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Author: Dobrinka Kostova, Hristo Hristov, Ethnographic and Archaeological Museum - Elhovo

The material is from the 7th Yearbook of REM Plovdiv, "Tradition in folk culture"

The great migratory and demographic changes in the valley downstream of the Tundzha River, West Strandzha and Eastern Sakar rivers before the Liberation and the first few decades after that have identified several main types of women's costumes, among which the tunic type of the costume predominates. In it, the diversity is manifested mainly in the type and location of the decoration on the main element in women's clothing – sukman (tunic), with a phonetic variant of pronunciation in this area – “chukman”.

Particularly impressive is the predominant Elhovo dress costume, with its rich multicolored embroidery, which is recognized as one of the most beautiful traditional women's costumes in Bulgaria, appreciated too early and gained great popularity. Proof of this is the participation of Elhovo dresses at international exhibitions almost 100 years ago in London and Rio de Janeiro. In 1920, a large exhibition was arranged in England at St. Albans, near London. There are 40 pavilions, one for each country. "In the Bulgarian pavilion to the great variety of different objects, in both corners were exhibited only one female costume from Kazal-Agach (now Elhovo) and one male from Sofia, dressed in mannequins." (Zhelyazkov 1988: 186). The Elhovo sukman arouses the admiration and interest of the English. The same exhibition later visited London - in the two large halls of Hyde Park Hotel, one of the first large hotels in London, visited by wealthy Americans who marveled at the beauty of the women's costume from Elhovo. At the jubilee exhibition in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 1921 - 1922, Bulgaria was presented with only two women's costumes, one from Elhovo and the other - from the village of Balabunar, Karnobat region.

In 1936 the Fourth Congress of Slavic Geographers and Ethnographers was held in Sofia. The Congress is the largest scientific and cultural event with international participation, held so far in post-liberation Bulgaria. The congress is attended by 323 students, of which 200 are foreigners from 10 countries. After the debates of the congress, the students wanted to visit a Bulgarian region with interesting customs, traditions and beautiful costumes. The Elhovo region is mentioned as such and in connection with the visit of the Slavic scientists, a large exhibition of local Elhovo costumes has been arranged in the “Razvitie” community center. Scientists were so impressed by the ethnographic riches of the area, by the beauty of the colorful embroidered women's costumes that one of the guests, Professor of Slavic Philology at Charles University in Prague - Matthias Murko, exclaimed: "Beautiful,nice, but you give us too much, so we are not able to fit everything in this short time. Which should we look at next? ”(Zhelyazkov 1988: 186; Awakening 1936: issue 59).

Historical circumstances determine the area of this cloth costume from the village of Fakia in the east, to the river Maritsa and the village of Glavan in the west - uniform in cut and style, but with a difference of some elements - most often “gazite”, filigree, skirts, aprons and etc.

The charm and uniqueness of the real Elhovo dress costume are determined by the original ornamentation of the main elements of the costume - dress, shirt, apron, belt and outerwear, depending on the season. (Vakarelski, Ivanov 1942: 104). The Bulgarian woman from this region puts a lot of skills and love into its production, showing a rich imagination and a sense of beauty. The women from Elhovo makes its costume in most cases after hard field work, in the light of the gas lamp, transforming in its embroidery its dreams and aspirations for love and happiness. Stylized geometric, floral, zoomorphic and even anthropomorphic figures shine on the clothes in an extremely rich color range.

The Elhovo sukman costume in its two variants - ancient and modern, existed from the middle of the XIX to the middle of the XX century (Veleva, Lepavtsova 1979: 7). The dress has a tunic-like cut and is made of homemade fabric, wool, black or dark blue fabric, dyed blue. The shirt is made of cotton, hemp or cotton-hemp. A colorful belt is putted on the sukman, and a densely embroidered apron is tied on it. The outer garments in the traditional sоukman costume are vests, “saltamarki”, “dzhumeta”, made of homemade “shayak”, decorated with black or orange braid. The beauty of the costume is complemented by various metal and beaded jewelry: bracelets, „bapki”, “prochelnitsi”, “podbradnitsi”, “pitsaludi”, “nagrudnitsi”, “cordoni”, earrings and beautifully ornamented and inlaid buckles, which are worn only by engaged and married women. Women wear headscarves in different colors. On their feet they wear „tsarvuli” on thick woolen socks in the natural color of the wool, and later “mestiove”- deep “terlitsi” reaching to the ankle, or socks. “Kunduri” (shoes) and “terlitsi”, worn on differently colored, hand-knitted socks.

