Traditional macedonian bodice-corset, similarities and differences

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1MSc. Maja Kikiritkova, 2Ph.D. Donka Bardzieva Tajkovska
1Faculty of technology, University “Goce Delcev”- Stip, Macedonia, str:“Vasil Glavinov” no. 19, 2000 Stip, R. Macedonia,

2President of the ZG-CENTRE FOR CULTURAL HERITAGE, Skopje, Macedonia,

Abstract: The article including Macedonian vest/jerk which had various forms and functions and medieval corset. Bra/Jelek which is the subject of my research serves to highlight the chest; it is worn under traditional long vest/jelek. In form it is short and fastened at the bottom under the chest and serves to emphasize the chest. Bra/Jelek is worn on the Macedonian traditional white shirt that is broad in shape and there is an opening on the middle part of the chest. This is in comparison with medieval bcorset which has the same function but different form. All these surveys are made from a collection of ethnographic museum in Stip, R. Macedonia. There are varieties of waistcoats and one preserved corset import from Germany, which will be the subject of the research. All this will be duly executed, as amended bodice which is present in my collection Rock & Romance.

Key words: traditional bodice, medieval bodis, corset, Rock & Romance, design


1. Introduction

Macedonian traditional costumes are of a great meaning. They are part of the material culture of the Macedonian people and represent a great part of people’s traditional artwork. They were made mutually by all the people who had lived on the territory and were changed and transmitted from generation to generation, while absorbing a lot of elements which were influenced by the different cultures on the Balkans back then. The oldest culture of the Old Balkans, was mixed with the traditions of the Greek civilization, and was also inflected by the style of the Slovenian people, who came to this part of the Balkan Peninsula between V and VII century. In the following centuries, we can see the influence of the Byzantine civilization, and also the Turkish oriental elements are quite noticeable too. Of course, the newest trends coming from the West had a great influence too.

The traditional costumes, besides having their primal function to protect the human’s body from different climate conditions, were also decorated and had many other purposes and messages to tell, along with some magical and ritual functions. Through clothes, people show their territorial belongings, family positions and statuses, and also the social relations between people from different ages. In their long process of development and through the constant process of supporting the old values, the traditional costumes are formed as a special ethnic section of the traditional artwork. Those are formed complex sections which denote the harmonic composing and combining of different pieces of clothes in terms of decoration and in terms of colors and ornaments. The whole composition of the costume is set not only on its practical function, but also serves for satisfying the composer’s esthetic understandings. According to this, every costume represents an intricately carved form made of textile material, colored in different colors and tones, decorated with different embroideries and woven ornamental motives, supplemented with diverse jewelry and other decorations.

The territory of Macedonia offers a great number of different traditional costumes, who have their own unique characteristics. Every region and every ethnic part of Macedonia have had their own costumes which differed from the costumes of the neighbors and had unique stylish, functional and esthetic characteristics.

The reasons of the existence of many different costumes in Macedonia are the relief and the great number of valleys, who have become different ethnic parts, also the traffic and geographic isolation in the past, including the specific development of the population as different. The diversity happened also as a result of the numerous migration movements which were part of Macedonia, and which still happen nowadays. The more those movements were intense and strong, the more was the diversity of the costumes expressed.

The traditional Macedonian costumes were made by the Macedonian women and were generally made of wool, flax, cotton, hemp, with the usage of the traditional tools. Until the first decades of the 20th century, when the traditional costumes reached the top and were still worn and made, there were more than 70 different types of richly decorated traditional costumes on the territory of Macedonia. Every region has it’s own traditional clothes, which is different from the clothes of the neighbor region in a stylish, functional and aesthetic way.

The reason for the appearance of the many different costumes, especially for the women, is the geographic isolation and also it includes the numerous migrations of the ethnical diversity of the population. The traditional costumes are characteristic because of the beautiful embroideries with some rich geometrical and stylized flower motifs, the decorations with gold thread, and also the jewelry made of metal, beads and nature fruits. There are two main types of costumes in Macedonia: a Western Macedonia costume and an Eastern Macedonia costume.

In Western Macedonia costumes, we include the Upper Vardar Valley and the Debar Valley. The traditional costumes of these parts of Macedonia are characterized with numerous pieces of clothes made of a main white shirt, different decorations on the head and the main color which prevails is red. There are different kinds of embroideries in many different techniques (with wool, silk or metal), trimmed with braids, filigrees, beads and expensive jewelry, made generally of metal. In the Eastern Macedonian types of costumes, we include the Near Vardar Valley. The costumes from these regions are usually lighter and more ordinary, without big jewelry, decorations and are not that flamboyant. The color of red prevails here too, and the decorations include strings, braids and gold thread.

