Bulgarian women's headwear

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Headbands and hair dressing and decorations - kachul, sokai

Traditionally unmarried women did not cover their hair. There were many ancient ways of styling their hair using either a single plait, 2 plaits or many small plaits.

In the north of Bulgaria the ancient hair style was to braid the hair into many plaits, which can be tied into one plait. This style being called nalessa. These plaits are decorated with hair ornaments (kosichnik) made of multicoloured beads, coins, flowers, feathers or woollen threads, which are braided into the plaits. A headband is worn over these plaits which is decorated with small gold coins, feathers and beads. Long bands of material decorated with with coins and flowers can also hang from this headband

Around Veliko Turnovo until mid 19th married women wore a style of headdress called a sokai. This traditional style headdress was banned by the Ottomans so these were preserved by hiding them kept in chests at home. Sokai consisted of a circular band decorated with multi coloured stones and rosettes and fine silver pendants, with a chin piece made of silver chains or chains made of copper coins. This was worn with a wooden frame called a bouka, and was covered with a fine fringed white cotton headscarf, which was richly embroidered.

The hair is often worn nalessa with the soukman costume, and after marriage these plaits are often cut and pinned on under the headscarf. Hair dressing with the saya costume involved ancient traditions and was dependant on marital status, the hair was braided into small plaits at the neck, using hair extensions, and beads coins, shells, and small pieces of material were intertwined in the braids.  In southern Thakia, around Ivailovgrad, Kroumovegrad, Dedeagacha a single plait was rolled up on back of head and covered with a pad or small hat. In  the areas around Haskovo, Chirpan, and Stara Zagora semicircle, horseshoe shaped or rectangle shaped pads were used.

Elaborate headdresses were worn by Lazarki (young girls) in west Bulgaria with the soukman costume. These were made of a headband with many multicoloured feathers, and silver coins attached.

Headscarves - mesal , mahrama, testemel, chember, fekel and hats - kaitsa, fesche

The most common headwear worn by married women with all styles of Bulgarian folk costume was a headscarf, as it was traditional to keep the head covered after marriage. These scarves could be  square, triangular or rectangular, small or large, and were worn either alone or over a small hat. Once a woman passed into widowhood she wore a black scarf tied to frame her face so as to hide all her hair.

A white or striped square kerchief was worn with single apron costumes, and a white thin cotton headscarf, often with fringes was worn wound round head with double apron costumes. These thinner headscarves had replaced older style scarves made from white hemp or linen. They were usually bordered with crochet edging in white or coloured cotton or silk thread with beads interleaved. Bridal headdresses usually had a large square headscarf or scarf (mesal) 2m to 3m long and decorated with embroidery and fringes on both ends

Rectangular headscarves worn with soukman costumes in the mountainous regions of the central Rhodopes, and Strandja, whereas square white headscarves, or scarves with coloured stripes on ends were worn in lower lying areas, often over pads made in a variety of shapes, or cone shape or cylindrical hats in Sofia and Samokov.

Scarves were worn over  cylinder or cone shape  low hats with saya costume in the western Rhodopes. Newly married women wearing the saya costume wore square headscarves made of white home made cloth. From the early 20th century these were replaced by  factory made scarves of colour wool or silk fabric. These usually had coloured stripes at the ends. They were folded in the middle and placed on head, or could be worn over a pad, with the ends hanging loose at back. In Dedeagach, Gyumuyrdjina, Ivailovgrad a long scarf which was embroidered at the two narrow ends and had long fringes was worn. This was similar to mesal (cloths) used in the eastern Stara Planina, Strandja, and central Rhodopes.


© Eliznik2008, Last updated Jan-08