Ниш -Niš

Niš, in the south central part of Serbia, has its greatest claim to fame as the birthplace of Constantine, the first Byzantine emperor. Located near the confluence of the Nišava and Morava rivers, the valleys have always made for a natural thoroughfare since ancient times. By Constantine’s time, the Via Militaris or Carigradski Drum was a well travelled route for both trade and conquest.


Another Byzantine emperor, Justinian I, was also a local boy, so to speak; born in Caričin Grad or Justiniana Prima, in the vicinity of nearby Leskovac. Procopius, the emperor’s biographer, records how Justinian saw Niš as strategically important; he built and reconstructed 32 forts, according to the biographer. Interestingly, in his writings, Procopius mentions in passing that around that time the first Slavs had arrived near Niš. Little did they know what awaited them.


A different Procopius, the Orthodox martyr saint, was protector of Niš during Byzantine and Medieval Serbian periods. His relics rested there until the first Ottoman threats. They were transferred, for safety, to a church further west, around which the town of Prokuplje grew. By 1386, Niš had fallen to the Turks, as they pressed westward.

Nis Region
Niš district and surrounding areas of cultural influence.
cele kula
The Skull Tower, or Ćele Kula, as depicted by Vladislav Titelbach.

During the first Serbian insurrection, the battle of Čegar Hill was fought in order to liberate Niš. The Ottoman army, heavily reinforced, took the victory – but not without heavy losses in one of Serbian history’s most dramatic moments. Stevan Sinđelić, a vojvoda (military leader) in Karađorđe’s rebel army, took a large number with him when, not wishing to surrender or suffer capture, he fired into a munitions store, taking his entire fortification and many Turks with him. This was in May, 1809. By the autumn of that year, the Turks had constructed one of the most chilling structures in Europe – the Ćele Kula, or Skull Tower. Using almost 1000 skulls of the fallen, it was erected by the Imperial road, as a warning to the populace against further rebellion. It still stands today.


These southern regions remained under Turkish rule far longer than more northern and central Serbia did. Nevertheless, minor rebellions kept happening, until the Serbian army liberated Niš in 1877. The domino effect that had begun in 1804 ended with the Balkan wars. By 1912, much of the south was entirely free. 

Nis ulica
Street scene in early 20th century Niš
Nis Pijaca
Niš Marketplace, early twentieth century.

The Niš region has a very rich heritage of customs and traditions. Weddings abounded with elaborate prescribed actions and apotropaic objects, and lasted for days. The major annual event in the villages and towns of the district was the Saint’s day of a village, church or monastery. This was called a Sobor in Ponišavlje (Niš district), meaning the gathering. Letnji Sveti Nikola – the summer feast of St. Nicholas, May 22nd, Bela Nedelja, at the start of Great Lent, and Sveta Trojica – Holy Trinity, 50 days after Easter, were the biggest sobori (pl.) in Niš.

Nis Kolo veliko
Oro at a sobor, Niška Banja.


Stevan Sremac
Stevan Sremac

The most evocative descriptions of the sobori came from Stevan Sremac, the best known chronicler of life in turn of the century Niš. Sremac was born in Senta, Banat region, where both the folk and urban culture were entirely different from that in the recently liberated Serbian South. He Spent 11 years living and teaching in Niš, absorbing the unique atmosphere that was still alive in Niš, and that had already faded in Belgrade. He loved Nišlije, recorded details of everyday life, and working them into his works, most notably Ivkova Slava and Zona Zamfirova.


The latter is a story based on a true event related to him by Branislav Nušić, Serbian consul in still Ottoman-held Prizren. The daughter of a wealthy merchant had eloped with a lower-class tradesman. Nušić did not want to write about it himself, as the event was still a sensitive topic where he was, but Sremac changed names and location to Niš, and made literary history. In Zona, he devotes a chapter to the sobor held at Whitsunday, Bela Nedelja. He begins with a description of the young people emerging from their homes in their festive finery:

“После ручка почне се шаренити сокак од момака и девојака, од минтана и фустана, од јелека и шалвара, па изгледа као цветна башта…”

“After lunch, the street grew colourful with young men and women, from their mintan vests and fustan dresses, from their jelek vests and šalvare, looking more like a garden full of flowers…”


At the sobor, Zona, accompanied by her friend Gena and maid Vaska, tries to play it cool around Mane, the craftsmen who was outside of her social class but deeply ensconced in her heart. The flirtation is mutual, with Mane playing games by dancing with his childhood friend Kalina and other girls, ignoring Zona.