The richness of the traditional costumes, the difference between some pieces of clothes, also in all the clothes, is expressed with the stylish composition of the costume and with the number and manifoldness of the clothes and the decorations. In this sense, especially West and East Macedonia, show a true mosaic of rarely beautiful traditional costumes, between which the female costumes are the most expressed. The holiday costumes, and also the rite and elegant costumes are those who are the most rich and decorated, which have preserved the old traditions and which show the creative spirit of the people. [1]

2. Corset
The corset, as a part of the traditional costume through the history, is found very often as a special element which aims to reduce the volume of the figure, but also emphasis some parts, like the waist and the chest. Based on the preserved historical data, the corset is the dominant part of the female costume, but it’s also known that males wore it too.

The corset is still an inexhaustible theme for some new and modern interpretations of some world-famous names, taken from time and with a different style, material and function. The original function was to lower the volume of the figure and to emphasis some parts of the body like typically feminist and less or more erotic aspects.

The corset is a piece of clothes which is worn for shaping and bringing the body into the wanted form, for aesthetic or medical purposes. Both males and females wear corsets, although females wear it more. It is mostly used as a belt around the waist and as a support to the chest. Some women tend to wear corsets tighter than needed and buy corsets with smaller waists, but if they bought a corset which is around 45-50cm, they leave a hole behind to adapt it to their waist of 55-65cm. Generally, this means that the corset reduces the volume for about 2.5 cm or 5 cm top. Actually, in order to achieve a thinner waist, many women add volume in the chest, so as to increase the proportion between the chest and the waist. Also, there were the maxi skirts, the crinolines from the 19th century which added width to the hips, so as the waist would look thinner.

The corsets are generally constructed by a flexible material (fabric, especially made of wool or leather), fixed with a skeleton (also called rib and girdle) into the channels of the fabric or the leather. In the 19th century, steel and fish bones are used, and feather bones were used as a cheaper replacement of fish bones and were constructed by flat pieces of goose feathers woven with a thread in order to form a longer ribbon. Today the most used material for corsets is the plastic and it is intended for the low-quality corsets, and for the corsets with greater quality stretchy and spiral steel is preferred. Other materials used for the framework of the corset are ivory, wood and cane. [2]

3. Mid-Vardar ethnographic subgroup

The costumes are divided into two larger groups, based on the ethnographic region they belong to.

In the first group mostly are included the costumes from the Upper-Vardar, the Debar-Resen, and the Brsjak ethnographic region. In the Eastern Macedonian group we include the costumes from the Mid-Vardar region, the Shopsko-Macedonian, the Strumica region and the Southern-Macedonian ethnographic region.

I will specifically focus on the Mid-Vardar ethnographic subgroup, which is also the theme of my research. Within this subgroup, including the regions of Tikvesh, Ovche Pole, Kochansko Pole, Shtip with Lakavica, parts of Zletovo, Radovish and Strumica, a big part of the costumes have a lot of mutual elements, but also have elements from the other regions which surround them. For example, some costumes which include the patterned apron as a part of the male costume show a certain connection with Prilep and Mariovo. As for some others, they show a connection with the Shop-Macedonian, Strumica and other Southern-Macedonian regions, through some other elements like the materials, the decorations, etc.

The male and female costumes from this region include linen material and are usually white in the lower area of the costumes (pants and skirts), and so as for the upper area they are made of rigid wool fabric, ‘aladza’ and ‘anterija’. The striped fabrics and their names come from the Turkish Oriental culture, which was accepted from the numerous Turkish population which live in these regions in the past. The usage of the decorations in the female costumes and part from the male decorative elements ‘sorki’, ‘cucki’ and ‘kininja’ which were knitted in Turkish Oriental spirit, are just another example of the influence. The embroidery as an aesthetic category is poorly represented. In case it is represented, its character is very different from the traditional one from the costumes in Western Macedonia. In some parts along Vardar which were under the influence of the town culture which came from Solun, the early rejection of the traditional ways of dressing is evident. [3]

The costume from Ovche Pole, which is the theme of this scientific pape, has the following characteristics.

