Analysis of Folk Costume and Its Cultural Value: Bulgarian Folk Costume

Table of Contents


According to Steele (1998, 328), analysis of objects such as costumes is a sequential procedure and ought to be in the most discrete way possible. The analysis must begin from description, analysis of evidence, inference, and interpretation of findings.

It is equally important for the analyst to speculate findings hypothetically, thus the ability to find external proof that is essential in affirmation of the declaration (Steele, 1998, 328). This essay forms an analysis of folk costume in definition of cultural value. It is a particular analysis of the Bulgarian folk costume, which is a traditional garment admired and worn by Bulgarian villages up to the beginning of the 20th century.

The costume mainly emerged from west Bulgaria in a village called Rakovica, and was hand made using locally produced materials. During the 19th century, this folk costume was an antique for the traditional woman who valued hand-made costume. The Bulgarian folk costume includes a white shirt that has blue vertical stripes assembled at the centre of the sleeves and the front. It also comprise of a black finishing for the neckline and the edges of the sleeve. The shirt is mainly of size 16 made from a material that is 100% cotton material.

The sleeves equally have long tunica kind of a dress that is made of 100% wool. It has red and black checked patterns, running all the way from the front to back. The back is made of very decorative lining, having very interesting velvet appliqué decorations for the shoulders. The deep opening of the dress on the front part provides display of metal silver or golden jewellery.

A folk costume is a garment made in the aim of expressing identity of a region because of its relational aspects to particular geographical locale during a particular period in history. It is a garment used to also represent and express the social characteristics of a certain group of people and bring out their marital and religious significances.

The folk costumes come in two forms, for the daily occasions or for formal wear and as a casual wear during cerebrations. Tracing back the historical lane, the structure of folk costume has had a basic structure worn by both men and women and remained the same for both the workdays and holidays for hundreds of years back, until the recent past, when the contemporary factory cloths productions or the urban influenced fashions came to existence.

Today, one can find the folk costume in ethnographic museums of Bulgaria dating from as early as the 19th century to early 20th century. This is the period when it was easy to find more elaborated folk costumes. Those on display in the ethnographic museums were wedding or festive wears. The wears associated with marriage ceremonies had multiple layers and heavy jewel accompaniment.


The apron has embroidery flowery pleats at the bottom end standing out of the black background of the cotton fabric. The garment structure therefore indicates evident existence of design observable throughout the fabric. The enhancement was achievable by use of the basic design tools. A key element that is easily notable in the complete design is the paisley figured silver belt.

Steele appreciates existence of artefacts as the key elements of study such as fabric designs. He therefore presents his point of view concerning the study of culture, trough his point of logical thought, and emphasizes the importance of involving material evidence actively instead of passively as illustrations (Steele, 1998, 327).

On analysis of folk costume based on Steele’s persuade, the folk costume was one of the items influenced by distinct ethnographical zones of the history. Various historical events and practices in different zones are some of the main cultural influences over men and women dressing codes. The cloth therefore presents the everyday routine. The fabric developed overtime and become a festival wear.

Some of the advancement features included the extra layers of special but richer fabric decoration designs that matched the folklore events, festive and cultural occasions. Historically, the dress was dependent on the dresser’s age, social status within the traditional setting, marital status, economic status in terms of wealth and occupation. The most elaborate garment had the richest decorations and heaviest metal jewellery and was more suitable for the youth especially during weddings and other similar celebrations.

The costume measures up to current marriage ceremonies. During marriage, the Bulgarian brides had head universal scarves and elegant gown decorations. Like the current social, the Bulgarian setting men wear also remained static for long lifetime periods and the probable changes were minute. The men wear has good comparison to the traditional social settings of Bulgaria where costumes reflected the social status or the occupation of the wearer.

The garments have close links to other Bulgarian women dressing such as Sarafan, a dress that has typical feminine structure with an over garment. Other similar dresses are the Saya and Soukman with aprons to fasten them at the waist. The type of garment depends on various aspects such as the ethnic settings, the triumph fashion designs in the market, season differences and social setting. There is also a close relationship between the linen lining of the folk Bulgarian costume and today’s linen garments.

These were some typical characteristics in majority of the Bulgarian costumes. Nevertheless, the garment had a single width with splits at the neck joining at the shoulders to form the sleeves. They equally had common decorations of embroidery on the neck lining with predominant red or maroon and black colours. The chemise beneath the tops had fewer decorations with only little parts being visible. They were mainly made of less decorated cotton fabrics.


The Bulgarian folk costume is made of striped materials and preserves the cultural values through the long-sleeves enhancements and the ankle length. The difference of the cultures were brought out through the use of colours, where some had multicolour while others utilized single red colour designs with little decorations.

The designs of the garments are either with a rounded or v-shaped neck styles. The garment evolution involve changes from the historical double chemise tops to the double lining, where the outer lining is shorter to reveal decorations of the inner lining and this historical design was in existence for a while before emergence of today’s style of single layering of fabrics that leads to more skin exposure.

Extra ornaments such as the metal silver or golden jewellery are an additional to the waistline making it wider and distinctive. The neckline also enhanced the cultural effects due to the decorations made of coloured braids, gold threads and distinguishing necklaces. Contemporary dress codes of the Bulgarian national still exhibit the traditional ethnic styles that features aprons fastened at the waistline over white inner chemise.

Some floral embroidery on the neckline matched the coloured braids in a similar manner as the contemporary designs, where people find perfect matches for their hair designs or dyes. The item has survived all along the since history because it is able to meet the clothing industry expectations.

As a retailer market practice, eco-friendly initiatives are an enormous activated aspect. The Bulgarian fabric therefore elicits various cultural, political policies, social and economic aspects of life such as use of recycled materials like polyester or organic cotton yarns. The yarns also help in enhancing quality.


This earlier form of dressing code has a very close relation to current social setting especially for the preservative communities whose youth dress exorbitantly with a lot of stylish body ornaments and open wear. On the other hand, like the Bulgarian elderly men and women, today’s older generations are more conservative and will avoid the garments that expose too much skin and prefer less or no eloquent ornaments.

They also avoid extremely decorated costumes. Steele insists on restricting findings to the object as the main external evidence as opposed to subjective assumptions or relative experiences (Steele, 1998, 332). From this point of view, the issue of eco-friendly practices is important, but it ought not to compromise on sustainability measures. The social economic factors sometimes fail to meet the overall need of the designer.

They may support the environment, but eventually fail to cater for other important needs beyond the fabrics production and supplies. Some of the cultural issues include the origin of the products or raw materials and remuneration packages for the producers.

Sustainability of the materials also indicates that the Bulgarian fabric was able to meet and cater for aspects that enhance production by ensure sustainability. Currently, it s evident that majority of today’s fabric retailers are considering the initiative of giving back to the society through the eco-friendly initiatives as their social responsibility.

Reference List

Steele, V. (1998). “A museum of fashion is more than a clothes bag“, in Fashion Theory Journal, Vo1.2. Issue. 4. Pp. 327-336.

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