There are some differences in the essential Elhovo costume. They are determined by the age of the women and the evolution of the costume known by the names - ancient Elhovo sоukman costume and modern Elhovo sоukman costume.

The old Elhovo sоukman costume has two main variants: sоukman “podshitnik” and sоukman “smesenite byalki” - with different varieties.

The sukman “podshinik” with a phonetic variant of pronunciation in this area – “pochitnik, is a prototype of the ancient Elhovo women's costume / Il. 1 /. The beautifully and densely embroidered embroidery around the bosom of the dress is known as “gazi. It has the shape of a rectangle, with approximate dimensions: height 35 cm and width 25 cm. The motifs of the “gazi are from both flora and fauna, without neglecting the geometric shapes. Due to the great variety of motifs, appropriate names are required:”shikeri, chingeli, white gazi, turnip, giulove, cloves almonds, peacock, colour and many more. etc. Women often embroider "magical, incantatory signs - crosses, swastikas, octagonal stars" (Todorova 2003: 8). The sukman “podshitnik” is characterized by a highly sewn wide circumferential stripe above the lower edge of the soukman, called “shite”, or “shitya”, with different motifs and names: “sledges, salt-cellars, mixed and others. Under the dress is a shirt made of homemade hemp cloth, ornamented with a 10 - 15 cm wide colorful stripe on the hem. "When the shirt is “kalchishtena” (hemp), the soukman sits more stuck-up " (Zhelyazkov 1988: 179). The old shirts have white sewn “ogarlieta” of twisted white tricycle and wrinkled sleeves. The “ogarlie” is 3 to 5 cm high. The embroideries of the necklaces have the names: buffalo eye, ear of wheat, narrow, rod and elbow, nine fillings and many more. etc. The wrinkles on the sleeves with a height of 10 to 20 cm are called: “surtme, shkembe, sitno, etc.”, some of them end with a cuff. In the early twentieth century, multicolored skirts sewn on a loom or embroidered by hand were sewn under the “zubchezh” of the dress so that they looked like a continuation of a shirt, and the length of the shirt was shortened. The various embroidered motifs and ornaments on them are again with geometric, floral and zoomorphic elements: “peacocks, drawn, three pairs, three branches, roses, combs, ogribki, apples and many others. From the beginning of the 20th century and with the advent of the sarma as an ornament of the sukman, the “podshitnik” gradually became a garment worn by older women or as a mourning suit.

Sukman “smesenite byalki”/ Il. 2 / and its variants appear in the beginning of the XX century, as in the decoration above the skirts of the sukman, between the “shiteto and zubchezha”, strips of white or alternation of white and yellow tinsel are included, which are sewn on pieces of one color, usually red, or multicolored fabric called “byalki’’. Each strip consists of 10 or 6 rounds (vertical strips) of wire. This type of dress is worn by girls and young women.

The decoration and embroidery on the gauze, the apron, the skirt of the dress and the skirts of the undershirt glow in bright, colorful colors, in different shades of blue, yellow, green, purple, red, orange, as a favorite and most often used in embroidery. deep pink (pembyan) color. The embroideries on the dresses of older women are in a slightly darker range, but this does not affect the beauty of the suit.

The soukman is stocked with a wide belt of diagonally arranged multicolored stripes and an apron with densely embroidered and rich ornamental decoration in a variety of colors, with geometric or geometrized plant motifs. These are the so-called thick aprons, which "resemble carpets with their surface and even compete with them in terms of saturation of figures and variety of colors" (Veleva, Lepavtsova 1979: 19).

A distinctive feature of the bridal and bridal festive attire is the decoration of the back of the costume. At the back, from the waist down, there are multicolored embroidered stripes – “peralki”. Between them is a "tail" of braid, decorated with beads, „pulove and pelezhki”. To the decoration, typical for the back part of the dress, are added the so-called “rahtove” made of braid, beads and coins. All this charm in clothing is complemented by knitted colorful gloves, covering only the wrists. Silver arched bracelets, or “entishii”, shine on them. The headscarf is colored for younger and darker for older women, called “chumber”. The outer garments of the suit are vests, saltamarki, dzhubeta, made of “shayak” and richly decorated with a braid around the pockets, under the arms, at the end of the sleeves and the lower circumferential edge, with a black or orange braid.

