Rss

  • youtube

Apron Stories – Shiroka Luka

Our first apron appeared on our fourth day in Bulgaria, after we arrived in Shiroka Luka.  Shortly after we stepped out of our taxi, we were captured by the most prominent location in town for finding folkloric items – it not only faced the main town plaza but also advertised by placing appealing textiles on the wide-open door.

A favorite spot in Shiroka Luka - the shop with the textiles!

A favorite spot in Shiroka Luka – the shop with the textiles!

As you know if you’ve read the earlier posts, there’s something about that orange and green plaid that calls to some of us and we made a beeline inside. Even though it was early in the trip, this beauty was too lovely to pass up. You can see the result as modeled by Diana in the photo below.

Three mountains: the Rhodopes (left) meet the Pirins (right) in the Catalina mountains of Arizona.

Three mountains: the Rhodopes (left) meet the Pirins (right) in the Catalina mountains of Arizona.

Here’s a classic of an entire Rhodope ensemble as illustrated from the Boston MFA collection:

A lovely example of a Plovdiv costume as collected at the Boston MFA.

A lovely example of a Plovdiv costume as collected at the Boston MFA.

The staff in the shop were very helpful as we made the purchase and we think they were attempting to explain to us that the apron was entirely handmade – spun and woven and most likely dyed in a local community somewhere in the Rhodope Mountains . It is a beautiful piece of cloth. Like several other aprons we saw, the apron ties are not attached to the cloth so that the wearer can adjust the apron to her own height. One style of wearing the apron is shown in the image below (scanned from a Bulgarian book on the costumes of the Rhodopes).

Young woman in festival dress from the village of Petkovo in the Rhodope Mountains.

Young woman in festival dress from the village of Petkovo in the Rhodope Mountains.

It was on another day in the same shop that we learned about “gaitano,” the special woolen braid that is used for trim on so many pieces of clothing – including the wool slippers called terlitisi (also romanized as terlici). We were puzzled by a bowl of what looked to us like some kind of fat black yarn. Once the shop assistants said the word “gaitano” we understood that we were looking at a braid. The two women conveyed to us how the gaitano was used as trim.  (We don’t have a big Bulgarian vocabulary since it’s mostly from the songs we sings and most of it centers around clothing and food – that’s why we know the word for braid which also refers to braided hair). The woman from the Petkovo in the photo above is wearing classic terlitsi embellished with white embroidery and black gaitano to finish the edges.

While I was still mostly avoiding buying anything bigger than a postcard, I would have cheerfully bought myself some slippers on the spot but I had to wait until I found a shop in Plovdiv that sold them in adult sizes! My guess is that they make very popular gifts for children as adult sizes were not common in the most of the shops. It’s really a pity as they are very comfortable slippers and I wear them often at home.

The gaitano (braid) finishes the raw edge of the slipper and forms a little tab at the heel.
The gaitano (braid) finishes the raw edge of the slipper and forms a little tab at the heel.
Modeling my Rhodope slippers.

Modeling my Rhodope slippers.

As you can see, the terlitsi are really house shoes and before stepping outside a woman would slip on either or leather or (more recently) plastic slip-on outdoor shoes. The same term also refers to the very popular knitted slippers (just like the kind you might find in the US) that have replaced the folkloric-style version for everyday wear. Just take a look at etsy and search for “Bulgarian slipper,” and you’ll see both the vintage and new styles.

Someday I hope to make a pattern for the slippers before mine wear out! If I do, I’ll post the pattern and the results. I suspect that once upon a time the slippers boasted gimp trim applied in fancy designs similar to those on the jackets – either that or hand-done tambour (chain stitch) embroidery in patterns that mimicked the jacket trim. All the slippers I have seen for sale and in museums were embellished with machine embroidery, often in very bright colors – perhaps I need a different color for every day of the week?

Bonus:

A beautiful photo of a nearly identical orange and green apron at Lost Bulgaria.

A favorite song from the Rhodopes, Vecerai Rado, complete with slideshow: