Traditional Bulgarian Costumes


Female Costumes

Women's costumes, early 20th century, the village of Cheshnigirovo, Plovdiv region (PEM)


Costume of Bulgarian Mohammedan woman, early 20th century, the village of Bogoutevo, Smolyan region (PEM)


Woman's costume, early 2th century, the village of Tri Voditsi, Plovdiv region (PEM)


Woman's costume, early 20th century, the village of Dabene, Plovdiv region (PEM)


Woman's costume, early 20th century, the village of Goliamo Konare ((today the town of Saedinenie), Plovdiv region


Bride's wedding costumeq second half of the 19th century, the village of Chouprene, Belogradchik region


Woman's costume, end of the 19th century, the village of Lozarevo, Karnobat region


Woman's festive costume, end of the 19th century, the village of Inzovo, Topolovgrad region (NEM)


Woman's festive costume, late 19th century, Kotel (NEM)

The different types of women's costumes can be distinguished by the cut and wearing style of the outer garment (with men's costumes it is the shape and colour of the outer clothes that matters most). These distinctive characteristics vary among the geographical areas and have been influenced by the specific historical circumstances.

The chief items of the two-apron costume include: a chemise, two aprons (fastened at the waist, one worn in front, the other at the back), and a belt. Fine embroidery decorates large portions of the sleeves and the front and back sections of the chemise. The two aprons (or "drapes") were made of home-woven decorative fabric - the back one falling in folds and frills, the front piece consisting of one or two parts with horizontal or vertical embroidery. The back "drape" appeared in a number of variants (vulnenik, bruchnik, tukmenik, peshtemal, kurlyanka, zaveshka) typical of particular geographical areas. The waist-band is a long piece wound several times round the waist. Originally, this ancient female costume had been common across all Bulgarian lands, but in later times it was mainly preserved in the Danubian Plain region.

The soukman dress was the most widely spread female costume. The numerous regional varieties, however, shared certain common (all-Bulgarian) characteristics: the type of textile, the tunic-like cut, and the low neck. The soukman is most often a sleeveless dress, although in some places it has short or long sleeves. Typically, strips of the soukman fabric are attached to the sleeve openings forming the so-called "tails", reduced decorative elements of former sleeves having lost their utilitarian function. The ornamentation of this costume is concentrated on the skirts, along the neck and the sleeves' borders. It consists of multi-colour embroidery, decorative cloth, and braid appliqués, varied in size and style.

The main three varieties of the soukman dress are the kasoklinest (with low, slant wedges, typical of Western Bulgaria); visokoklinest (with high wedges, typical of Central Bulgaria), and the rare two-piece soukman (with a short jacket, chapak, a densely gathered skirt and a long waist-band, typical of some Eastern regions). The soukman dress is worn with a short, woven belt fastened in front with pafti (belt buckle).

The apron is the central decorative piece of the soukman dress. It is richly ornamented and colourful, standing out in beautiful contrast with the black soukman.

The saya dress includes a tunic-like chemise as its major component, but it is characterized by the so-called saya always worn as an outer garment. Open in the front part, slightly wedged, the skirt length varying (knee or ankle length), the sleeves short or long. The saya textiles were of different material and colour. Predominant were the one-colour white, black, blue, and dark blue saya dresses made of cotton or woolen fabrics. (A widespread variant typical of the region along the middle reaches of the Maritsa is made of multi-coloured striped cloth with dominating red.) The decoration of the saya is concentrated on the neck and the borders of the sleeves.

The other important element is the waist-band, black or red, made of woolen fabric. The apron is also woolen, most often red, striped or with multiple woven ornamentation (in some South-western regions). More popular later became the apron decorated with gold threads, used mainly on festive occasions.

The saya dress is most common in the Southern and South-western parts of the territory of ethnic Bulgarian population.

The saya female costume was preserved as late as the mid 20th century when it gave way to modern urban clothes of European type.

The one-apron costume is typical of certain localities in the Danubian Plain and the Rhodopes. It consists of fewer items: a long tunic-like chemise and an apron tied at the waist (either narrow, made of one piece, or wider, two-piece item) with rather simple ornamentation. Till the first quarter of the 20th century it was mainly typical of Bulgarian Moslem women in the Rhodope Mountains, since it was practical and met the requirements of their daily work activities. At the same time, there was a certain desire to make the costume richer, to add more items to it. So, the outer open garment (anteriya, zaboun, or kaftan) was introduced as part of this dress. Characteristic of the women in the Rhodopes region was their preference for light yellow and orange, as well as grass green shades skillfully combined in the texture of the apron.

Young unmarried woman's costume for the ritual of "lazarouvane", early 20th century, the village of Byala, Sliven region (NEM)



Maiden's costume for the "lazarouvane" ritual, second half of the 19th century, the village of Pirin, Sandanski region (NEM)




Maiden's festive summer costume, second half of  the 19th century, the village of Vubel, Nikopol region (NEM)



Young married woman's festive costume, late 19th century, the village of Bohot, Pleven region (NEM)




Young married woman's costume, second half of the 19th century, Sofia region (NEM)




Young married woman's costume, second half of the 19th century, Sofia region /back/ (NEM)



Young woman's summer festive costume, end of the18th century, the village of Dragichevo, Pernik region (NEM)





Bride's wedding costume, late 18th century, Smolyan region.

The wedding overcoat /"diplo"/ of red velvet and the embroidered "ruchenik" are unique items (NEM)



Young married woman's costume,

second half of the 19th century, Doupnitza region (NEM)

Young married woman's costume,

second half of the 19th century, Doupnitza region /back/ (NEM)


Woman's wedding costume "diplo", the Central Rhodopes area, 1882. (RHM - Smolyan)


Woman's festive costume, village of Davidkovo, late XIX century. (RHM - Smolyan)



Festive female costume "soukman", village of Sokolovtsi, 1940's (RHM - Smolyan)

Woman's costume& soukman, saltamarka (RHM - Smolyan)




1. Traditional Bulgarian Costumes and Folk Arts. National Ethnographic Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Compiled by Viara Kovacheva-Kostadinova, Maria Sarafova, Marina Cherkezova, Nadezhda Teneva. Sofia, 1994.

2. Ethnographic Museum Plovdiv. Compiled by Anka Radeva, Lora Hristozova, Raina Kableshkova, Sonya Semerdjieva, Angel Yankov, Stoyan Antonov, Valentin Manev. Vion Publishing House, 2004.