Bosnian traditional – folklore costumes

The majority of the traditional and folklore costumes of the rural population of Bosna and Herzegovina was manufactured and handmade until the end of the 19th century. Women in the villages of Bosnia and Herzegovina used to make traditional costumes themselves while some parts of the costumes were made by rural or urban craftsmen. Most of traditional costumes of Bosnia and Herzegovina were made of wool, flax, hemp and leather. Cloth was made of flax and hemp of which basic parts of the costumes were made : shirt, pants as well as women kerchief for covering head. Pure flax was used for making festive parts of the traditional costumes while it was mixed with hemp for every-day costumes parts. Cotton was greatly used for making urban costumes and its usage in making rural costumes started from the 19th century, first of all in Eastern Bosnia, Posavina and Herzegovina. Wool was most often used for making traditional costumes of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Cloth was made of wool which was treated and non-treated afterward for aprons, weaving objects and bags. Common colors of wool were white, black and dark blue, and so treated cloth was used by all ethnic groups. In Bosnia and Herzegovina men were shearing sheep in late spring while women were in charge of making and preparing wool.

Raw leather was mostly used which was not treated but only dried. Shoes were made of leather which were opanci, that were called putravci, oputnjaci, fasnjaci. Material that was used for knitting opanci were of lean sheep and goat skin. Besides those oputara special opanci of treated leather were produced that were worn by opulent young people at the end of the 19th century until shoes as the part of the costume appeared. This custom of using shoes is for the fact an Austria-Hungary influence. Poor people who were wearing opanci of treated leather benefited from this since opanci were less expensive than shoes.


Rural costumes of Bosnia and Herzegovina differ mutually much. There are significant differences in the way of dressing between vast geographic areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina so that three geographic parts distinguish : the Western Bosnia with Herzegovina, the Middle Bosnia and the Eastern Bosnia and Posavina. This division of the rural population costumes resulted in three main groups that make three types of the rural folklore costumes of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Dinaric costumes /costumes of the Western Bosnia and Herzegovina/, Central Bosnian costumes that include the Eastern Bosnia and the third type make the Costumes of Posavina. Numerous variations of folklore and traditional costumes of different ethnic groups are visible in small details of specific parts of dressing and in their colors and the way they are warn, but they have preserved all basic characteristics of types they belong to.


Dinaric costumes spread mostly along the mountainous territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina and cover the surface of the West Bosnia, which are areas of the Dinaric mountainous massif, entering deep to the east of Bosnia up to the areas of Imljan, Banjalučka Vrhovina and across Travnik town to Ram. On the north border goes along slopes of Grmeč and through Banja Luka to Prnjavor. On the south border is lost and spreads into the Herzegovina, covering the part of Bosnia around towns of Foča and Cajniče up to the Lim River.

Within this spaciously spread mountainous area of Bosnia and Herzegovina large number of variations of costumes of the Serb and Croat ethnic groups are found, while Muslim Bosniacs wear very similar costumes. Among the Serb and Croat traditional costumes there are : costumes of Imljan, Zmijanje, Banja Luka Vrhovina, Prnjavor, Debeljak, Janja, Kupres, Livno, Glamoč, Grahovo, Podgrmeč, Bihac and Ram. In traditional costumes of Herzegovina there are two variations of “Um” and “Highlanders”. Costumes of “Um” cover mostly the western and the central Herzegovina, including the areas around Mostar, Konjic, Stoc, Ljubinje and Ljubuski, while the “Highlanders costumes” are found in the eastern parts of Bosnia, including the mentioned areas of Bosnia around Foča and Cajniče.

Main characteristics of Dinaric costumes are : flex shirt made in one piece, with right-sided triangles under the armpits, embroidered on the back side and sleeves and chests. Embroidery was always done in wool of four colors in the Serbian traditional costumes and regularly in two colors in the Croatian traditional costumes. Motifs of embroidery were geometrical. Muslim shirts in Dinaric areas had no embroidery. Pants were compulsory part of the women costumes only in the Croat and the Bosniaks ethnic groups. Contrary pants in the Serbian women folklore costumes were worn only during the wedding and burials ceremonies and assemblies.

