Serbian traditional clothing
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Serbian folk costumes (Serbian: Српска народна ношња/Srpska narodna nošnja), like any traditional dress of a nation or culture, has been lost to the advent of urbanization, industrialization, and the growing market of international clothing trends. The wide range of regional folk costumes show influence from historical Austrian, Hungarian, German, Italian, and Ottoman Turkish presence. Nonetheless, the costumes are still a pinnacle part of Serbian folk culture and, fitting with the attempts to preserve this folk culture, it was not uncommon to see rural women in traditional working costumes all the way until the end of President Josip Broz Tito's term. Today, these traditional costumes are only worn by some elderly in rural areas, on national holidays, and as part of celebrations, tourist attractions, and in museums. From the 19th century on, Serbs have adopted the usual European way of dressing.
Serbian costume is also known for the variety of textures and embroidery. The jelek is a Waistcoat made from wool or velvet while women's jackets are lined with fur. The peony embroidery design often found on aprons, socks and elsewhere is colored bright red, symbolising the blood lost at the Battle of Kosovo. Characteristic features of Serbian dress include opanci, footwear dating back to antiquity.
Traditional Serbian female dress consists of opanci, embroidered woolen socks that reached to the knees and nazuvice. Skirts were very varied, of plaited or gathered and embroidered linen, with tkanice serving as a belt. An important part of the costume were aprons (pregace) decorated with floral motifs. Shirts were in the shape of tunics, richly decorated with silver thread and cords was worn over the shirt. In some areas it was replaced by an upper sleeveless dress of red or blue cloth, knee-long, richly decorated and buttoned in front (zubun). Scarves and caps bordered with cords were worn as headdress. Girls also wore collars, or a string of gold coins around their throats, earrings, bracelets, and their caps were decorated with metal coins or flowers.
In medieval times, rulers, the nobility and senior churchmen brought many of their fabrics from the Republic of Ragusa. The most common fabric for ordinary Serbs was sclavina or schiavina, a coarse woollen fabric. Linen was also made within Serbia while silk was grown at the Dečani Monastery as well as near Prizren. Few secular garments have survived from the medieval period the most notable being the costume worn by Lazar Hrebeljanović at the Battle of Kosovo. More decorated vestments have survived from the period.
The typical Serbian costume comprises shirts, trousers, skirts, sleeveless coats called jeleks, ordinary coats, jubun, socks, belts and head-gear, often called oglavja.
The designs of civil clothes were developed from ancient times, to Roman then Byzantine, and later under Turkish (Oriental) influence, and in towns of the Pannonian area and the Adriatic coast, primarily under European influence. Under the influence of the mentioned factors certain common wearing elements within the wider cultural and geographic zones were created, such as Central-Balkan, Pannonian, Dinaric and Adriatic zones with their own particularities.
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Overall traditional wear include:
- the Opanci peasant shoes (pl. опанци, lit. "climbing footwear"); a construction of leather, lack of laces, durable, and have horn-like ending on toes. The design of the horn-like ending indicates the region of Serbia the shoes are from. Until 50 years ago, they were usually worn in rural areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.
- the Šubara shepherd hat (Шубара, fur hat), during harsher and colder times (winter). It is in a conical or cylindrical shape predominantly of Black colour, because of the black lamb/sheep fur (woolen). It was used in the World War I by the Serbian soldiers and by the Chetniks in World War II and again during the Yugoslav Wars, usually with a cockade (kokarda) of the Serbian eagle or cross. Today, it is part of the folk attires of east and southeast Serbia;
- Šajkača cap, easily recognisable by its design; the top looks like the letter V or like the bottom of a boat (viewed from above). It was derived from the 18th-century military cap part of the uniform worn by the Šajkaši, river troops guarding Belgrade, Danube and Sava against the Ottoman Empire, during the 16th- to 19th centuries. It subsequently spread throughout the civilian population of central Serbia, and in the 19th century it became an official part of the Serbian military uniform, first worn only by soldiers, then after 1903 it replaced the officer's French-style Kepis and Peaked caps. It would continue to be used by the Royal Yugoslav Army. It continued its use by the Chetniks in World War II, but also Serbs of the Yugoslav Partisans until it was replaced by "Titovka" cap (named after Josep Broz Tito) for soldiers and Peaked cap for officers' parade uniform. During the Bosnian war, the hat was worn by Bosnian Serb military commanders and many volunteer units in the 1990s. It is seen as a Serbian symbol. Today it is commonly seen in rural villages across Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, often worn by elderly men.
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Traditional shepherd attire. As part of a cultural zone with Romania, the attire has likeness to those in adjacent Romanian provinces. Typical for the attire is woolen vests and capes (from sheep), walking sticks, etc. They wear the opanci.
The inhabitants of this region are mainly migrants from the so-called Dinara region. In its basic characteristics the costume is similar to that of the Dinara region with additions imposed through time, by the new environment, and later influences from outside.
Regardless of the relative isolation and lack of connection in communication between the investigated territories and other regions, change penetrated even this area and was reflected not only in daily life but also in the adoption of new, or abandoned old, pieces of dress for practical or functional reasons. Some dress pieces, particularly from the older costume at end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, are recognisable in the dress of Montenegro, Herzegovina and early Bosnia from where the greater number of the inhabitants originate.
The oldest pieces of costume are very similar to those in the place of origin e.g. male and female shirts, female waistcoats, gunj, aljina, red cap, Mali fez with shawl, zubun, pelengiri, kabanica. After World War I, the so-called Sumadija costume (anterija, fermen) became the national costume of this region.
The facts indicate that this national costume, in villages of the Ivanjica region, had practically disappeared in the nineties of the 20th century, “Old” dress disappeared under the pressure of industrial, uncontrolled production.
The male costume consists of dark trousers, cloth, white shirt, dark jelek (a small dark-red sleeveless embroidered jacket) and black subara (characteristic high shaggy fur cap). Women wear weaved skirts (fute), colorful aprons, white embroidered dresses, dark jelek and white kerchiefs around their heads. They wear opanci.
The costumes of Pirot are richly decorated, male costume consists of natural-white zobun, black-red belt, black or red trousers and subara on the head. Women wear white dresses under black zobun, which has gold stripes on borders, decorated aprons and white kerchiefs around their heads. They were opanci and red socks.
The traditional urban dress of Vranje is a mix of local tradition and oriental influences. The male costume consists of dark trousers and gunj with red stripes at the end of its sleeves, red silk belt and the black shoes. Women wear black plush skirts, white blouses and highly decorated libada embroidered with gold srma, pafta around waist and tepeluk on the head.
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The folk costumes of Vojvodina are usually of plain black and white colors with western influence. The ethnic groups of Srem, Bačka and Banat all have their distinctive costumes. Srem has elements of central Balkan and Dinaric attire, Bačka has central European influences and styles, especially from the Baroque.
Kosovo and Metohija
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- Traditional Attire
- "Characteristics of folk embroidery in Vojvodina" (PDF) (in Serbian).
- "Integration processes, regionalism and keeping of cultural identity" (PDF) (in Serbian).
- "Dress and fashion" (PDF) (in Serbian).