Or How Breeches Became Pants and Cut Sleeveless Dress – Silk “Petticoat”

The Modern Times
The Industrial Revolution and the following continuous progress in science and technology rapidly changed the lives of the Europeans. Marked by exceptional economic growth, the nineteenth century put a serious mark on the development of society. It was embraced in Bulgaria. In order to highlight its position in the social hierarchy and as a demonstration of prestige the wealthy elite began building houses – paragons of the Baroque architecture.
Following the Europe
The urban landscape changed, although the shops of the bazaar retained its old appearance, and clocks in many places still showed the “Turkish” time. After the Liberation, the young Bulgarian state started an overall planning of settlements – foreign specialists were invited to participate in the Public Works of cities in promoting water and sanitation in shaping the parks and the entertainment venues. The modernization included all spheres of material and spiritual life, in an effort to imitate the “Europe”.
The imitation of foreign culture is most noticeable in clothing. “Wearing” the new fashion has an open message. The costume, coming straight from Vienna or Paris, signifies a claim of the educated Bulgarian to be a part of the modern European world.
Alafranga style
In the mid-nineteenth century the style “Alafranga” was born. It means “like the French style”. It should not be seen literally as penetration of cultural influence only from France, but in a broader sense – as a new fashion coming from Europe.

“Alafranga” denotes the new revival house and its new interior and “mobilirovka”, the exquisite manners of expression and communication, along with new fashion in clothing.

As a result, all these innovations in Bulgaria were reflected like in a curved mirror – and a new eclectic style was born.

The same happened to female fashion, but there were two different trend lines.

One was related to wearing of imported clothing and accessories, written by catalogue or brought by European fashion centres.

Female trends
The supporters of the second line used the services of dress-makers or they sew their own clothes after patterns from fashion magazines. It turns out that “Alafranga” style quickly matured from a dangerous innovation that was met with hostility by the conservative oriental society in about 3-4 decades into the style that became considered as formal urban clothing.
Men's Fashion
Originally men dressed in suits of homespun fabric, but in European cut. The trendy men's costume consisted of straight slacks, a white shirt with a high starched collar for lacing a bow tie or tie and cuffs, waistcoat and surtout (coat, knee-length). Head often wears a fez or cap. An obligatory accessory to the outfit were the chained watch, the gloves and the cane. Often a man could be recognized by clothing – whether he came from Russia, whether a trader had office in Europe or he comes from Beglika and goes to the markets of Istanbul.At the end of the century men’s fashion was identified with Europe. There was a visible distinction between festive and casual clothing. The official colour was black and its emblem became the tailcoat – clothing for visits, receptions and feasts. The cylinder top hat became an addition to the festive suit and bowler hat and soft felt hat to everyday clothing. The changes affected and the traditional headdress called forelock or chombas. A short haircut came into fashion, and it gradually became characteristic for the male hairstyle “Alafranga”. Beard and moustache, worn in different variations, were the mandatory elements for a man in suit.

In the years following the Crimean War there was a visible change in traditional menswear. It introduced by the intellectuals, mainly the teacher community, which mimicked the Greek citizens and European officials working in the Ottoman administration. Originally men dressed in suits of homespun fabric, but in European cut. Often a man could be recognized by clothing – whether he came from Russia, whether a trader had office in Europe or he comes from Beglika and goes to the markets of Istanbul.

During the second half of 10th century “Alafranga” style influenced female fashion as well. Imported female clothing was popular only in the economically advanced cities like Plovdiv, Ruse, Svishtov, etc. Rich wives there could afford the pricy clothes because they had appropriate places to wear them. They would shoe conduri (trendy shoes) and do not go outside without the obligatory accessories – cloak, hat, bag, fan, umbrella and gloves.

Female fashion in Alafranga style
In the end of 10th century the corset becomes a part of the underwear that straightens the imperfections of the figure and together with the garters serves for attaching a new accessory – the stockings. There is hardly another piece of clothing provoking such a contradictory attitude like the corset – desirable because of its beauty and banned for the damage it makes. Introduction of crinoline lead to the occurrence of pants with legs.

New urban fashion required differentiating of daily and formal wear. Daily wear was usually blouse and skirt in dark tones. An official clothing was only the dress. It was usually in bright colours and made it impossible to tell a married beauty from a single one.

“Women who do not wear European clothes and do not use make up were scorned by their fellow citizens. They are considered to deter their own progress.” Constantinople Gazette, 1859.

The Liberation came… New Bulgaria established new requirements for female beauty. The image of the world was refracted in the crystal mirrors imported from Europe and the discussion on new fallals was mediated by the newly invented telephone. A new fashion line was established along with the new requirements of the time. Parallel with this comes the advertisement which was informative at first but gradually became aggressive. It was aimed mainly at women. Men were spare from all the pomades, perfumes, creams, lipsticks, etc.

