Bulgarian women's costume

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The main categories of woman's dress found in Bulgaria today are the single or double apron (bruchnik) costume, the closed tunic (soukman) costume and the open tunic (saya). All three types of costumes comprise a chemise (riza), apron(s) or a tunic and apron, a headdress, a belt, knitted socks and often a waistcoat or overcoat. 

Single or Double apron costume

This style of dress consists of one or two aprons worn over the chemise and tied round the waist.  The chemise most often worn with the double apron costume is gathered at the neck and wrists and is called a burchanka. All variants of this style of dress are worn with a narrow woven fabric belt, knitted patterned socks and leather sandals (tsârvuli) or felt slippers.

Closed tunic - Soukman

The soukman is an sleeveless or short sleeved overdress with a low V or U-shaped neck. It is usually made of dark woollen material and decorated wit h braid. It is worn over an embroidered straight cut chemise (riza) and in most areas with a richly decorated apron. A waistband or narrow belt is worn over the soukman. Various types of waistcoats and jackets are also worn, and knitted socks, leather sandals or felted slippers or, more commonly today, shoes.

Open tunic - Saya

The saya is an open tunic (like a coat), usually with long or short sleeves. It is worn with a chemise which is usually called a koshoulya, a waistband, a headscarf and a straight front apron made of one or two lengths of fabric with a vertical seam.

The fabrics used to make these traditional garments were home produced from materials available locally. Wool, hemp, flax, and later silk thread was spun and woven into fabric by hand, then sewn into garments which were hand decorated using thread dyed with natural colourings.

In certain towns, which were involved in trade with the orient and west during the National Revival period, the traditional linen or woollen materials were replaced by brightly coloured silks. The style of costume worn in towns such as Kotel, Panagyurishte, Koprivshtitsa, Sliven and Plovdiv reflected these outside influences, with both cut and decoration being strongly influenced by Ottoman fashion, for example the design on the women's aprons worn in Kotel (white embroidery on a blue background) is supposed to have been brought back from Jerusalem.


© Eliznik2008, Last updated Jan-08