Friday, July 6, 2012

Costume of Crna Gora, Црна Гора. Montenegro, The Black Mountain

Hello all,
Today I will continue my attempt to address the countries of Europe which I have not yet mentioned in my blog.
I will cover the costume of Montenegro, or Crna Gora in the local language. The population of Montenegro is reasonably uniform, the only minorities being Roma spread all over the country, some Croatians on the coast, and Albanians living along the southeast borders. The rest of the population considers itself to be Montenegrin. How closely they identify with the Serbs is still under discussion, but they do speak the same language.
Except for the Croatian and Albanian minorities, there is little geographic variation in the folk costume; in fact, this could rather be considered a National Costume.
Here is a map showing the location of Montenegro in Europe.

Montenegro was the only part of the Balkans which successfully maintained its independence from the Ottoman Empire. You will notice in the image above and in the others in this posting the prominent role of the color green. This is not a Slavic tradition, Slavs prefer red; rather it was done as a deliberate provocation against the laws of the Turkish empire which prohibited the wearing of green by non-muslims. Most Montenegrins are Orthodox Christians. 

I should point out that there are other 'Black Mountains' in the various Slavic countries, such as the one just outside Skopje, be careful that you do not confuse them.

The headgear of men and unmarried women is a pillbox hat, similar to the crvenkapa of Dalmatia. The Montenegrin version is red with a black brim, and gold applique cord embroidery on top. The black cloth around the edge is symbolic of mourning for all those who died in the fight for independence. There are various options for the embroidery, most are national or historic symbols.

Unmarried girls have the option of a cap with a strictly decorative design.

The woman's costume has as its foundation a linen or cotton boustier [bustin], with open work embroidery around the neck. There is also a linen underskirt. 

 The bustin is necessary because the shirt, košulja, is often made of thin gauzelike silk or linen which is rather transparent. This typically has stripes or other designs woven in.

Here is the cut of the košulja.

 The narrow collar and panels on either side of the opening are linen, upon which is  embroidered a narrow design, either in gold thread or in various colors. Braid or lace is sewn to the sleeve openings. These bands are called ošvica, and here are some examples of the embroidery used.

Sometimes the shirt is sewn of a more solid material, in which case, spot designs may be embroidered on the ends of the sleeves above the band embroidery.  Here is an example, on the right.

And here is a sampler with both band and spot designs. You will notice that around the edge, each motif is embroidered only once; when used, one motif would be repeated in various colors, as shown at the top of the sampler and the example above. I count over 50 band designs in this small sampler.

 The skirt, suknja, is typically made of heavy brocade or damask in any color, and is flared. Rows of lace or ribbon are sewn diagonally across the front panel, reminiscent of  the formal costume from Split. Aprons are not usually worn with this costume.

A short sleeved bolero, dolaktica, is worn over the shirt. It is usually red with rich gold cord-applique in typical Balkan designs.

A long sleeveless vest is always worn over this, called koret.. It is ivory or light green in color, with many false buttons and gold cord-applique, often with a design in the lower corners that resembles a bird.

A metal belt, ćemer, is worn around the waist. It is made of several metal plates, the center one of which has a raised arch shape, from which hang five chains. These are often very richly made.

The bolero dolaktica may be replaced with a long-sleeved version of the same garment, which is called jaketa. It is typically made of a darker color, such as burgundy, but also has rich gold cord-applique. This is more commonly worn by older or married women. The koret is still worn over it.

Married women traditionally wear a dark colored veil, called vel, in place of the pillbox cap.
Today married women often continue to wear the cap.

White stockings are worn, or stockings with designs knitted or embroidered into them.

The traditional footwear are moccasins called opanci.
These are similar to the Serbian style, but the hook on the toe is quite small, and the tops are woven from white cord instead of kidskin. Although it is not traditional, today soles are sometimes added to the bottom.

I will have to cover the men's costumes in a separate posting, as they are even more complicated than the women's. I will close with a few more images of this very attractive costume. In this first image you will see one woman wearing the costume with an apron.

Here is a traditional dancing area built on Lovchen mountain.
It gives you some idea of what the country looks like.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have found this interesting.
The embroidery motifs for the osvice would make very interesting borders for household projects, why not bring a bit of the color of old Montenegro into your home?

Here is a website showing beautiful closeups of various pieces of the Montenegrin costume. I believe you might be able to order them here as well.

Here is a stage performance of traditional dances and songs from Montenegro.
Very beautiful costumes.

Here is an amateur ensemble from Montenegro dancing on a mountain meadow,
Including the famous Eagle Dance. The costumes are simpler.

Here is a slide show showing scenes from around Montenegro, and playing some popular songs from there.

Feel free to contact me with requests for research. I hope to eventually cover all of Europe and the Former Russian Empire/Soviet Union. I also gratefully accept tips on source materials which i may not have. I also accept commissions to research/design, sew, and/or embroider costumes or other items for groups or individuals. I also choreograph and teach folk dance.
Roman K.

Source Material:
Zorica Mrvaljevic, 'Narodna Nosnja Crne Gore', Zagreb, 1988
Vladimir Salopek, 'Folk Costumes and Dances of Yugoslavia', Zagreb, 1989
Nikola Pantelic, 'Traditional Arts and Crafts of Yugoslavia', Belgrade, 1984
Nikola Pantelic, 'L'Art Populaire Yougoslave', Belgrade, 1980
DMC Library, 'Yugoslavian Embroideries 2nd Series', France, 1968
Vladimir Kirin, 'Folk Costumes of Yugoslavia'
Various postcards


  1. Brilliant! I have always liked this style of coat - there are some similar ones from near by countries in the V&A dress in detail book

    1. Thank you,
      yes, the general cut of the koret is found in many places from Ukraine to Greece in various outergarments.

  2. Hello, I really enjoyed your article and the pictures. Do you by any chance know a place I could order one of these beautiful costumes? Would you please hep me out on this?


  3. Lol @ this 'Montenegrins not Serbians' politicized nonsense when there is as clear CCCC symbol on one of the women's pill caps above

  4. I am Serbian,my Grate grandmothers parents were from Montenegro and they called themselfs Serbs - Montenegrians are same people as Serbians

  5. We Montenegrins are not serbs, you Can be a serb Who lives in Montenegro but Montenegrins are Montenegrins we have our own History, Culture etc

    1. Yes that's true! Happy to hear that!

  6. Proud to be MONTENEGRIN -and nothing but!
    Great article!

  7. These folks looks like my people from Moldova(GAGAUZIA) speak Turkish language.