Pomades and lipsticks:
A lady could not go out without colored lips. Lipstick became a sign of urban floozy. Moreover, she needed blush for her cheeks, nail polish and dust epilator for removing hairs. To achieve “eternal youth and beauty” the floozy could choose among numerous advertisements for creams and ointments.

Dental Care:
Beautiful smile is always elevated on a pedestal, so companies and dentists are racing to clear "rot" and remove dental calculus to achieve perfect whiteness of the teeth.

The perfume is a symbol of wealth and an expensive gift ever since its invention in the Ancient East. Advertising of bottles with “liquid gold” dominated the Bulgarian press. At the end of the nineteenth century Anton Papazov, producer and trader of rose oil, founded in Plovdiv First Bulgarian Perfume Factory, which still produces soaps, lotions washing head, hair dyes, facial creams and colognes.

“Beauty will save the world...”
Permanently young! Water “Rider” removes in 48 hours all the small wrinkles near the eyes as well as those of the cheeks and chin that fleck women in their '40-s. It gives eternal youth. Send 3.50 lev to M. Clauda direct, Rue st. Pantaleon, Toulouse (France).
“Alafranga Fashion” came with its new demands for the entire outfit. Mandatory accessories for every self-respecting gentleman were: cane, hat, umbrella and watch which a beautiful chain hanging from a jacket or overcoat. Coming from Europe, they were quickly adopted by the matter native, perhaps because cane was related to the crook, and the chain with kyustek – the only male ornament used in the traditional costume.

Wearing a sahat (watch) on a chain was a part of the “saltanat” (habit) both of the Europeans and Orientals. Though one carried it around the neck, the other – tucked in a special pocket of his coat, the clock is a sign for “a more important” man. It is rare for women to wear a watch , but when you see it hanging around her neck, you could tell that she was no longer in the timelessness of the Orient, and lived in accordance with the new European rules, where even visits are in a particular hour.

The Cane was an accessory used for different purposes – to demonstrate the social position, to defend in the necessary moment, but also to support elderly gentlemen. The fairer sex used the hollow part of the cane to hide perfume, handkerchief, tobacco, ammonia or even a love letter. The appearance of the new citizens will be unfinished if we don’t mention the finest leather gloves; the collars decorating female clothing and a necessary element of the male one; the richly decorated cigarette holders and snuff boxes, demonstrating freedom. Those accessories were equally used by both men and women, because the new European fashion gave rise to emancipation and new confidence in women.

The umbrella was another fashion accessory. Like the cane for the man it was a symbol of woman’s social status and financial stability. With its coquette form and sun screening function, it was a favorite women's property and quickly became a part of the outfit for young and elderly ladies. It was a part of the speechless communication during a walk – with a picturesque swing and rotation or the manner of wear.

Even more ostensible and loved female accessory are hats, showing a complete freedom regarding fantasy and taste preferences of the owners. The principle: “A lot is never too much.” is valid here. Models vary, but are all pompous and ornate, with rich decoration with flowers, feathers, leaves, artificial fruits, “real paradise”. This extravaganza lasted until the 20-s of the XX century. Then plain and simple models came into fashion. There were different hats for hunting, for gymnastic activities or hiking in the mountains and the garsonetka (wheel shaped straw hat), which is often attached with cord to some jacket button, to prevent the wind blowing it off.

In the middle of 19th century Plovdiv was one of the most important administrative, craft and commercial centres in European Turkey. It is a cosmopolitan city with lots of foreign influences. The broad contacts with Europe and the Middle East, the proximity of Istanbul, the education of young people in foreign countries, the numerous colonies of diplomats, traders and missionaries create favorable conditions to break the patriarchal lifestyle and create a modern one, accompanied by European manners for guests and entertainment. New forms of communication – the soiree, the sherry parties, jourfix (by invitation and in specific time) – are accepted with enthusiasm into urban life.

After 1878 the balls came into fashion. They were introduced by the families of diplomatic representatives in the capital of East Rumelia and there was a mandatory dress code. Not coincidentally, Konstantin Irechek marks that “the intelligentsia of Plovdiv dressed after the latest fashion, unlike the one of Sophia who wore clothes made of yellow russet and black fur caps.”

Thus were established male only home gatherings, which often had a political character. Michail Madzharov wrote about gatherings at dr. Valkovich’s house: “Those feasts were a novelty for the time, since everything in his house was arranged in a European manner… Even his servants he dressed in tailcoats and white gloves.”
After the Liberation apart from the balls which usually had a charitable nature, a new form of public entertainment quickly spread in the society. It was the dance soiree. Soirees were usually organized in the large halls of Kujumdzhi House in the Old Town, in the Civil Club, the Municipality or the Military Club. Men could visit them freely, but women could attend only with a family member.

Credits: Story

The exhibition includes property owned by Regional Ethnographic Museum - Plovdiv
Curator: Grozdelina Georgieva
Photos: Yanko Kavrakov
Virtual Exhibition: Stefana Mincheva

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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