Отпоче оро. Одиграше неколико игара, и ”Криву Бањку” и ”Бербатовску”, и ”Тедену” и ”Заплањку”, и наизменице водише коло редом први момци из махале … Цигани засвираше ”Потресуљку”, омиљену игру Манину…. Засвира се ”Јелке Тамничарке”, лепа игра…Ту је игру јако волела Зона, и због игре и још више због песме… Зона узе за руку Гену, приђоше и ухватише се међу играче. Цигани свирају, а играчи играју и певају:

Нане, Кажи тајку да ме младу дава

За Раде комшијче! За Раде комшијче!

За наше сељанче, за младо чобанче!

Јелке тамничарке, Јелке зулумћарке,

Ела да играмо, ела да трупамо!


Чујеш како звецкају ђердани и дукати, и трупкају кондурице и папучице, и шуште свилене шалваре, а мирис ђулијака се просуо по сокаку, па као магла земљу притиснуо мирис гледаоце. И када Цигани хтедоше да престану, даде им Мане знак да свирају даље исту игру, па приђе, и ухвати се с леве стране до Зоне.


The oro began. They danced a few dances, the “Kriva Banjka” and “Berbatovska”, and “Tedena” and “Zaplanjka”, with the most popular neighbourhood boys taking turns leading the round… The gypsies began to play “Potresuljku”, Mane’s favourite dance… then the melody of “Jelke Tamničarke” could be heard, a lovely dance … This is the dance that Zona most like, both for its steps and for the lyrics of its song… Zona grabbed Gena by the hand, approached the round and joined in among the dancers. The Gypsies are playing, and the dancers dance and sing:

Granny, tell my mother to give me away while I’m still young,

To our neighbour Rade! To our neighbour Rade! 

To a boy from our village, to a young shepherd! 

Jelka, jailer of my heart! Jelka, troublemaker! 

Come on, let’s dance, come on let’s stomp! 

You can hear the jingling of necklaces and ducats, and the stomping of leather shoes and slippers, and the rustling of satin šalvare, with the aroma of rose attar spilling throughout the street, descending onto the onlookers like fog onto land. And even when the Gypsies wanted to stop, Mane gave them a sign to keep playing the same melody, and he joined in, to the left of Zona.


Another social custom has survived, in various modifications, to the present day. That is the custom of work bees or gatherings. Known as prelo in other parts of the Balkans, the local term for these get-togethers was Sedenjče or Sedenka, Sedenjka. Young women would gather at one girl’s home, bringing handiwork in progress with them: spinning yarn, embroidery, knitting, etc. The host girl and her family would provide something to eat and drink, and the evening gave an opportunity for making solitary tasks much more enjoyable. Women at the sedenka – called sedenkarke – would often help one another to learn or hone skills, or make more complicated tasks possible with help.  Girls would also drop hints to the village boys that they should come by this or that house tonight for the sedenka, and the boys would show up later in the evening. Sedenke (pl.) were festive in the sense that they were a way to gather and socialize.  Songs were more than just work songs – to keep rhythm for a task or to pass time while working, virtually any folk song would do. Sedenjkarske pesme (sedenka songs) were flirtatious, gossipy, and much more.

sedence vukmanovo
Sedenjka recreated on stage by folk group from Vukmanovo village near Niš.

Marija Šorak’s field work in villages around Niš (Čečina, Klisura, Rusna, Malošište and Čapljinac) shows how these songs, still sung in a new millenium, retain the charm of a bygone time. The evening of sedenjče began with invitational songs. Often the host girls would sing these outdoors to mark that the time was right to come over.


And continuing, calling individual girls by name: Simka gu nema, nek’ dođe! Jelka gu nema, nek’ dođe!