The variety of the Elhovo sukman costume is complemented by the way it is used on holidays. Festive maiden clothing differs from that of older women, not only in the richness of „gazi”, skirts,”shite” , but also in jewelry, veil, braiding hair. The girls wear expensive ‘’chumbercheta” in different colors - green, blue, yellow, red and more. The girl's veil “tarposh” during big holidays is typical only for the Elhovo sukman costume / Il. 3 /. The “tarposh” is complemented by a beautiful chin piece. A “bapka” of silver or gold coins is passed over the forehead. The whole veil forms something like a hat at the upper end of which is hung a needle of light beads and “sinci”. On both sides of the temples of the bride and groom and wears “pitsaludi” - pendants of light beads and “sinci”. Brides and grooms, as well as maidens “lazarki” put on the belt hrough a specially woven decorative strip buckles. Richer girls, fiancés and brides wore gold or gilded “kordoni” and “altuni”. "On major holidays, girls, young brides surprised the rural audience with new (for the first time dressed) dresses" (Zhelyazkov, 1988, 183). Every girl and bride as a kind of artist, but not with a brush on canvas, but with a needle and thread on his dress, "drawing" with incredible skill of their longings for love. On “Lazarovden”, the "candidate mothers-in-law" - women who have sons to marry, choose the girls as their sons' wives because of the beauty and perfection of the making of their festive clothes. If a girl can't sew her dress "skoposno", ie. precisely, she and the home and family will not be able to running a house.

The casual or working clothes of the woman from the Elhovo region differ from the festive one in that it is used washed several times sukman.

Over time, as the goldthread became widely used, the “smesenite byalki” sukman became a major type of antique costume from Elhovo, with its varieties increasing in number. The difference in them consists in the following case only in the goldthtead decoration of the “byalki’. The most popular are soukmans “pisanite byalki” and the “alenik”.

“Pisanite byalki” are a soukman, the periphery of which is decorated by extending strips of about 10 - 15 cm wide of yellow and white goldthtead, from which each strip (“kol”) stands at a certain distance. In this way you can see the base – “byalkite” Lace is sewn on the border between the yellow and white stripes of tinsel.

The “alenik” soukman is another variant of the main type of Elhovo soukman costume. Here the background and goldthtead are one color. On a red base (“byalki”) is separated on the plane of spaced strips of goldthtead.

The modern Elhovo cloth costume existed from the 1930s to the end of the 1950s. In it the dress has much narrower skirts, the variety of colors and motifs in its decoration is less. “Gazite’’ of the sukman also has a more uniform embroidery decoration, made mainly in yellow, most often called “yellow gazi”. The shirt is quite short, without sleeves. In the 1930s and 1940s, silk sleeves embroidered with canvas sewn to a linen bodice were worn over the sukman. The aprons are also changing. The thick aprons have been replaced by red ones, which are made of home-woven red fabric, with multicolored geometric or floral motifs sewn on it in the middle and at both ends of the apron / Il. 4 /. The so-called “marmarodni” aprons are also worn, with yellow stripes in squares, on a blue, cherry or green background. The belt becomes shorter and narrower. All this is again made by the skillful hands of the Elhovo woman, in parallel with the irrevocable and constant commitments in the property and household. Gradually, the “dimitni” vests and “saltamarki” are replaced by knitted “kuseta”, cloth, velvet or satin vests, “zebelinovi”, knitted and velvet “saltamarki”. They are already made by master seamstresses with sewing machines. Fine woolen scarves give way to silk or other fabrics. Knitted wool and cotton socks are replaced by factory ones. Gradually, high-heeled shoes are making their way. Under the influence of urban clothing, skirts shorten and reach knee length. Despite these changes, the costume retains its beauty, appearance and specificity.

The clothing of the so-called “kariotska” ethnographic group is another variant of the Elhovo sukman costume. The sukman costume of the “kariotite” differs from the real Elhovo sukman costume in the color of the sleeves and skirts, which are “sinkosani”, not white / Il. 5 /. These dresses are worn by the Greek-speaking population in Topolovgrad and the villages of Oreshnik, Sinapovo, Golyamo Sharkovo, Malko Sharkovo, Mamarchevo, Golyam Manastir, Malak Manastir, General Inzovo (Daskalova-Zhelyazkova, 1989, 41).

