Bosnian traditional attire is charming. Historically, it took some features from Ottoman, Balkan, and Mediterranean cultures and combined them into something new, typically Bosnian. A lot of the local folk garments and accessories attract attention by their unique ornamentation and unusual cut. Let’s look at the 5 most characteristic and charismatic pieces of clothing worn in Bosnia, including outerwear, main garments, and footwear. These are by far not the only Bosnian folk garments, but they can tell you a lot about Bosnian clothing traditions and folk culture.
Dimije (shalvari) – baggy pants
In Bosnia, both men and women traditionally wear baggy pants – this is the influence of the Ottoman culture. Female shalvari called “dimije” can be used as a full-fledged piece or paired with an overskirt. The bottom of these wide trousers is tied at the ankles – in the past, one could tell the region of origin of a woman by how high she tied her pants.
Jelek – short ornamented vest
A jelek is the traditional sleeveless vest or bodice worn by Bosnian men, women, and children. Usually, it is rather small and short, many examples don’t even reach the waist. A jelek can be buttoned or fastened in the front or it can be just left open. A typical feature of a jelek is its ornamentation, as this vest is always ornate, decorated with embroidery, braiding, applique, metal decorative elements, rows of buttons, and various other adornments.
In some regions of Bosnia, women used to wear lovely fringed aprons over their traditional skirts. This garment looks unusual, hairy, and eye-catching. The edges are embellished with long threads left after the weaving is done, as such aprons are always hand-woven. In some cases, the length of these loose threads is almost as long as the length of the woven part. The patterns on Bosnian fringed aprons are usually geometric or sometimes floral.
Fringed apron from Bosnia, 1870-1889. Tapestry woven wool. From The V&A Museum in London
Anterija – ornate folk overdress
This is a very beautiful and ornate traditional garment in Bosnia. It is an overdress or jacket worn for special occasions, for instance, a lot of Bosnian brides wear an anterija for their folk wedding. It’s a pity such authentic dresses are rarely in use today, though, some women still dress like this sometimes. But in the past, the anterija was very popular among wealthy women. It is a long garment with long sleeves and with a lot of adornments – gold embroidery, for the most part. The dress is belted to make the silhouette more feminine and pretty.
Opanci – leather shoes
These are traditional peasant leather shoes in Bosnia. They have several names: opanci, fašnjaci, putravci, or oputnjaci. The design of opanci also can be very different – from coarse and simple to elaborate, woven from strips of leather, and decorative. Bosnian opanci are flat-soled, they are usually tied to the leg with a leather strap or laced with a thin strip of leather. The top part of a Bosnian folk shoe, especially with festive footwear, is ornate and pretty, woven and braided from strips of leather – it looks really cute. And the decorative toe was sometimes up-turned.
Bosnian leather opanci shoes