Sometimes the invitational songs could be a little gossipy:


Naturally, the evening would also be punctuated with love songs. One, with the refrain “oj lado”, may be a remnant of a ritual song sung during the Pentecost custom of Kraljice:


Once the boys arrived, the songs became even more flirtatious and rambunctious, punctuated with loud “iiiiiiii!” at the end of a verse, as is typical for many types of songs in the region:  Crno mi petle ripkaše,  Ivan mi Martu štipaše, iiii!  (A black rooster is crowing, Ivan just pinched Marta, iiiii!!!)  A girl could also sing one’s retorts to flirting: Je l’ ti reko’, bež daleko, Ivane! (Didn’t I already tell you, get away from me, Ivan!)

And at the end of the evening, there were even departure songs:


Dancing was a major part of all celebrations in and around Niš. Besides weddings and sobori, a springtime festival called Premlaz – the first milking of sheep in their summer pastures (bačija). There was a ritual element to the dancing, as the large kolo would strive to surround the flocks in an atropeic gesture meant to ensure that the flocks stay intact throughout the season. The festivities would be so enthusiastic that Vladimir Petrović recorded one saying,  “Il mi grmi il se zemlja trese!” – “It’s either thunder or the ground shaking [from all the dancing]”


The Janković sisters were particularly fond of the dance heritage of the Nišava valley. Interesting to note that they encountered many of the dances mentioned by Stevan Sremac, and others such as Lilke, Četvorka, Čačak, Popova mi Stojna, Povedi kolo Todoro, and some dances from neighbouring Lužnica district such as Paprikaš Lužnički. However, by the time of their research in the 1930s, most of these dances had persisted further east, in upper Nišava, i.e. Pirot, Bela Palanka. They were dismayed at how few old dances were retained in the western or lower Nišava district. The older dances in the immediate vicinity of Niš had been supplanted by a limited repertoire that Danica Janković referred to as “Šablonski” – cookie cutter, formulaic, monotone. The same applied to the older traditional instruments; by the time of their research, the accordion had supplanted the gajde entirely in those villages in the district closer to the Morava valley, and the clarinet beat out the duduk and dvojanka


Similarly, costume experienced drastic changes over a short period of time, from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries. People in Niš district referred to their traditional clothing as ruvo or dreške. Up until the time of liberation, Ottoman-Levantine costume remained de rigeur in the city itself. Traditional village costume belonged to the Central Balkan type of costume, characterized by materials such as woven hemp fabric and rolled wool cloth, and by garments such as heavy woolen skirts (vute, fute), long open vests (zubuni) and distinctive headdresses. Much more archaic in the 19th century and earlier. In the early 20th century we lose certain elements and transform others. As in neighbouring regions, elaborate headdresses and hairstyles are abandoned, most notably the trvelj and ručnik. As in most regions of Serbia, the zubun vest also fell into disuse. Women’s heavy wool and hemp aprons, once woven in dramatic geometric designs akin to those found in Kosovo and the Vardar valley, became lighter in both fabric and design, as hemp fibre and floral motifs entered into use. Felix Kanitz observed how quickly cheap Viennese clothing supplanted Levantine costume. Already by his time, only occasionally could one see older Serbian women in the flowing, wide šalvare; they had essentially been relegated to Gypsy costume. Villagers still wore costume regularly, and he found the costume worn by women around Jelašnica, just beyond the hot springs of Niška Banja, particularly beautiful. This variant of costume, called the niškobanjska nošnja, persisted until the 1970s in villages of Crnče, Lanište, and Ravni Do. Beyond the Suva Planina mountain, the zaplanjska nošnja was worn in Zaplanje district villages Kruševica, Grkinja, and Jašunje. In the Niš plain, the matejevačka nošnja developed, deriving its name from the villages of Gornji and Donji Matejevac.


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Today, one village, Vukmanovo, has been adamant in keeping its oldest traditions alive, and the inhabitants can trace and even show costume elements in a sort of living timeline, all the way back to the 18th century.

Nis Costumes Over Time.png
Survey of the evolution of women’s costume over a century in Niš district. L to R, Central Balkan type with ručnik and zubun; Transitional type, with ćilimarka and zubun;  Matijevac type with vuta; Niška Banja type with vistan and pregljača. (paper illustrations, A.S. 2019)
Nis 1910
Children of Niš, 1910.

