Text and images excerpt from the catalog “Old crafts in Serbia”
Author: Dragana Stojković
LJUBA FROM DIVOSTINA – THE FIRST SERBIAN FASHION DESIGNER
“One cannot wear every hat.”
Craftsmen who engaged in tailoring, sewing and decoration of the urban traditional costumes were called “terzije” (tailors). The tailor’s craft in the cities, as claimed in Prizren, included three trades – making of felt, kaftans and loden fabric and respective garments – as well as some crafts similar to these and some other arising from them. Felt makers were craftsmen who made wool clothes embroidered with “srma” (gold and silver threads) or silk “bucma” (bikma). Skilled masters who embroidered clothes exclusively with “srma” stood out among felt makers and were called “srmadzije”.
“Terzije” had their own guild, with strictly defined organization rules. Thus, “srmadzije” had to know all kinds of work, while workers and journeymen handled only certain stages of the work. In smaller places where there was less work, a single craftsman performed all actions. The tailor’s work developed in the following order: he first had to draw ornaments using soap on the fabric (before embroidery), sew paper onto the back of the fabric to be embroidered, then embroider and finally iron and add the lining onto the back of the fabric.
“Terzije” were believed to produce some fifty different garments. Following are some of the most popular items: “caksire“ (Jodhpur type trousers), “gunj“ (long jacket), “dzamadan” (sleeveless embroidered jacket), “dolama” (type of caftan)(men’s); “libade” or “libada” (short jacket), “salta“ (embroidered jacket), “curdija“ (sleeveless dress) (women’s); “jecerma“ (short vest), “curce“ (long sleeved outer garment), “fermen“ (sleeveless garment), “anterija“ (long-sleeved overdress), “dzube” (sleeveless coat) (men’s and women’s). Fabrics that „terzije” used for costumes were only partially been made traditionally. Usually, those were industrial and handicraft goods from the East, or later factory-made products from the West: felt, velvet, atlas, damask, “citabija“, etc. Usually, the “cova” (felt) and “srma” were supplied from Vienna, silk cords from Skadar and Djakovo, and gold and silver threads first from Constantinople and later from Austria. The tailors’ handicrafts, mostly made from felt, silk and velvet, were of different types and quality. Various garments were decorated with assorted types of cords (made of wool, silk, gold and silver), “bikma” (silk and of gold and silver threads), sequins, and various types of braids that were made by craftsmen called “kazasi”. In addition to cords of silver and gold threads, red, green and blue cords were prevailing.
It is quite safe to say that tailor’s craft and other aforementioned crafts, excluding loden fabric making, originated in the Orient. The Turks brought them to the Balkan Peninsula, where they continued to develop. Their names and terminology testify to this. For example, word “terzija” is derived from the Persian word “derzi” and the Turkish word “terzi” and it means tailor. During the Ottoman rule, tailor’s craft was one of more numerous and important trades in towns. A multitude of data corroborates the fact that it existed in the Balkan Peninsula for a long time, and, according to documents from Sarajevo, Muslim tailors were more numerous, which is explained by the fact that they were particularly numerous in towns. There were Muslim tailors who mostly worked for the Muslim population whereas Christian tailors worked for the Christian population.
In the vicinity of Tetovo, Macedonia, “skopska vezma” was produced, which was in high demand in the Ottoman Empire. Migrant tailors left their homes for seasonal work and made “clothes” for peasants. Some of the well known among them were the Mijaks from Smiljevo who worked throughout southern Macedonia, tailors from Kolasin that went to Kosovo, as well as tailors from Sirinicka Zupa who, during the season, made clothes for different ethnic groups in Kosovo and Macedonia. Tailor’s craft in the third decade of the 19th century can be reviewed based on the correspondence between Prince Milos and Belgrade artisans that he contacted for the production and supply of clothing material. These orders were usually sent to tailors Atanasko Nikolic and Jovanca Markovic. Costumes of the urban population were similar and Orient-influenced in all the cities in Serbia in the first three decades of the 19th century. The Oriental style clothing was followed by crafts such as tailor’s, leather clothing maker’s and slipper maker’s. In the opinion of experts, Oriental garments were partly worn almost to the mid-19th century and served as a precursor and a base for urban costumes that will be called “Serbian” in the following period.
At the time of the Principality of Serbia, famous master Ljuba Terzija (Ljuba, the Tailor, originally from a nearby village of Divostina, worked in Kragujevac. He designed and made men’s and women’s costumes of that time in his workshop in Kragujevac. Ljuba trained a whole generation of young and excellent tailors, who later developed this artistic craft in Serbian towns. Prince Milos did a lot for the development of the tailor’s craft in Serbia because these masters designed and made clothes for his family, as well as for the richest people in Serbia. Also, the first uniform of the Serbian cavalry was designed by tailors from Kragujevac.
The “terzija’s” craft declined and gradually died out in the late 19th and early 20th century, with the acceptance Belgrade, 2007 of European dress code and changes that affected the appearance of urban costumes. Oriental costumes remained longest in the southern and southeastern parts of Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia, where changes were also noted after 1912.
However, these changes did not take place abruptly, but rather gradually in the form of the rejection of certain garments and their replacement with European ones. Changes in clothing also led to the disappearance of certain trades, instead of which others began to develop related to the upcoming innovations in clothing. Modern tailors appeared, and in the early 20th century – the first sewing machines.
While “terzija’s” handicrafts were expensive and intended mostly for richer strata of the population, there were “abadzije” who made simple clothes from loden fabric. The rural costumes, which were different from the urban ones in style and quality, were homemade, and some items were the work of rural tailors – “abadzije” (or earlier “klasnjedzije”, loden fabric makers), who were both Christians and Turks. These craftsmen were highly appreciated in Belgrade. They were local craftsmen, usually originating from Serbia, but also from Bosnia.
Many local and international designers have admired the rich variety of ornaments and styles of our traditional Dћube, Pec, Second half of 19th century and urban costumes and found them inexhaustible sources of inspiration. Aleksandar Joksimovic and Jean Paul Gaultier have been left speechless by colors and harmony of garments worn by our ancestors. Although the tailoring trade has been entirely forgotten for many decades, it has sporadically survived to the present day as there is an increased demand for these products. It has become fashionable to get married in folk or urban costumes and wear “libade” or some other part of the traditional clothing on festive occasions.