Monday, May 23, 2016

Costume and embroidery from Samokov district, Shopluk, Bulgaria

Hello all, 
I am working on an overview of Bulgarian costume and I ran across a large number of embroidery designs from this one district of Samokov, so I thought I would share them with you. This is part of the cultural/ethnic region of Shopluk, which consists of the highlands of west central Bulgaria, along with neighboring regions of Serbia and Macedonia. Shope music is characterized by a fast, staccato tempo, and the dancing tends to be up in the air rather than centered towards the ground, as in much of the rest of Bulgaria. 

The Bulgarian part of Shopluk consists of the city of Sofia, Sofia oblast, which is distinct, Pernik oblast and Kjustendil oblast Here is a map showing Sofia oblast within Bulgaria. The municipality of Sofia lies in the center, but is not part of it.

The Samokov district lies in the southern part of this oblast.

The womens costume consists of a chemise, a pullover outer garment with short sleeves called a Sukman, an apron, a sash, along with headdress and footwear of stockings and moccasins, which were later replaced by shoes. 

This is a young married woman in festive costume.

This is an older woman in a more everyday winter costume. Note the addition of knitted arm warmers and sheepskin vest. The apron is wider and in a striped pattern of more subdued colors.

Here is the cut of the Sukman, the details of the neck opening and ornamentation will vary; the following images are from neighboring districts, but are very similar to that of the Samokov district.

Here are a couple of closeups of the sleeves. These often had red wool on the outer part with either woven ornament or embroidery. Sometimes this was replaced by ribbons or velvet. 

The ornament on the rest of the sukman consists of appliqued braid and chain stitch embroidery.


This girl is wearing a white linen apron under the red wool one. This is a more recent custom.

In the beginning of the 20th cent, under the influence of western fashion, the embroidery on the chemise was sometimes replaced by lace. Here  are some examples. I personally find the embroidery to be much more attractive.

The embroidery which I am presenting today is found on the chemise, on the sleeves, the hem, and the front opening. 

Unusually, in this area the front opening may be flanked by applique in red cloth, with the embroidery done on that. Here are some examples. This same kind of embroidery was done on the sleeves of the Sukman, and even on the apron, if they did not use woven ornament.

The sleeves have a band design done around the hem, and often a large spot design, or more than one above that on the lower sleeve. 

Many of the following are from the wonderful book published by Rossitsa Choukonova in 1957. It is clear that she planned a second volume, which unfortunately does not seem to have ever been published. Click on the images to view them larger.

The bottom hem of the chemise was always embroidered with a band design similar to, and sometimes the same as that used on the sleeve ends. The English translation on these is incorrect, these are not from skirts. Only one of these designs would be used. She embroidered multiple bands on the same piece of cloth only for demonstration purposes.

Some of the following were executed on an open canvas so as to show the stitches more clearly. This would not have been the case in the originals. 

The men's shirts were embroidered on the collar, around the front opening and on the sleeves. Here are just a couple of examples of the embroidery on men's shirts.

Here are a couple of images of a man's shirt from Samokov district which was mistakenly paired with a vest from Sofia district.

Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. These designs would be very useful anywhere that you need a band or border design for your embroidery. Bring some of Traditional Bulgaria into your home.


Source Material:

Rossitsa Choukanova: 'Bulgarian National Embroidery' vol I, Bulgarksi Khudozhnik, Sofia, 1957
M. G. Veleva, E. I. Lepatova, 'Bulgarian Folk Costumes, vol II', Sofia, 1974