Regarding historic costume, Vladimir Petrović was remarkably detailed in documenting dress in the Niš district from infancy to old age.

Infants, regardless of sex, wore a shirt and a zaprega (wrap around skirt); anterica (short vest); čarape (socks). Children’s caps were either knit or sewn from woollen cloth, and decorated with coins, beads, crosses, snail shells – all things meant to be protective, or to make some noise in order to distract the gaze of an evil eye.  A clove of garlic was often sewn into the cap for protection, too. Once a toddler began walking, hemp cloth trousers were sewn for little boys, while girls continued wearing the long košulja and zaprega or vuta skirt of wool fabric. Around age 6 or 7, children were given anterija jackets or jelek vests to wear, as well as woven sashes. Girls were given a white kerchief to wear, called a tulben.

IMG_20190719_195046 copy
Oldest Version of the costumes from Niš district, L to R: Young man wearing toska and carrying momčanik; two young women wearing the ručnik headdress; married woman in transitional costume with ćilimarka apron. (drawing A.S., 2019)


Men’s Costume according to Petrović, 1900, consisted of the following garments:

Košulja – a long shirt, plain for everyday wear, embroidered for festive occasions. At one time these shirts were very long, knee length. Embroidery was often done on separate fabric and stitched on. This way, it could be removed before washing – the shirt could best be whitened by boiling it in water that had been previously treated with wood ash

Toska – a very long and wide white shirt with lower portion from the waist down expanded by sewing in many triangular inserts called klinovi (wedges). It was gathered with a drawstring, učkur, sewn in at the waist, and the klinovi would form a type of kilt. This was worn by wealthier men simply out of fashion on special occasions, and was common in Greek costume (fustanella) and Albanian garments of the time. Epirote merchants and pastoralists travelling through Niš district, Christian Albanians of the Tosk tribe and nomadic Christian Aromani (Cincari) would have been seen wearing these flowing garments, and this is likely how it entered Serbian costume.

Čakšire, cašire were woollen trousers worn all year round; there were two main types – one made of rougher white or grey klašnja, called brkčave (gathered, narrow in cut, and without pockets), and breveneci, wide in the thighs and bottom but narrow in the calf. After the Liberation of Niš, the material of choice transitioned from pale klašnja to dark sukno fabric.

Gaće – lighter, linen or hemp cloth trousers worn primarily in the summer. 

Tkanica – a woven sash, worn over the košulja up to 3m long and in the range of 20 – 25 cm wide

Silav – a decorated tanned leather belt, with metal studs and buckles, that had a pouch and slits for carrying personal belongings, money, tobacco, etc.

Doramče, vormeno doramče – an open wool fabric vest, relatively unornamented

Jelek – entered into the costume after 1900, under influence from lower Morava regions to the north. It could be plain or heavily decorated with gajtan silk braid for festive costume

Gunjče – a short jacket with wide long sleeves, worn under the vest

Aljina – a type of coat, knee length or even ground length, with long sleeves and with laces to close it down the chest

Gunja – a longer knee-length winter garment, sleeveless but broad almost like a cape

Džube – similar to the long jelek in other parts of Ponišavlje, it was sewn from cream coloured klašnja fabric; knee length, sleeveless; form fitting in the chest and waist, but wider toward the bottom. Very little ornamentation other than narrow dark braid trim along seams and hems.

Kožuh – a heavy winter garment, made of sheepskin and worn with the fleece inwards.

Veliki Koporan – a type of jacket, waist length with long sleeves. Generally sewn from grey wool klašnja with a red čoja lining, which could be seen when the wide sleeves were turned up at the cuff.

Opanci rawhide footwear, prešnjak type with long straps.

Men’s socks from Niš region. Acquired 2014.

Čarape rubene – Called rubene because of the reinforced and embroidered hem or ‘rub’, where a braided lace called the omča was found, for the purpose of tightening the sock at the calf.

Podveske, podkolenke – strips of cloth embroidered and adorned with beads, even bells, that were a strictly decorative element for young men. Tied around the calf, they added additional support to keep the sock up and were a de rigeur element of courtship and dowry preparations

Zavijače – Strips of cloth wrapped around the calf, over the socks, for extra warmth during the winter.

