Monday, December 24, 2012

Riding in Red Silk.....


What do you get when you mix together silk, silver & sheepskin and sixty or so years of sewing experince??

  Julie's new winter dell! 

No, not a computer ( and a weird computer that would be made out of silk, silver and sheepskin...)...a wonderful, warm traditional Mongolian long coat.  And before all of you linguists get up in arms and start yelling at your computer "It's a DEEL Julie, a DEEL!!" I want to make the case for phonic transliteration...yes, that's what I said.  Phonics...remember those?  You see in Mongolian the long coat is called a дээл...for those of you who don't have Cyrillic enabled on your computer that may look like ????...in which case here it is ..anglicized.... deel.
  
Now, if you are an English speaker and you see the word "deel" you're likely going to pronounce it like peel...or feel...or kneel..or...well, you get the idea.  In Mongolian, however, having two "e"s together doesn't make that lovely long "e" sound we have in English. Instead, it maintains the  short "e" sound (like fell, or knell, or sell....) but makes it so that the speaker holds that sound for a longer period of time.  Thus...the  Mongolian word "deel"  sounds MUCH more like dell than it does "deel" when you write in in English - hence the phonic transliteration..and so my дээл will be written in English as dell...so that all of you who don't actually live here at the end of the earth and are not familiar with this (fantastic!) article of clothing will have a shot at pronouncing it correctly.  So there's the case for my spelling - now on to what it is and why it is so wonderful!
As I try to make my way through life here in Mongolia, I am finding that the people who have lived in this climate for the past 22,000 or so years have figured out a quite a bit about how to stay warm through it all.  As I am doing the Mongolian thing and riding through the winter ( albeit less frequently and for shorter distances) and because I have been entranced with the gorgeous, sparkly dells since I first came to Mongolia and saw people everywhere parading around through the coldest weather in warmth and style,  I decided that I really ( really) wanted to get a winter dell! As an added incentive,  that is what the Mongolians who live out in the countryside wear all the time. My theory was that it will be something I will wear forever...unless that global warming thing turns out to be true!
 A couple of points about the winter dell - completely lined with tanned sheep skin it is HEAVY!!  My guess is about 15 or so kgs...and as it is very long it makes getting up onto the horse quite a feat.  Fortunately, I had help!
 The Mongolian winter brings out a whole variety of styles of warm riding gear.  My friend Robyn has a Mongolian cape made of sheepskin that she uses when she rides...

 And  for the authentic Mongolian look  there's Baagii with his long & short dell combination topped with a Russian style mink hat and finished off with the hand tooled leather boots, Santa with her cashmere dell, insulated carharts  and jaunty Santa cap and of course...my great winter dell and fox fur hat.  Ok Shelly - you're right there is no helmet under that hat....I don't know if you will believe me, but in all the effort of getting up onto the horse, I forgot I didn't have a helmet on until we were well out on the ride...still, I have to say it makes a rather fetching fashion statement.  

 Getting the deel made was no easy feat.  Getting the materials was fairly easy - the sheepskins  were actually from the sheep we killed and sold earlier in the year to help one of the local herders raise some money to pay for open heart surgery, the silk was the result of a romp through the amazing fabric section of the Black Market ( which deserves, and will get....some day a blog post of its own!), and the silver buttons  were not in any of the fancy fancy button shops that I rummaged through looking for the "perfect" button, but rather they were lying in a pile of nondescript plastic ones in a little stall in the black market that was manned by a woman that my driver Bayaraa knew from when he was a child...when he used to make silver buttons with her!! It is kind of cool that my buttons were made by a friend of a friend. Bayaraa, however, could have told me he knew a button maker before I spent the better part of two afternoons combing the silver shops in the city looking for the "perfect" buttons.  Oh well...live and learn.
In any case, having assembled the necessary materials, I was left to find someone who could make it for me. A dell,you see, it is a very traditional article of clothing that is usually made by your mother, or grandmother.  After 3 abortive attempts, I finally found a grannie who was prepared to make one for me. She told me she had, in her lifetime, made more than 100 of these for family members, friends and customers...and her mother had been a seamstress for the last Bogd Khan (....see previous blog posts to find out about him!) How cool is that??

So..she took my  gorgeous iridescent silk...
 ...added three buttons at the hip...
 Two at the chest...two at the neck...one at the armpit...one on each sleeve to hold up the gorgeous extra long sleeves, one on the bottom of each sleeve to cinch it in  in case of wind...

 ...created a duplicate sheepskin dell for the inside - including the long, long sleeves that men in the countryside traditionally wear.  I wanted them as they are so WARM on your hands when you're riding! All that took was fourteen ( yep, fourteen!) sheep skins...
 ...and voila!  All that remained in order to take advantage of this pinnacle of warm clothing technology was a lesson in dell belt tying...the winter version!
 It takes serious work to get any kind of waistline when you have one of these on!


But success was achieved, and the dell was blessed with a traditional poem which involves each section of the dell being tugged and straightened as the appropriate part of the poem is recited...followed by a gift of cash!  In this case it was 1,000 MNT ..about 80 cents. How wonderful to have my dell  welcomed to the world...Mongolian style!!  Now it was ready to fulfill its many purposes...
 ...including, but not limited to:  blanket,
...wrestling gown...
...and deliciously warm haute couture...Mongolian countryside style!  Next month we're making Chelvan's!