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Aprons abound – Bansko

While the Rhodope aprons have their admirers, I can’t resist a touch of embroidery, especially when combined with sequins. Happily I have friends who understand this.  For most of the trip to Bulgaria in 2010 I insisted that I wasn’t going to buy everything I saw – and I held out for quite a while.

Towards the end of the trip we spent a lovely few days winding down in Bansko. The mountain air, cooler elevation and very walkable town made the stop just right. In addition, there was a pleasant square just a few blocks from our guest house.  Set up in the square was a seller of folk items: socks, aprons, bags and other souvenirs. We passed through the square often as we explored the town.

Smiling seller of socks, aprons and trinkets near the church in Bansko.

Smiling seller of socks, aprons and trinkets near the church in Bansko.

We enjoyed talking with the apron lady and another nearby vendor in our nearly non-existent Bulgarian and their bits of English.  Aprons were purchased.  I was still in “I can’t carry everything home” mode. For this reason Susan was the one who bought this splendid Bansko region apron:

Sequin apron from Bansko.

Sequin apron from Bansko.

Earlier in the trip I had seen aprons like this on performers and in a museum so we knew these particular aprons were from the general region of Bansko (perhaps more detail in a future post) – and the seller supplied this information as well.  Here is the full costume as seen onstage at the Koprivshtitsa festival:

Singers from Bansko region at Koprivshtitsa in 2010.

Singers from Bansko region at Koprivshtitsa in 2010.

At the market in Bansko I was able to get photos of vintage red dresses in the style worn by the women.  Compared to the vintage dresses, you can see that the women in the photo are wearing modern reproductions meant for performers with simplified construction and trimmings.  As best as I can tell from the photo, the aprons are vintage with hand embroidery and old-fashioned hand-made sequins. I was some distance away when the photo was taken but even so I’m confident the dresses were made with machine-made cloth and modern purchased gimp braid.

Here is a close-up detail from a vintage bodice for sale in the market.

Vintage bodice detail from dress in Bansko market.

Vintage bodice detail from dress in Bansko market.

The lavish black and gold trimmings around the neck are a special type of cord called “gaitano” meaning braided.  I didn’t make notes at the time but I think that the black trim on the vintage dresses is wool.  Cording of this quality was made by specialists and is reflective of the relative wealth of the region since both the gaitano braid and the gold lace would have been purchased rather than made at home. This dress is modern enough to have been sewn (or at least altered) by machine even though there is quite a bit of handwork in the decoration. Each bodice would have been an individual work of art while closely following the regional style.

Here is a photograph from a museum showing both the detail of the embroidery on the chemise and a bit of the bodice edging.

Embroidery on chemise from Bansko region.

Embroidery on chemise from Bansko region.

Here is another detail from the museum showing the apron and the crochet lace on the edge of the sleeve of the chemise.

Bansko region details: apron close up and edge of sleeve.

Bansko region details:
apron close up and edge of sleeve.

The apron allows for a great deal of individual expression.  Despite the reflection on the glass case, you can clearly see that the maker of the apron included her initials on the bottom border.

Bansko region ensembl

Bansko region ensemble.

I have not seen any books that detail the costume of this particular area. Neither the decorations, the construction details, or the ethnographic details are included in any of my costume books.  (Unfortunately, I did not capture the details from the museum’s description of the costume I have included above – it was very hot and I was growing tired.) I have seen the same red dress and chemise with at least three different styles of apron both in person and on the internet.  I have seen this general ensemble identified as being from Bansko, Razlog and Dobarsko – which are all quite close together. For this reason I’ve arrived at my own speculative conclusion that this particular apron is associated with festive occasions and possibly young women or new brides and that a woman from this area might have a selection of aprons for both different occasions such as holidays and to mark different stages in her life.

I’ll let this serve as an introduction to the interesting costume of this region as there are more Bansko aprons to explore and I’ve detoured to show the whole ensemble rather that some of the special features of the apron itself.  The apron (courtesy of Susan) has come to join my collection and I can only say I’m glad that I didn’t miss out on this opportunity to bring home a special souvenir of my Bulgarian vacation.

~from the Mistress of Chaos

 

 

 

 

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