Women’s headwear

Headbands and hair dressing and decorations – kachul, sokai

Traditionally unmarried women did not cover their hair. There were many ancient ways of styling their hair using either a single plait, two plaits or many small plaits.

In the north of Bulgaria the ancient hair style was to braid the hair into many plaits, which can be tied into one plait. This style being called nalessa. These plaits are decorated with hair ornaments (kosichnik) made of multi-coloured beads, coins, flowers, feathers or woollen threads, which were braided into the plaits. A headband was worn over these plaits, which was decorated with small gold coins, feathers and beads, and often had long bands of material decorated with coins and flowers hung from it.

Around Veliko Tarnovo until mid-19th married women wore a style of headdress called a sokai. This traditional style headdress was banned by the Ottomans so these were preserved by hiding them kept in chests at home. Sokai consisted of a circular band decorated with multi coloured stones and rosettes and fine silver pendants, with a chin piece made of silver chains or chains made of copper coins. This was worn with a wooden frame called a bouka, and was covered with a fine fringed white cotton headscarf, which was richly embroidered.

The hair is often worn nalessa with the sukman costume, and after marriage these plaits are often cut and pinned on under the headscarf. Hair dressing with the saya was dependant on marital status, the hair was braided into small plaits at the neck, using hair extensions, and beads coins, shells, and small pieces of material were intertwined in the braids. In southern Thrace, around Ivailovgrad, Kroumovegrad and Dedeagacha a single plait was rolled up on back of the head and covered with a pad or small hat. In the areas around Haskovo, Chirpan, and Stara Zagora these pads were semicircle, horseshoe shaped or rectangle shaped.

Elaborate headdresses were worn by Lazarki (young girls) in west Bulgaria with the sukman costume. These were made of a headband with many multicoloured feathers, and silver coins attached.

Headscarves – mesal , mahrama, testemel, chember, fekel and hats – kaitsa, fesche

The most common headwear worn by married women with all styles of Bulgarian costume was a headscarf, as it was traditional to keep the head covered after marriage. These scarves could be square, triangular or rectangular, small or large, and were worn either alone or over a small hat. Once a woman passed into widowhood she wore a black scarf tied to frame her face so as to hide all her hair.

A white or striped square kerchief was worn with single apron costumes, and a white thin cotton headscarf, often with fringes was worn wound round head with double apron costumes. These thinner headscarves had replaced older style scarves made from white hemp or linen. They were usually bordered with crochet edging in white or coloured cotton or silk thread with beads interleaved. Bridal headdresses usually had a large square headscarf or scarf (mesal) 2m to 3m long and decorated with embroidery and fringes on both ends

Rectangular headscarves were worn with sukman costumes in the mountainous regions of the central Rhodopes, and Strandzha, whereas square white headscarves, or scarves with coloured stripes on the ends were worn in lower lying areas, often over pads made in a variety of shapes, or cone shape or in Sofia and Samokov over cylindrical hats.

Scarves were also worn over cylinder or cone shape low hats with saya costume in the western Rhodopes. Newly married women wearing the saya costume wore square headscarves made of white home-made cloth. From the early 20th century these were replaced by factory made scarves of coloured wool or silk fabric. These usually had coloured stripes at the ends. They were folded in the middle and placed on head, or could be worn over a pad, with the ends hanging loose at back. In Dedeagach, Gyumuyrdjina, Ivailovgrad a long scarf which was embroidered at the two narrow ends and had long fringes was worn. This was similar to mesal (cloths) used in the eastern Stara Planina, Strandja, and central Rhodopes.

Published on 7th June 2018