The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Length: 64.000 cm
Collected by Dr Diane
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Woman's chemise from a festive costume
From Bitola, former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia, late 19th - early 20th century AD
Traditional costume in the Balkans used to consist of the same basic garments across the region. However, local styles and decorative details marked out the wearer's village or ethnic group and, particularly in the case of women, their social status. Embroidery was particularly elaborate on womens' chemises, decorating the neck, sleeves and the hem and also strengthening vulnerable areas and important seams which could be seen beneath a coat or waistcoat. Sequins, glass beads, cotton lace crochet and ribbons were introduced by men returning from work abroad and were often added to older embroidered garments.
Women's costumes were traditionally passed down from mother to daughter, with each generation adding decorative details to personalize the garments. Here, the multicoloured embroidery, sequins, beads, rick rack and crotcheted border have been added to the original orange and black embroidery on the arms and hem of the chemise. Often the embroidered sections of a garment were removed so that the main garment could be washed or replaced when worn.
E.I. Dunin, Dance occasions and festive dr (Los Angeles, University of California Museum of Cultural History, Monograph Series no. 23, 1984)