Obojke – Similar insulating cloth, worn inside the footwear, wrapped around the foot.

Kapa – a knit cap, black or natural white wool, bowl like and shallow in shape.

Šubara – a lamb’s fleece hat, shallow and not as tall as those worn in regions east of Niš; called astraganke after the astrakhan fleece used in their production.

Šajkača – started to appear in the men’s costume after liberation and reintegration of Niš district into Serbia. As recruitment of young men for military service began, the šajkača was worn by the same men upon their return, a kind of badge of honour

Peškirče usually white wrapped around šubara or, in post-liberation costume, the fez, which the Turks had forbidden Christians to wear. Wearing it like that was a classic demonstration of Serbian spite or inat

Momčanik, kićeno štapče – a decorated walking cane, with wool pompoms and tassels, curved at the top so that it could be held slung over the forearm also.  Always made from the wood of the dren tree, or cornelian cherry and, for the wealthiest, inlaid with mother of pearl.

Prekoramče  woven sash decorated with beads and buttons which was worn slung over the shoulder

Japundža – a hooded winter cloak, mainly worn while tending livestock, travelling, or other outdoor tasks.



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Like the men’s costume, the rapid changes in national dress in the Niš region leads to a long list of items, with delineations of what was worn determined mainly by time period. The general trend, as the women’s costume transformed from fully Central Balkan to more modern, is toward lighter materials.


Košulja – long shift or dress, sewn from hemp fabric, later from mixed hemp/cotton fabric, or eventually just cotton. The oldest forms have geometric embroidery on bodice, collar, skirt hem, seams, and sleeve hems.  In the early twentieth century, this form of shift is lost, and women shifted to wearing a separate blouse (košulja sas taslice) and skirt (skuti) instead.

Kolanče – a decorative narrow sash made from hemp or wool cloth, embroidered with wool or cotton thread and beads.

Skutača, iskutača – heavy woollen aprons, woven in geometric designs; the larger ćilimarke (“rug type”) were kept longer in Zaplanje, and brides marrying into Nišava valley homes frequently brought the design with them in their trousseaus.

Pregljača – worn in the Niška Banja costume, of hemp cloth woven into floral designs (pregljača na ruže) or in vertical rows of varied designs (pregljača na prutovi). The latter preserve a more ancient pattern of ornamentation.

Ćurdija – A zubun style open vest made from rolled wool klašnja, reaching to below the knees; decorated with wool cloth appliques especially on the back and lower portion of front panels. This garment was always worn – it was considered shameful if it were not worn in public. Women only removed it during heavy physical work or in the personal setting of the home.

Kolanče sas pare – a second sash or “coin belt”, wrapped over the ćurdija, the sewn on coins meant to jingle when walking or dancing.

Kušaci – silk kerchiefs tucked into the kolanče sas pare, such that they would hang down, one on either hip.

Vutarka, vuta – a wrap-around skirt that came into use only after the liberation of Niš. Similar to the type of skirt throughout the South and West Morava basins, women wove their own using hemp fibre for lighter summer ones or wool for heavier winter ones.

Vistan – a type of vuta made from heavy cotton cloth, decorated with row upon row of passementerie, locally called brčkor, bortovi, laskavci

Vistan nevestinski – a long silk garment which briefly replaced the ćurdija in bridal costume; a flowing Levantine garment with broad slit sleeves, borrowed from urban costume as a status symbol.

Zapreg – a type of wrap around skirt that was part of the Matijevac costume; dark hemp cloth with fine multicoloured vertical stripes and a hem trimmed in velvet. No apron was worn with it, although that too later crept in.

Preborka – made of cotton-linen cloth, generally plaid or striped in lighter colours, and frequently made from purchased industrially-made cloth

Tkanica – hemp or wool sash woven on a small loom or tablet loom.

Jelek – several names were used for this garment: jelek od basme (cotton cloth vest, i.e. an everyday vest), burme jelek (festive vest decorated with metallic thread), jelek s pupke (vest decorated with metallic thread using an embroidery technique that made ornaments stand out from the surface).  Vests were very frequently made with the Serbian coat of arms embroidered onto them. This hearkens back to the enthusiasm with which Nišlije greeted their reintegration into a free Serbian state after liberation from the Ottoman Empire.

