The origin of Bulgarian folk costume lies in the heart of the 20th century villages. At that time all the clothing was handmade and decorated with embroidery by women. The main materials were woven linen and cotton. From the early age little girls started learning how to spin, then to sew and later on how to embroider. Embroidery art was not that simple. Every symbol had a magic or protecting value. People believed that embroidered symbols may not only protect from evil but also to bring luck and wealth. The costumes were kept in the family coffer and passed from one generation to another.
The Bulgarian folk costumes for women were mainly based on a double apron, on a tunic "soukman", and on an open-fronted coat “saya”. One thing was common for all three types – a white chemise, which sometimes served as a shirt or as an undergarment. Every region had its own embroidery colors and motifs. Not only red but also green and black, and of course white, were often used in the ladies’ outfit.
The northern part of Bulgaria is well known by the traditional costume which was made of a long white chemise and two aprons fastened around the waist with a belt. The floral embroidery on such costumes was usually stitched on the sleeves and the front of the blouse.
The south of Bulgaria used the saya costume. Saya was made from line, cotton, or woolen fabric. The traditional dress was usually knee-length with the decorated round neckline and short sleeves. The saya was worn over the chemise and with a front bright apron.
The soukman tunic was the widest spread Bulgarian traditional costume for women. The soukman was usually made from black material, sleeveless with a round or V-shaped neckline. The complete folk costume had a white chemise, a dark soukman, an apron and a belt. The embroidery was usually decorated at the bottom of the soukman and chemise.
The colorful apron could be called the main element of all the Bulgarian traditional costumes. It was always bright and richly decorated in the contrast to the dress.
The belt played an important role in the total look of the folk costume. The belts were long to wrap several times around the waist, embroidered with bead of goldwork.
The Bulgarian headdresses were quite simple: young girls wore ribbons, married women covered heads with scarves. To buy stylized Bulgarian clothing, check our section here.
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