The female costume is rich and quite decorated. The shirts are made of white cotton canvas or canvas with selvage. Until the end of the 19th century, some shirts were embroidered with discrete embroidery. However, typical for their decorations are the hand knitted polychromatic decorative elements in the form of bordures known as ‘sorki’, ‘cucki’ or ‘ojki’, represented mainly in the lower parts of the sleeves. For a more intense decorative effect, the shirt has been added even more sleeves decorated with the hand knitted bordures, in different motifs. Aiming for the decoration to be more striking, the added sleeves were worn inside out, with the ‘sorki’ upwards. ‘Sorki’ were sewn on the sleeves of the ladies’ shirts and on those for the young brides, and the shirts for the older women were decorated with monotone ‘sorki’ made of yellow silk thread. Additional part of the shirt are the mittens which were made of wool, cotton, or of industrial material, and were worn from the palm to the elbow. Another part is the ‘grlinka manta’, made of home-made or industrial fabric, which covered the chest. The women wear this tight decorative, ornamental belt ‘zunica’ around the waist, and ‘skutina’ apron, with larger dimensions, constructed of two horizontally conjoined pleats, woven on a red basis, decorated on the sides with vertical ornamental belts. On the left side of the belt, every woman wore a white rectangular cloth, decorated at the corners with hand-knitted laces ‘sorki’. A lady without a wiping cloth was not looked upon like the others. Unlike the boys and girls, the married ladies wore towels for ‘tavra’ and ‘guveenje’. Every bride through the process of ‘guveenje’ wore a towel on the belt. They say that a bride without a towel on her belt was impossible to see in the village. During the period between the two World Wars, the girls and the young brides wore umbrellas in special occasions, with a wiping cloth on the handle. From the other pieces of clothes, the most characteristic is the vest, made of rigid woven wool fabric called ‘aladza’, and it is long to the knees, tight to the body and extended to the bottom, shaped like a bell. On the inside it is filled with cotton or wool, and then extended with stitches, with wrinkled structure, and that’s why it is also known as wrinkled vest. The upper clothes called ‘anterija’ was made of striped rigid woolen fabric, but with darker colors, and with longer sleeves, which existed until the first decades of the last century. The socks were knitted of a woolen yarn, ornamented into horizontal belts with ornamental motifs and rings, and were similar to the males but quite shorter. The females covered their head with a white scarf or with a white ‘tulben’. The married women and the older ones wore a black ‘kavrak’ made of satin, often decorated at the ends with colored ‘sorki’. It is tied diagonally on the head, and the ends are placed at the right side on the back of the head, which was quite flirtatiously, with a very special decorative effect.

From jewelry, the most interesting are the belt buckles, the different kinds of necklaces, beads grips, and other decorative elements made of beads. The costumes of Ovche Pole, with variant differences are similar with the costumes of Shtipsko Pole, Lakavica, Kochansko Pole and some parts of Zletovsko-Kratovsko Pole. [4]

Figure 1 Vest of Ovche Pole

Figure 2 Vest od Ovche Pole

Figure 3 Vest of Ovche Pole

Figure 4 Vest of Ovche Pole

4. Similarities and differences between the traditional Macedonian vest and the corset from Germany

There are a lot of similarities, but also many differences between the traditional Macedonian vest and the medieval corset. Actually they have the same function to tighten up the body near the waist and to hoist the chest. However, their forms are different. The medieval corset I found at the Museum of Shtip is made of cotton canvas, constructed with metal velvets, with front and back buttoning. The back buttoning is with laces, and the front buttoning is with metal buttons.

It has an interesting, unusual construction which highlights the chest, and tightens the waist. Unlike the corset, the vest which is the main theme of my research has a different construction. As I have mentioned before, their function is the same, but the shape of the vest is a little bit different from the shape of the corset. The vest is long to the chest, and in the front is buttoned with only one button, which highlights the chest just like the corset does. In the lower part, the girls wore a belt, which actually is a replacement for the lower part of the corset, and has the same function to tighten the waist. The vest is richly decorated and has had some changes depending on the period. At the beginning, the whole was made of gold thread, but it was very hard to create, so they started to simplify it. Then they started making this velvety vest, which has gold threads at the corners, and finally it has been fully simplified and they started making it of village home-made canvas. It was worn by young girls and brides.

Figure 5 Corset od German origin

5. Re-design

From this research, we made a re-design of the traditional vest which had some rock and romantic elements. It was represented in my collection titled Rock and Romance. The vest had some changes and modifications, got an asymmetrical cut, and it remained small and miniature like in the original version. It is made of cotton, with many accessories including tulle, zippers, and the shoulder is emphasized.

Figure 6 Modified vest from Fashion Collection, Rock and Romance

Figure 7 Modified vest from Fashion Collection, Rock and Romance

Figure 8 Modified vest from Fashion Collection, Rock and Romance

Figure 9 Modified vest from Fashion Collection, Rock and Romance

6. Conclusion

This Researches on women vest Macedonian traditional costume and corset of German descent, came to the results, and thus make redesign and proved that tradition can be very interesting and inspiring to be redesigned and used in everyday life. Newly acquired, redesigned vest, change the material from which it is made, but the shape remains almost identical to the traditional Macedonian vest, just now getting a little bit different, an asymmetrical shape.

7. References


[2] Maja, K., Sovremeni interpretacii na korsetot vo visokata moda so poseben akcent na korsetot od viktorijanskiot period, Magisterska teza, 2010, Chap. 1 (Kratok ocvrt na pojavata na korsetot od periodot na renesansata, zakluchno so viktorijanskiot period), pp 3-6

[3] Gjorgji, Z., Makedonski narodni nosii, tkaenici, vezovi, pletila, kitenje i nakit, Matica makedonska, Skopje, 2005, Chap. 3, pp 126-127

[4] Gjorgji, Z., Makedonski narodni nosii, tkaenici, vezovi, pletila, kitenje i nakit, Matica makedonska, Skopje, 2005, Chap. 3, pp 133-136

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