regional dress traditions, such as those from Western Armenia’s Karin region.

Your visit to Zanan begins with a brief tour of the studio, followed by lessons in the art of fabric painting. Because Armenia possesses such a rich writing culture, you’ll learn about “bird letters,” a calligraphic tradition that entwines images of birds with the elegant letters of Armenian script. On either chiffon or silk, Hasmik will show you how to paint a scarf with your own bird letters, creating a special souvenir to take home.

Hasmik’s collections are not only to be admired, but also meant to be worn! Get in the spirit and dress up in traditional Armenian costumes for your very own photoshoot. In the late 19th century, family photography became a common ritual in Armenia to mark special occasions and to demonstrate close kinship between generations and in-laws. Although personal cameras became more common during Soviet times, many families and friends continued to capture their special moments together in local photo studios. At Zanan, you’ll step back in time as Hasmik helps you choose from several traditional Gyumri, Karin, and Akhaltsikhe costumes from the 18th and 19th centuries before snapping the picture.

Afterwards, as you enjoy refreshments of coffee and tea while your photos are printed, you’ll be able to appreciate the ways Armenian people dress and how their clothing symbolically speaks of past migrations and diverse regional communities.

Meet your host

Meet Hasmik, a professional engineer-technologist in sewing production, who decided in 2014 to return to her favorite occupation by creating the Tnak sewing atelier and fabric shop. The revival of traditional costumes for dance ensembles inspired Hasmik and her colleagues in 2019 to establish the Zanan Cultural House as a place for the study of costume sewing and traditional national dress. The team at Zanan combines traditions of tailoring in this historic part of the city with national costumes and studio photography to create an indelible experience.

Photo by Areg Vardanyan, My Armenia Program

Photo by Areg Vardanyan, My Armenia Program

Photo by Areg Vardanyan, My Armenia Program

Photo by Areg Vardanyan, My Armenia Program

Photo by Areg Vardanyan, My Armenia Program

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