Jelek preklopnik – a quilted cotton vest that was worn closed by folding over (preklopiti) the two front panels. It was worn inside out in times of mourning.

Pamuklija – A quilted vest, often lined thickly, reaching to the waist or hips; certainly a cold weather garment, or a garment of the elderly.

Anterija – a jacket with long sleeves, generally of cotton cloth and occasionally of velvet or klašnja, worn buttoned at the neck. A garment for the autumn and winter.

Rekla, reklo – a 19th century type of blouse that entered South Slavic costume as a result of Western European influence, at first in those regions that were part of Austria Hungary but then throughout Serbia also. For women of Niš, eager to be more European and less Ottoman, these cheap and affordable blouses were a popular status symbol; the wearer could afford imported goods, and did not toil to make her own clothing. (Personally, I really dislike these – they are seen on stage more and more, but to me it’s the same as if one were to included Levis or Adidas clothing – a foreign element, a sign of the slow loss of the authentically Serbian in favour of the bland, global look).

Ručnik – The oldest headdress, a knit cap with a wool or cotton veil that hangs at the back, decorated with beads, embroidery, passementerie, buttons, tassels. Holidays worn uncovered, otherwise covered with a šamija

Tulben – A rectangular kerchief, generally plain white, but embroidered for young women and festive costume; it was dyed black in mourning

Šamija – a kerchief of fine cloth, generally industrially produced or printed, and purchased in a shop.

Marama – A simple kerchief worn tied at the nape of the neck, as  in the Matijevac variant of the costume; for older women, the marama is tied beneath the chin. Adornment consisted of flowers tucked into the kerchief above the left ear; later this became left ear for married women, right ear for unmarried. Feathers, ribbons and dangling metal ornaments were often added.

Čarape – wool, embroidered, with braided laces, podvezice, to keep them in place

Opanci – prešnjak type rawhide footwear with long straps. In the 20th century, tanned leather opanci entered into use as well.

Kondure – black leather shoes made by cobblers, which came into use from urban costume in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Pafte – ornate buckles, which were not universally worn in Niš district

Tas, tepeluk – a disc-like ornament worn on the head, of silver plated metal, niello, or brass. Generally more common in the urban and old Levantine costumes. (as with pafte)

Igle, minđuše, grivne – pins, earrings, bangle bracelets were all part of the women’s jewelry in Niš

Sakandrak, pl. sakandraci – an ornamental chain with dangling coins or metal beads and shapes which would be worn below the chin, roughly hanging onto the upper chest, held in place by pins roughly behind the ear (pinned to a kerchief or braid)

Skopčalak, podbradnik – chain with coins and beads of metal, glass, or amber, with hooks at either end which were used to attach it to either side of a vest or other upper garment, roughly from shoulder to shoulder across the chest

Naniz, Đerdan – coin necklaces, generally silver coins and less often gold coins. (the latter were generally reserved for bridal costume)

It is worth describing how Nišiijke (women of Niš) wore their hair. Young girls’ hair was plaited into 2 braids, left hanging for children but for teenage girls, wrapped around the head and then covered with the kerchief. Girls of marrying age also would plait one single long braid, called the kocelj, or multiple narrow braids called šivetke.  The latter was rare in Niš, and common further east. Married women also plaited two braids, crossed over one another at the nape of the neck and then wound into dense, knot-like trvelji on either side of the face. This was widespread in other regions such as Toplica, Rasina, Timok – Zaječar district. The wearing of the trvelj was banned sporadically by local officials, but definitively by King Milan  in the late 1880s. Some women quite resented this, and many cases were recorded where older women set aside their ručnik and the accoutrements for shaping a trvelj, with instructions that they should be buried in the traditional fashion they knew.

