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Serbian national costume

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Serbian national costume

Youths in traditional costumes of Šumadija (Central Serbia).

Serbian folk costumes, 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 up 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.


Overall traditional wear include:

  • the Opanci peasant shoes (pl. опанци, lit. "climbing footwear"[1]); 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.[2]
  • 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).[3][4] 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.[5] Today, it is part of the folk attires of east and southeast Serbia;

Central Serbia

Folk costumes during Guca trumpet festival.

The traditional folk attire of Šumadija has become the modernized regional dress for Central Serbia. Characteristic of the dress is the:

  • 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.

Eastern Serbia

Serbian Dance group from Sombor dancing Kolo in East Serbian folk attire

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.

Ivanjica area

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.

Leskovac area

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.

Pirot area

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.

Vranje area

Folk costumes from south Serbia, girls are wearing dimije (shalwar pants).

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.



Folklore group from Izbište, South Banat District.

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

The traditional attires of Kosovo and Metohia are known for their rich styling and ornamentation.[6]

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Serbian costumes from Podgrmeč, Bosnia.
Herzegovina (left) Bosnia (right) 1875

The dresses of Bosnia are divided into two groups; the Dinaric and Pannonian styles. In Eastern Herzegovina, the folk costumes are more like the Montenegrin.


Bosanska Krajina

Sarajevo region

Traditional peasant attire. Women wear dzecerma (home-made relief linen shirts), curdia (richly embroidered vests) and long white dresses. Their heads are covered with cenar (colorful kerchiefs). Men have slightly different type of shirts and vests, black trousers made of heavy cloth and embroidered cap, called krmez. They wear the opanci



Traditional peasant attire. Women wear home-made linen dresses with darker embroidery around sleeves, weaved fringed apron, dark-blue zobun made of heavy cloth hemmed with dark-red narrow stripes and a cap on the head. Men’s costume consists of white trousers, long gunj, dark-red weaved belt and also a cap on the head. They wear the opanci


Youths in traditional attire of Lika.

The ceremonial costume that became a symbol of the Montenegrin ethnic community was created by Prince-Bishop Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, who also liked to wear it himself. When worn by Njegoš, the costume was described in elaborate detail: "He wore a red waistcoat, hemmed with gold; the shirt sleeves which could be seen under the sleeveless jacket were of the finest linen...; he had the weapon belt tied around his waist and the brown girdle with two guns and the long dagger stuck into it. The wide blue panes and knee socks...the fine socks and black leather shoes completed his attire."[7][8] The red waistcoat, the blue panes, and the white knee socks symbolised the Serbian tricolour flag by which the Montenegro had identified itself with since 1876.

  • Montenegrin cap. It is originally in the shape of a flat cylinder, having a red fabric at the upper surface (called tepelak), and a black rim around it (called derevija), not dissimilar to the Herzegovina-, Šibenik- and Lika caps. It was introduced by Prince Petar II, as to mark a Serbian identity, he gave it as a gift to some of the clan leaders.[9] Andrija Jovicevic noted the symbolic meaning of Nikola I's personal cap back in 1903: the black wrapper was sign of grief for the Battle of Kosovo, the golden unbound part of the cap (at the forehead) expresses the doomed Serbs who shed blood and are still shedding it; the portion bound by the golden braid expresses Montenegro, the hearth of the Serbian freedom which soaked in the blood of its people and of their enemies, but still stands upright; the small star... (within the braid) expresses the sun that shines upon and warms the cold hearts of the dead brothers.[8][10][11] The eyelets with the cross within the braid (since the cap with the sun symbol was worn only by the ruler) designate Montenegro, the land of the free, under the rule of bishops, i.e. the dynasty of the homeland.[12] The national telling recorded the most often version of the cap as following: the black wrapper was sign of grief for their once great Empire, the red the bloody defeat at the Battle of Kosovo and the five small stripes on the top represent the remaining remains of the once greater Serbian realm, which became increasingly popular amongst the common folk during the reign of Prince Danilo I Petrović-Njegoš. Within the stripes is angled a six star, representing the last free part, Montenegro, shining upon the fallen and conquered.


Nikola Tesla in national Serbian costume


The traditional Serb costume of Lika is much like the traditional Montenegrin folk attire. The footwear is Opanci.


See also


  1. ^ V. Anić et al. (2004). Hrvatski enciklopedijski rječnik 7.  
  2. ^ Eliznik, South East Europe costume - peasant sandals
  3. ^ Natural resources and beauties of the Socialist Republic of Serbia, p. 87
  4. ^ ''A Serbian village''. Retrieved 2012-05-04. 
  5. ^ Armies in The Balkans 1914-18. Retrieved 2012-05-04. 
  6. ^ Kosovska narodna nošnja (Serbian)
  7. ^ Ljubomir Durkovic-Jaksic, "Njegoseva nosnja," /The Costume of Njegos/ in Zbornik radova Etnografskog muzeja u Beogradu 1901-1951 (Belgrade, 1953), pp.105-106.
  8. ^ a b Jovan Vukmanovic, "Fizicki lik i izgled Njegosa," /The Physical Image of Njegos/ in Glasnik Etnografskog muzeja na Cetinju (Cetinje, 1963), III, 76-96.
  9. ^ Miodrag Vlahovic, O najstarijoj kapi kod Jugoslovena ... / About the most Ancient Cap Design Among the Yugoslavs..., (Belgrade, 1953), Zbornik radova Etnografskog muzeja u Beogadu 1901-1951, p. 151.
  10. ^ Andrija Jovicevic, "Crna Gora... Narodni zivot i obicaji," /Montenegro... Life and Customs/ in Zbornik za narodni zivot i obicaje Juznih Slavena (Zagreb, 1903), VIII, 54.
  11. ^ Zorica Radulovic, "Crnogorska muska kapa," /The Montenegrin Man's Cap/ in Glasnik Cetinjskih muzeja (Cetinje, 1976), 1, 103-118.
  12. ^ "The Serbian Origin of the Montenegrins". Retrieved 2012-05-04. 

External links

  • Folklor Srbija, Gallery (In Serbian)
  • Traditional Attire
  • "Characteristics of folk embroidery in Vojvodina" (in Serbian). 
  • "Collection of folk costumes" (in Serbian). 
  • "Integration processes, regionalism and keeping of cultural identity" (in Serbian). 
  • "Dress and fashion" (in Serbian). 
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