Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What Is a Kuspuk?



Dad and Stepmom called this morning and one of their questions suggested to me that I should post a bit more info right about here, as a follow up to my previous post. “What exactly is a kuspuk?” they wanted to know. Buried somewhere deep in the archives of this blog I have mentioned it before, but not lately. So, for those who may be asking the same question, here is more about it.

A kuspuk is the traditional Yupik overshirt type garment worn by both men and women. Men tend to wear them primarily for ceremonial occasions, but for women they are everyday wear. Loose-fitting, they are extremely comfortable.

Basically, a kuspuk is a long-sleeved hooded slip-over shirt with a large pocket in the front, like a hooded sweatshirt without a banded bottom. The cuffs, pocket and hood are edged with rick-rack or a similar decorative trim. The size of the pocket and the way the trim is applied vary widely among kuspuk makers. Men’s kuspuks are solid colors, usually blue, green, black or white, and have a square bottom that ends at the hips. Women’s kuspuks are usually made from a patterned fabric, often a small floral print, and may have a short gathered skirt at the bottom. They may also be longer, essentially a dress, mid-thigh or knee length. Many women, myself included, prefer the shorter skirtless version, often known as “Yukon style.” Kuskokwim style” generally has the skirt.

Summer kuspuks are made from light-weight cotton, and are often worn over a tee shirt. Winter kuspuks are made of heavier fabric, and may even be lined with flannel or fur. Parkas are the supreme winter kuspuks, made of heavy fur on the outside, such as beaver, and lined on the inside with flannel or sometimes a lighter fur such as rabbit, and usually include a handsome fur ruff on the hood made of wolf, wolverine or beaver.

Kuspuks are the appropriate garment to wear for any occasion, from cutting fish to picking berries to Eskimo dancing to getting married. I was delighted to have a fancy new one with lovely pearl trim for my wedding; along with my ivory ulu earrings, it was the perfect thing to wear in Bethel.

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Photos by The Tundra PA:

1. Wedding kuspuk

2. Berry Picking kuspuk

3. Everyday kuspuk

4. Pearl trim on wedding kuspuk

5. Elder in her kuspuk

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10 Comments:

Blogger RunninL8 said...

What a beautiful color! And the elegant pearl trim adds an allusion to the tradition and formality of the occasion. Very nice!
My little one likes to wear hers sans pants because they interfere with The Twirl of the skirt.
Hey, if I knew you were in town I would have gifted you a massage! :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 9:55:00 PM  
Blogger Mema said...

I was redirected to your blog when I entered "Kuspuk" in a search engine. Some time ago, I was given a beautiful card that had a copy of a painting entitled, "Kuspuks by the Yard", by Barbara Lavallee. I was in the middle of framing the print, when I realized I had no idea what the term "Kuspuk" meant (I sort of thought it might be a Native American tribe), and decided to investigate on-line. Because of your explantaion, I am now well informed on Kuspuks! Thank you.

And P.S., I am also bookmarking your blog so that I can continue to enjoy it!

Sunday, August 23, 2009 9:26:00 AM  
Blogger The Tundra PA said...

Mema, thanks for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it! I am glad the description was helpful to you.

Barbara Lavallee is a wonderful Alaskan artist whose whimsical artwork portrays many aspects of traditional Yup'ik culture. I have many coffee mugs, trivets, and cards with her work, and love giving them as gifts to friends and family.

I am not actively writing the blog any more, as I no longer live in Bethel, but the archives are extensive and it could take you a while to read through them all.

Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, August 23, 2009 11:49:00 AM  
Anonymous wenna webb said...

Such a great information and I've been looking for this..

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 3:36:00 AM  
Blogger grasya said...

What a beautiful color! And an elegant pearl trim adds an indicator of the tradition and formality. Very nice!


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Wednesday, May 30, 2012 9:13:00 PM  
Anonymous best wp themes said...

After seeing this post I must admit that you are one of the best bloggers. Thanks for posting this informative article.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 11:57:00 PM  
Anonymous nessili said...

Talk about a small world. I Googled what a Kuspuk was, and your blog was one of the first to pop up. And I wanted to know more about kuspuks, because I'm visiting my parents here in Bethel, AK, where my father is a doctor at the YK. I see you've since left, but I still thought it was a cool coincidence :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 9:16:00 PM  
Blogger The Tundra PA said...

Nissili, thanks. I'm actually in Bethel this week working at the hospital. Sorry we missed a chance to meet. Email me if you see this before Sunday.

Friday, June 22, 2012 8:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was looking for a kuspuk pattern when I ran across your blog. We moved to Alaska in 1981. We lived in Dot Lake and now in Delta Junction. My daughter just called and said she would like to make her daughter a kuspuk like I made them when they were little. Do you have any idea where to get a pattern? Years ago I had one for my girls but it is long gone.:) I enjoyed your blog. I will have to search it out. Thanks

Thursday, April 11, 2013 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last several days I've been working on the "Ice Fishing" wall hanging that Barbara Lavallee put together. I had no idea what a Kuspuk was until just now when I put it on my computer. At first I thought it might be the three ladies but I was wrong. I'm very glad to learn what I'm creating in this quilt. It is a fun wall hanging and I'm looking forward to finishing it. Thanks! Doris M. P. Horlacher, Spanish Fork, Utah.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013 10:38:00 AM  

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