Bulgarian Boys' Clothes

Figure 1.--This Bulgarian boy in a portrait taken in 1915 wears a lace collar ant tunic with knee pants and long stockings. The long hair and hair bow suggest a French influence.

Bulgaria is a small Balkan country which untill the late 19th century was a part of the Ottomam Empire. As a result, there were has some destinctive folk fashions, similar in many ways to neighboring Greece. The eliete in the 19th century basically followed European, especially French fashions. Bulgaria acquired a German monarchy in the 19th century which was another European fashion inflence. Modern Bulgarian boys dress in the current pan-European fashion.

Folk Costumes

Bulgaria has some destinctive folk fashions, similar in many ways to neighboring Greece. Folk outfits for boys and men include pants, shirts, and vests for men. A common feature for boys and men was a kind of leggings. Women and girls wear decorative aprons and dresses. The girls' aprons and dresses boys' shirts are commonly embroidered in bright colors. The various regions used destinctive colors and motifs. Red is an especially important color in Bulgarian folk wear. Other colors such as black, green, and white are also important and vary regionally. Children in rural areas were still wearing traditional dress as ordinary clothes in the early 20th century while standard European stules were more common in towns and cities. Boys in rural areI am not positive about the influenes here, but several centuries of Ottomon rule must have been a factor. As in many other European countries we see city boys in the early 20th century being dressed up in traditional costumes for photographs. Today traditional styles are worn for special events and festivals.


The Bulgars invaded and soon dominated the Balkans in the 7th century. They accepted Christianity under Tsar Boris I in the 9th cetury. Tsar Simeon greatly expanded Bulgarian territory in the 10th century. The Christian kindoms in Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkans were conquered by the Ottomon Turks in the 14th and 15th centuries. The modern Bulgarian state originated with the defeat of Ottoman Turk forces by the Russian Army and Bulgarian volunteers in 1878-79. The great powers intervened to prevent the creation of a strong Bulgarian state under the influence of the Russians. Instead a Bulgarian state was created which was nominally left under the jurisdiction of the Ottomans and two other liberated areas were returned to the Ottomans. Still some of Bulgaria was libetated and a Bularian nation created. The Bulgarian royal dynasty was restablished in the 19th century after the decline of Ottomon rule. A member of the German royal family was selected for the Bulgarian monarchy. German families were chosen despite the fact that Bulagria was in large part created by the Russian Tsars in their wars with the Ottoman Turks. Bulagria participated in the Balkan Wars and then the two World Wars. Despites it ties with Russua, Bulgaria participated in the two world wars, both times as a Germany ally. During the Cold War, Bulgaria was a slavish Soviet satellite.


We do not have much information from Bulgaria until the late 19th century. Bulgaria in the 19th century was one of the most backward areas of Europe, in part because of the control by the Turks and the disorders accompanying the Balkan Wars and the struggle for independemce. Turkish fashions were important because Bulgaria did not gain its independence until the late 19th century. Thus Bulgarian boys, especially rural boys, still commonly wore what would now be called folk dress. The eliete in the 19th century basically followed European, especially French fashions. I think most well-to-do families probably subscribed to French fashion magazines. Bulgarian boys in the early 20th century still commonly dressed in traditional styles. The exception was the relativeky small urban population which adopted Western fashions. This dichotomy gradually changed duting the iter-War era. And after World war II, traditional dressm evcen in the countryside largely disappeared. We do not have much information on the post-War era. Bulgarian boys by the time the Communist era ended was similar to that of the rest of Europe, although generally low incomde levels affect fashion. Modern Bulgarian boys dress in the current pan-European fashion.


We have little information on Bulgarian garments at this time. We have, howevr, begun to build an archive we can use to expand this setion. We have noted chilkdren and aduts boys wearing what might be called folk or peasant garments, especilly in rural areas. Bulgaria as still a largely agrarian country with a still largely rural population. Folk styles in the the 19th and early 20th century ws still widely worn by the peasantry and in rural areas. We still have, however, few detils. Bulgarian boys in urban areas also wore Western European fashions by the late-19th century. We notice what seems to be some French influence here. And the large German clothing industry as well as a German monarchy were also influnces. European fashions in the 19th century seem primarily worn in the cities and by the upper and middle class. We note many of the same basic garments such as tunics and sailor suits. Some of the detailing on tunics and other garments seems destinctly Bulgarian. Most European boys had stripes on their sailor suits for detailing as were worn by actual sailors. Many Bulagrain boys wore sailor suits with more elaborate embroidery, although our information is still very limited.


We do not have a lot of information about activies Bulgarian boys engaged in and the clothes associated with those activies. Bulgaria for several centuries was part of the Ottoman Empire. We are not sure if any popular sctivites resulted from this long era. We know very little about children's play in Bulgaria. Some activities seem fairly standard such as school and youth groups. As in much of Europe, music seems important. Some children learned musical instruments. We motice some boy choirs. Religion of course was important during the Ottoman era. Most Bulgarians remained faithful to Orthodox Christianity. The Communist Government imposed by the Soviets after World War II conducted an atheism campaign which affects modern attitudes toward religion. We do not notice any special interest in sports. As in most countries, football seems the primary sport. Wrestling seems popular.


We do not yet have much information on Bulgarian families. We are just beginning to build up an archive of Bulgarian images. As with many poorer European countries, the phptographic record is somewhat limited. These family image provide valuable sociological information nd are useful in putting boys' fashions into a period context. We get to see the outfits the whoe family was wearing. Most of the early Bulgarian images we have found seem to be prosperous families. Unlike America, working-class families do not seem to have been able to afford photographic portraits. We note a prosperous family in 1899, probably from Sophia. There are five children. The youngest wears a sailor suit with bloomer knickers. His slightly older brother wears a regular knee pants suit. We note a portrait of a Sofia family in 1900. The family is identified as the Markovsky family. The portrait based on the clothing could have eaily been taken in Germany. We believe that German styles were inflential throughout central and eastern Europe. It is a good example how the Sofia elite had thorogly adopted European styles. The father has a German-style moustache. We have information about a Jewish family during the Holiocaust--the Bauruch family.


We have very limited information on Bulgarian hair styles at this time. We do not note any destinctive Bulagraian styles. We note boys with close-cropped hair after World Wat I when this style was becoming less common in Germany. at this time.


We do not yet have any information about photogrphy in Bulgaria. We think trends were very silimar to those in the rest of Europe, especially Germany. The general pattern in the Balkans after the various countries achieved independence was for foreigners to setup studios. Many Germans set up studios. This meant that modern trends were rapidly introduced in Bulgaria during the 19th century. We do note some rather dated trends in the early-20th century. We do not yet have a large enough archive to know how common this was.


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Created: November 20, 1999
Last updated: 3:57 AM 3/24/2014