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July 15, 2016

23 Amazing Vintage Portrait Photos of Khalkha Women in Their Mongolian Traditional Costumes in the Early 1900s

The Khalkha is the largest subgroup of Mongol people in Mongolia since the 15th century. The Khalkha, together with Chahars, Ordos and Tumed, were directly ruled by Borjigin khans until the 20th century; unlike the Oirats, who were ruled by Dzungar nobles, or the Khorchins, who were ruled by Qasar's descendants.

The most impressive, perhaps, was the head ornament of the married Khalkha women. The main element of their headdress is a special hairstyle, designed to mimic cow's horns. A cow for the Mongols has been the symbol of freedom and nomadic life. According to another version, the hairstyle does not imitate horns, but the wings of some mythical bird.

As you can imagine, the structure of this hairstyle is very complicated. The basis of it is a small silver cap with filigree, to which numerous silver, coral or turquoise ornaments are attached. The combed back hair is divided into two parts and formed into the "horns" with the help of several silver or bamboo pins. The lower part of the strands is braided in plaits. Rich women allow themselves to further decorate this part of the hair: the plaits are put into embroidered brocade covers with rows of coral and silver bands. For special events or for traveling a pointed hat (malagay) which looks like a crown is worn over the small cap. The hat is usually made of velvet and has colourful ribbons attached at the back. The top is sometimes decorated with a big coral or other stone.

Here, below is a collection of rare and amazing portrait photos of Khalkha women in their traditional costumes in the early 1900s.


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