Serbian traditional clothing

Youths in traditional costumes of Šumadija (Central Serbia).

Serbian folk costumes (Serbian: Српска народна ношња/Srpska narodna nošnja), like any traditional dress of a nation or culture, has been lost to the advent of urbanization, industrialization, and the growing market of international clothing trends. The wide range of regional folk costumes show influence from historical Austrian, Hungarian, German, Italian, and Ottoman Turkish presence. Nonetheless, the costumes are still a pinnacle part of Serbian folk culture and, fitting with the attempts to preserve this folk culture, it was not uncommon to see rural women in traditional working costumes all the way until the end of President Josip Broz Tito's term. Today, these traditional costumes are only worn by some elderly in rural areas, on national holidays, and as part of celebrations, tourist attractions, and in museums. From the 19th century on, Serbs have adopted the usual European way of dressing.


Serbian costume is also known for the variety of textures and embroidery. The jelek is a Waistcoat made from wool or velvet while women's jackets are lined with fur. The peony embroidery design often found on aprons, socks and elsewhere is colored bright red, symbolising the blood lost at the Battle of Kosovo. Characteristic features of Serbian dress include opanci, footwear dating back to antiquity.

Traditional Serbian female dress consists of opanci, embroidered woolen socks that reached to the knees and nazuvice. Skirts were very varied, of plaited or gathered and embroidered linen, with tkanice serving as a belt. An important part of the costume were aprons (pregace) decorated with floral motifs. Shirts were in the shape of tunics, richly decorated with silver thread and cords was worn over the shirt. In some areas it was replaced by an upper sleeveless dress of red or blue cloth, knee-long, richly decorated and buttoned in front (zubun). Scarves and caps bordered with cords were worn as headdress. Girls also wore collars, or a string of gold coins around their throats, earrings, bracelets, and their caps were decorated with metal coins or flowers.

In medieval times, rulers, the nobility and senior churchmen brought many of their fabrics from the Republic of Ragusa. The most common fabric for ordinary Serbs was sclavina or schiavina, a coarse woollen fabric. Linen was also made within Serbia while silk was grown at the Dečani Monastery as well as near Prizren. Few secular garments have survived from the medieval period the most notable being the costume worn by Lazar Hrebeljanović at the Battle of Kosovo. More decorated vestments have survived from the period.

The typical Serbian costume comprises shirts, trousers, skirts, sleeveless coats called jeleks, ordinary coats, jubun, socks, belts and head-gear, often called oglavja.

The designs of civil clothes were developed from ancient times, to Roman then Byzantine, and later under Turkish (Oriental) influence, and in towns of the Pannonian area and the Adriatic coast, primarily under European influence. Under the influence of the mentioned factors certain common wearing elements within the wider cultural and geographic zones were created, such as Central-Balkan, Pannonian, Dinaric and Adriatic zones with their own particularities.


Overall traditional wear include:

Central Serbia

Folk costumes during Guca trumpet festival.

The traditional folk attire of Šumadija has become the modernized regional dress for Central Serbia. Characteristic of the dress is the:

Eastern Serbia

Serbian Dance group from Sombor dancing Kolo in East Serbian folk attire

Traditional shepherd attire. As part of a cultural zone with Romania, the attire has likeness to those in adjacent Romanian provinces. Typical for the attire is woolen vests and capes (from sheep), walking sticks, etc. They wear the opanci.

Ivanjica area

The inhabitants of this region are mainly migrants from the so-called Dinara region. In its basic characteristics the costume is similar to that of the Dinara region with additions imposed through time, by the new environment, and later influences from outside.

Regardless of the relative isolation and lack of connection in communication between the investigated territories and other regions, change penetrated even this area and was reflected not only in daily life but also in the adoption of new, or abandoned old, pieces of dress for practical or functional reasons. Some dress pieces, particularly from the older costume at end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, are recognisable in the dress of Montenegro, Herzegovina and early Bosnia from where the greater number of the inhabitants originate.

The oldest pieces of costume are very similar to those in the place of origin e.g. male and female shirts, female waistcoats, gunj, aljina, red cap, Mali fez with shawl, zubun, pelengiri, kabanica. After World War I, the so-called Sumadija costume (anterija, fermen) became the national costume of this region.

The facts indicate that this national costume, in villages of the Ivanjica region, had practically disappeared in the nineties of the 20th century, “Old” dress disappeared under the pressure of industrial, uncontrolled production.

Leskovac area

The male costume consists of dark trousers, cloth, white shirt, dark jelek (a small dark-red sleeveless embroidered jacket) and black subara (characteristic high shaggy fur cap). Women wear weaved skirts (fute), colorful aprons, white embroidered dresses, dark jelek and white kerchiefs around their heads. They wear opanci.

Pirot area

The costumes of Pirot are richly decorated, male costume consists of natural-white zobun, black-red belt, black or red trousers and subara on the head. Women wear white dresses under black zobun, which has gold stripes on borders, decorated aprons and white kerchiefs around their heads. They were opanci and red socks.

Vranje area

Folk costumes from south Serbia, girls are wearing dimije (shalwar pants).

The traditional urban dress of Vranje is a mix of local tradition and oriental influences. The male costume consists of dark trousers and gunj with red stripes at the end of its sleeves, red silk belt and the black shoes. Women wear black plush skirts, white blouses and highly decorated libada embroidered with gold srma, pafta around waist and tepeluk on the head.


Folklore group from Izbište, South Banat District.

The folk costumes of Vojvodina are usually of plain black and white colors with western influence. The ethnic groups of Srem, Bačka and Banat all have their distinctive costumes. Srem has elements of central Balkan and Dinaric attire, Bačka has central European influences and styles, especially from the Baroque.

Kosovo and Metohija

The traditional attires of Kosovo and Metohia are known for their rich styling and ornamentation.[6]

See also


  1. V. Anić; et al. (2004). Hrvatski enciklopedijski rječnik. 7. Zagreb: Jutarnji list. ISBN 953-6045-28-1.
  2. Eliznik, South East Europe costume – peasant sandals.
  3. Sima Čirković (1973). Natural Resources and Beauties of the Socialist Republic of Serbia. Eksport-Pr. p. 87.
  4. Joel Martin Halpern (1967). A Serbian village. Harper & Row.
  5. Nigel Thomas (2001). Armies in the Balkans 1914–18. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-194-7.
  6. Kosovska narodna nošnja. (Serbian)

Further reading

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