Woman's festive costume

From Kyustendil, western Bulgaria, early 20th century AD

This traditional woman's costume features a saya, a coat usually decorated with braid at the collar and cuffs and accompanied by an elaborately patterned apron, open at the front and worn over a relatively plain chemise. The saya can be long or short, with either long or short sleeves. It is mostly found in southern Bulgaria.

By comparison, the sukman (not shown here) is a tunic-like coat, often decorated with appliqué. It has short sleeves, or is sleeveless, and is worn over a heavily-embroidered chemise. It is typical of central Bulgaria in particular.

Most items of traditional Bulgarian costume were made from locally-produced materials which were processed, washed, spun, dyed, woven, sewn and decorated in the home by women. A variety of machine-made fabrics, including cotton velvets, printed wool and, later, synthetic fibres, were incorporated into the costumes from the beginning of the 20th century. In this example, the black felted wool cloth of the saya would have been commercially-made and the ornate wool cording and metal braiding produced by professional craftsmen but finished in the home.

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More information


E. Kwasnik, Bulgaria: tradition and beauty (National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, 1989)

V.Kovacheva-Kostadinova and others (eds.), Traditional Bulgarian costume (Sofia, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences National Museum of Ethnography, 1994)


Museum number

AOA 1993.Eu7.34-40


Collected by Dr Diane Waller
Funded by The British Museum Friends (Eastern European Purchase Fund)


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