Tradition and folk costumes of women in BiH: East and West influenced the fashion

PHOTO: KEMAL SOFTIĆ

Over time, the modes and dressing styles of women in these parts have changed, but it is certain that they have followed trends and that women have always took care of their looks. As Lebiba Džeko, MA in Ethnological Sciences and the Museum Advisor at the Ethnology Department of the National Museum of BiH, said for the VISIT B&H magazine, traditional dressing was conditioned by various factors.

– First of all, it depended on the geographical factor, whether people lived in a mountainous area or some other area, whether they are from the warmer or colder regions, then the class of society, whether a woman or a man was poor or rich, is the costume urban or rural, then confessional affiliation – said Džeko.

These are factors that have conditioned the way of dressing in this region, but not only in this region, those are some universal rules when it comes to traditional and modern dressing.

Arrival of veil

– It can be said that our traditional way of clothing was influenced by fashion elements from the east and west. Of course, first of all from the east, those who came with the Ottoman Empire. However, by the end of the 19th century, with arrival of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, influences from the West arrived too, European fashion, and they were very quickly accepted in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Primarily, Christian and Jewish women accepted them, and 20 years later, these elements became part of Muslim women’s clothing in BiH – Džeko explains.

Rural costumes are conditioned by the fact that women in the countryside had to work in the field and with the cattle and their clothing is somewhat simpler. When we are talking about Muslim women in the countryside, they were more casually covered, just to be able to work more easily. When talking about cities, the situation is different, the clothing was very beautiful, richly decorated, and especially when it comes to rich people, their clothes are gorgeous, representative and serve to make the woman look good in it.

-Most often, tailors (terzije) used to make female and even male costumes. These tailors were masters of their craft and they used to do everything, from tailoring to very demanding goldwork – embroidery. In the second half of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, women’s traditional costume was made up of a shirt, an overdress (anterija) worn over it. Anterija is a dress with ornaments and long sleeves with slits that fell over hands and were decorative by themselves. These dresses were heavily decorated with goldwork- Džeko said.

A fact that, bey Filipović from Glamoč, when he got a first male child, brought a tailor from Sarajevo, that was making a full garment for his wife for an entire year, speaks of its value. Anterija was embraced in a clasp, which were mostly silver and made in filigree technique. At the end of the 19th century, influences from the West came, and Christians and Jewish women firstly accepted them. Those were also richly decorated clothing, with gold work. Their clothes consisted of long skirts, shirts and rochets, a short garment with embroidered sleeves.

– In order to go out on the street, in the 19th century, women needed to wear veil (feredža). Feredža is a black cloak with a collar all the way down to the floor. Tailors used to make these as well and it was very expensive. It used to happen that only one women in entire street had feredža and all other women used to wear it when they go out.  In fact, women did not go out much back then – explains Dzeko.

Until the second half of the 19th century, Jewish, Muslim and Christian women wore feredža because it was a shame to go out with your hair visible to others, which had nothing to do with religion, but the customs that prevailed at the time.

Eastern fashion

– At the beginning of the 20th century, different kind of veil (zar, niqab) came, as an effect of eastern fashion. It came as a fashion trend from the east, was accepted by Muslim women, and was worn until the mid-20th century when it was banned. Christian and Jewish women were dressed in European clothes, had their arms covered and were dressed decently, but the head was not covered – explains the ethnologist.

The middle and low class had simpler clothes, made of simpler materials, sometimes home-made, there were also anterija for women of the middle class, and they were less or not decorated. Still, the poorer women looked up to rich women in accordance with their financial abilities.

– Financial conditions dictated the jewelry. It was obligatory to give presents in the form of jewelry to the bride, and it was the jewelry that women to wore to show their status. There are elements of clothing that were worn and revealed the status of a woman, as a way of covering their heads for example, the girls were also covered but in a different way from married women – said Džeko.

She added that women also wore caps with gold coins (dukat) on their heads, and it was common to have jewelry made of gold which had the form of a small branch (almasli grana) attached to the cap as well. The first half of the 20th century is the time when the traditional costume were slowly cut out, when one could see such clothing only on older men and women; as they disappeared, so did that way of dressing.