The clothing of the so-called “tronska” ethnographic group, formed by Bulgarians from the western Bulgarian lands - Ohrid, Vardar Macedonia, Dupnitsa, Korchan, Kyustendil, Sofia and Radomir / moved to Western Strandzha in the 15th - 16th century, is called “tronski” soukman. 6 /. This type of sukman costume existed at the same time as the real Elhovo soukman costume in the villages of Voden, Strandzha, Gorska Polyana, Golyamo Krushevo, Valchi Izvor, Ruzhitsa, Golyamo and Malko Sharkovo, Fakia and Momina Church, which at that time were within the former Elhovo district. , which requires closer contacts between the population. The most common are the soukman “svitka” and the sukman “smireni karkmi”. The sukman “svitka” takes its name from the knitted or embroidered ring of small rectangles located on its skirts, made with multicolored threads. Later, they began to sew pieces of velvet under it, on which they sewed rows of goldthtead. This ornamentation is called “smireni karkmi”. There is no embroidery decoration around the axillary opening, only an embroidered “zubchezh”. Against the dark background of the dress stands out a woolen apron with colorful ornaments. It is interesting the veil with a home-woven double cloth, a white rectangular cloth called “marmara”. On one of its long sides there is a dense multi-colored ornamentation, with a predominance of red color. This colored stripe, known as the “priber”, is located on the right side of the head when veiled.

In a large group of settlements, located mainly west of the lower reaches of the Tundzha River, there is another variety of the Soukman costume, called “gornotrakiiska” or “uvaliiska”. The name is determined by the fact that they are worn by people who came from Stara Zagora and Chirpan, ie. from Uvata. These are the villages: Trankovo, Ovchi Kladenets, Orlov dol, Hlyabovo, Bulgarska Polyana, Skalitsa, Krumovo, Miladinovtsi, Botevo, Meden Kladenets, Roza, Boyadzhik, Savino, General Toshevo, etc., as well as part of the settlements east of the river, such as Karavelovo, Drama, Simeonovo, Slamino, Malenovo (Stoyanova DA-5446). This type of soukman costume is called sukman “belosnik”, and its decoration is located mainly around the hem and is applied multicolored strips of fabric - red, blue, yellow, green or white - home-woven stripe in predominant white color, interspersed at the base with colored threads, up to 50-60 cm high, with circles, rhombuses, rosettes cut out of cocoons sewn on them, also pulleys, beads, purl braids, etc. Under the skirts of the dress you can see the skirts of the lower shirt, richly ornamented with mostly geometric or floral ornaments in colorful colors. At the back, under the shoulders, the so-called “opashki”are sewn - wide strips of fabric, like that of the dress, also with rich ornamental decoration. The beauty of the costume is complemented by the aprons, which are made of smooth woolen fabric in red, green, blue, with embroidered or sewn in the lower half large, mostly plant motifs. The headscarf is a colored triangular scarf “barish” or a large white square cloth with embroidery in one corner, called a “prishivka”.

In a number of settlements there are other varieties of the women's cloth costume. This is the soukman ”popolnik” from the villages: Ovchi Kladenets, Orlov dol, Hlyabovo, Hanovo, Botevo, Meden Kladenets, Zornitsa, Lyulin and others. (Stoyanova DA-5446). Its decoration consists of sewn, skillfully combined colorful colors, alternating groups of mostly plant motifs around the skirt of the dress.

In the valley downstream of Tundzha, West Strandzha and Eastern Sakar, due to migration and demographic processes, economic reasons, and in some cases as a result of "fashion trends", there are other types of costumes, which also belong to the soukman type, but with different names: ”zhultoklinnik, sini klini, lusnik, preskolnik, Shopski, Greek, Karakachan, etc.” (Zhelyazkov 188, 185).

In all its splendor, all varieties of the Elhovo cloth costume, as well as that of the settlers from Edirne and White Sea Thrace, can be seen in the exposition and in the fund of the Ethnographic-Archaeological Museum - Elhovo. They are masterpieces of women's embroidery and rich imagination, through which nature and life as a microcosm are transformed into a perfect harmony of colors and colors, causing both national pride and self-confidence in every Bulgarian and admiration and admiration for foreigners.


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