Traditional dressing and ethnic elements in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Through the history the whole region of Bosnia and Herzegovina was under several cultural influences which created a unique blend of differences. Read more about the history behind national costumes in Bosnia and Herzegovina in our previous post.

Considering the ethnic wardrobe from the past, we can find traces of Balkan, Mediterranean, Ottoman and oriental culture. These cultural influences have left their mark on the folk costumes and undoubtedly contributed to their differentiation.

There were differences between wardrobe of different ethnic groups as well as those between city life and country.

According to the geographical areas there were differences between the wardrobe of Serbian and Croatian ethnic groups, while Bosnian Muslim costumes are very equal.

The main characteristics and wardrobe pieces were: long flax tailored shirt, inlaid with real wedge under the arm, embroidered at the foot of the back, on the sleeves and chest. The bond was always made of wool in four colors for Serbian people and mostly in two colors with Croatian costumes. The designs were geometric. The shirts in Muslim people had no bonds. Trunks were a mandatory part of women’s dress only in Croatian and Bosnian groups, while Serbian women only wore trunks during weddings, deaths and choirs.

For the outerwear, woolen jacket were the most important: zubun, dress and apron. Zubun was made of rolled cloth; the girls mostly wore white, while married women wore black, dark blue and white colors. Croatian zubuns had far fewer bonds than Serbian. This dress had ankle length, open at the front, inlaid with sloping ‘wedge’ under the arm and had long narrow sleeves.

The woven aprons were made in two techniques: ćilimskoj or “chipping” and “stringing” technique. The socks were made strictly out of wool, they were long to his knees, woven in two techniques: five needles and one needle. They were usually made in black and red colors, with rhomboid motifs in western Bosnia, and white and black motifs in Herzegovina.

For the head, they wore a red cap, with shallower or deeper cracks coin details for girls. Married women had a square white scarf across the caps.

Men wore čaksire or šalvare over their pants. The Serbian and Croatians wore embroidered red cords on their čakšire while Muslims had green ones.

The socks were long til the knees, always cut from the side and connected with the hooks. For the waist, they wore red woolen belt, while the Muslims had green belts. Men wore red caps and red woolen scarf wrapped around their heads.

Life in the city was different and so were the customs. There was a strong oriental influence in the city which reflected on the use of particular materials and cuts.

The materials are mainly imported from the east, and mainly from Venice, when going west. Materials like velvet, Aladža, šamaladža, atlas, various kinds of silk and brocade, and then the cotton and silk were mostly used.

By the end of the 19th century, wardrobe in the cities under Ottoman rule had a practical function. At the same time the means to use it to highlight the class and status. Every government office had certain regulations that are related to norms and ways of dressing soldiers, nobles and high-ranking government officials. Thus, distinguished begs and janissaries looked very prominent with its magnificent costumes, special colors departments, as well as certain elements of clothing.

The Beys had red, green or blue scarves while merchants had dark scarves with black cords. Among the Orthodox population the belts were red, Catholics wore purple, and in the Muslim colorful silk “trabolose” or “mukadem” belts.

The wife of Bey would wear dimije (Turkish trousers) made of expensive silk embroidered with gold. These trends lasted until the end of the 19th century, which is considered a milestone in the development of Bosnian society, social changes and the coming of new cultural influences.


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