The costumes that I have acquired from the Niš area are from a number of collectors and makers, all in and around Niš. From the talented Bojana Jovanović, I purchased two kerchiefs she hand embroidered in 2010, as well as two zapreg style skirts woven by her mother, in Gornji Matejevac. From Vladan Janković, I obtained an incredible pregljača with the most vividly woven dahlias or georgine, a very unusual flower to be seen on an apron. He also surprised me with an older pregljača na prutovi, as a gift. These came to the collection in 2012. Also from Vladan, I acquired the 1920s era boucle embroidered apron with the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia – quite old, quite rare and unusual! Two vistan skirts came from online museum deaccession auctions, and I regret that I didn’t record the name of the terzija craftsman who made the wonderful vest, reconstructed from an original kept at the National Museum of Niš. Other vests came from the villages of Pasi Poljana, Vrtište and Koritnik.

Matejevacka Nosnja 1
Costume in the style of Gornji and Donji Matejevac. Of the four presented here, it is the most recent. The apron crept into use after WWI, as the boucle embroidery technique attests, but the depiction and embroidered inscription “ЈУГОСЛОВЕНСКИ ГРБ” (Yugoslav coat of arms) implies that this apron is from the 1929 at the earliest.
Matejevacka Nosnja 2
Girls’ costume from Gornji Matejevac. The kerchief is contemporary, with floral motifs, but the blouse is older, bearing geometric motifs more typical of Central Balkan costume.
Matejevacki detalji
Details of the Matejevac costumes, L to R: jelek with gold srma embroidery, boucle embroidered apron, floral embroidered kerchief.
Niskobanjska Nosnja 1
Niškobanjska nošnja – the type of costume worn by young women in Niška Banja, a small town east of Niš. The vistan skirt is particularly densely decorated, and the pregljača is my favourite of the Niš aprons in my collection, due to the depiction of large dahlias, or georgine as they are called in Serbian. The vest bears the Serbian coat of arms and dates back to the early 20th century.
Niskobanjska Nosnja 2
A second variant of the Niška Banja type of costume, with a less ornate (and sadly, less well preserved) vistan. The blouse is opulently embroidered with older type geometric designs, and the apron is the older pregljača na prutovi type, with vertical rows of ornaments.
Niskobanjski detalji
Details of some pieces from Niška Banja costume, L to R:  pregljača na prutovi, jelek with Serbian coat of arms, pregljača na georgine, igla jewelry with rooster’s feather and sprig of basil.
Cetiri Pregljace Niske
Pregljače from Niš district, L to R:  child’s apron from Lanište; burgundy pregljača na ruže from Ravni Do; contemporary green floral pregljača na ruže made in Niš; blue pregljača, unknown provenance, purchased from collector in Niš.



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For Further Reading:


Bjeladinović-Jergić Jasna. Narodne nošnje Srba u XIX i XX Veku. Etnografski Muzej u Beogradu, 2011.

Kanitz, Felix, and Mileusnić Stojan. Srbija. Edited by Ernjaković Gligorije, vol. 2, Srpska književna Zadruga, 1991.

Janković, Danica. (1934) Narodne Igre Nišavskih Sela. Glasnik Etnografskog Muzeja u Beogradu vol. 9, pp. 90 – 94

Janković, Danica. Ljubica Janković (1949) Narodne Igre V, Part B – Nišava. pp. 251 – 345, 377 – 401.

Milenković, Dimitrije (2017) Stevan Sremac i stari Niš. Narodna Biblioteka “Stevan Sremac”, Niš

Pešić-Maksimović, Nadežda (2000) Matejevačka ili Zvrčinska i Niškobanjska nočnja. Zbornik Narodnog Muzeja Niš, vol. 9, Niš.

Petrović K.Vladimir (1900) Zaplanje ili Leskovačko, Zbornik za narodni život i običaje Južnih Slavena, vol. V, part 1, Zagreb.

Sremac, Stevan. Ksenija Radulović, Olga Marković ed. (2011) Ivkova Slava. Dramska Baština – series 13, vol. 4. Muzej Pozorišne Umetnosti Srbije, Beograd. 

Sremac, Stevan (1907) Zona Zamfirova. Srpska Književna Zadruga, vol. 108, Belgrade

Šorak, Marija (2005) Sedenjka i sedenjkarske pesme u Dobriču. Glasnik Etnografskog Muzeja u Beogradu, v. 77