Among the upper woolen vests the most important are : zubun, dress and apron. Zubun is usually made of coarse fabrics, covers hips, commonly white in the girls’ traditional costumes, while in the traditional costumes of the married women it is black or dark blue. The zubun in Croatian costumes used to have a lots less embroidery than the Serbian. The winter long dress is made of white cloth for the girls and of black or dark blue cloth for women /mrčine or modrine/. This particular dress is long up to talus, open in front and an triangle on the armpits and with long narrow sleeves. Those dresses are not common in the Bosnian Dinaric areas /except those around Čapljina and in Podveležje areas/.
Aprons were woven of wool in colors in two techniques : rug or adding or choosing threads. Some of the Serbian and the Croatian costumes even had two aprons – the front and the back what can be found in Zmijanje, Prnjavor, Debeljaca and Sas costumes. Muslim population does not consider apron as the part of the female costume, neither in the Dinaric areas nor in the other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Zmijanje – “AT THE END OF AN AGE”

The eastern part of Krajina – between the rivers Vrbasa and Sana, the area between the cities of Jajce, Banja luka, Kljuc and Sanski Most – is called Zmijanje. Life, folk customs and costumes of the population of this part of Krajina have always been interested by many researchers of our past and folklore. This was of great interest to the famous folk storyteller Petar Kocic, who took the city from Zmijanje for many of his stories and can be said to be the first to discover the world the beauty of his region, ethnographically rich, fresh and interesting area. Particular value and beauty was and still is the folk costume of Zmijanjki, which is different for girls, and different for younger, middle-aged and older women. Once on church words, today at celebrations, weddings and various folk gatherings and celebrations of new holidays, people from other regions, random travelers, amazes with the picturesque and beauty of Zmianje costumes. In such occasions one can see two three hundred beautified women and girls, dressed in costumes for rare ceremonies, which was once called assembly attire. Costumes have a nice look especially when on summer or autumn days during folk speeches and other ceremonies they capture.

PATTERNS AND EMBROIDERY – DREAMS OF GIRLS : When it happens during such festivities in Zmijanje, one doesn’t know what to look first and what to admire more. Whether the versatility, complexity and beauty of embroidery on sleeves, breasts, scarves and skirts, or the artistically complex and harmonious colors that overflow lavishly. In each of them at first glance the upper dress catches the eye – a zubun, which does not sag in order to highlight the inner embroideries and decorations as much as possible. At the bottom of the tooth is sewn one piece of blue chocha with silk embroidery, with golden and silver woven ribbons and thousands of glass berries of various colors that glow in the sun. An integral part of Zmijanjska costume is apron, one of the heaviest parts of costume, which is usually patterned in darker colors. On their heads, Zmijanjke are wearing white scarves – Bosce with small embroidery and a wide piece of red canvas – mesh and a piece of blue chocha. When a female child grows up and sleeps almost ready for marriage, then she starts to comb and dress differently. That’s when the girls of nowadays start wearing long white shirts with wide sleeves. In the future, they are afraid of an apron, a sledgehammer and a cloth on which entire rows of small silver coins have been changed. On their backs is a white sleeveless dress, and at the bottom wide silk embroidery up to the armpits. They put a chocha hat on their heads decorated with silver coins. Girls on their feet wear socks and pillows with wide silk embroidery, and they wear “kaishlije” on them that they supply all the way from Sarajevo.

COLORS OF TREES GRASS AND FRUIT: Material for making their costumes from Zmijanjani produce themselves, and partly purchased on the other side. Canvas and skirt, and some parts of jewelry materials are made by themselves. Material for decorating costumes also include colors, mostly black, blue, green, red, brown and yellow. Black color Zmijanjka is made from ash, green from grass called ”sprak”, yellow from rose, and brown from walnut bark. In recent years, it has been increasingly noticed that in the areas towards Prijedor, Kneshpolje and in the middle course of the Una river snake costumes are disappearing, and increasingly certain parts of ordinary civilian costumes are prevailing. Time and life are changing, so do the costumes and customs of the people in Zmijanje. An era is already on its way and it is slowly moving to museums, to give way to a new and more beautiful one……  S. BRAVO – RELEASE – WEDNESDAY, 14TH. NOVEMBER 1956. (Goran Legenovic) – posted by Tamara Komazec