Macedonian traditional costume

Contributed by: Private collectors

Macedonian traditional dress Macedonian apron Macedonian linen shift Macedonian woollen vest Macedonian cotton scarf Blaguna Nikolovska with her apron Apron woven, date unknown, Dolenci, Demir-Hisar, owned by Blaguna Nikolovska
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Private collectors
  • Date range:

    1920 - 1930
  • Place of origin:

    Dolenci, Demir-Hisar, Macedonia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This hand woven apron is an excellent example of the key element of the splendid traditional costumes worn in Macedonia up until the mid 20th Century. This apron made by Cveta Naumovska was passed down to her daughter Blaguna Nikolovska who brought it with her when she migrated to Port Kembla, south of Wollongong in 1997. For the Macedonian migrants to the Illawarra, a journey across the world transformed this woven rectangle from an integral part of daily life into a memento of a culture and a past way of life. The apron has been central, both to special occasions with music and dancing and to their working lives. This specific traditional costume is from the village of Dolenci in the region of Demir-Hisar and was worn for special occasions including Easter celebrations.

The primary visual impact of most hand woven traditional Macedonian aprons including this example, is a clash of stripes down the central vertical seam. This apron is made with mercerized cotton and it consists of a thirty centre meter wide length of fabric, tapestry woven on a cotton warp with a pattern of yellow and black weft stripes in repeated groupings. The large stitches of the central seam stiffen the apron and prevent it from lying flat. Every Macedonian house would have had its own loom and once a girl was engaged she would spend her winter months creating gifts to give her family and new in-laws.

The traditional method for making up an apron was to fold the finished woven length in two, cut it on the fold, hem the sides, and hand stitch the centre seam along the selvedges. The asymmetrical stripe sequence was therefore intentionally reversed to mismatch. Blaguna Nikolovska, the current owner, insisted this was, 'just how it had to be'. The ties on this apron consist of novelty printed cotton popular during the second half of the Twentieth Century. This suggests that the apron was worn again during this period.

It is no wonder this apron was brought to Australia. In Macedonia, aprons symbolised a woman's life and hid her secrets. These vibrant creations, traditionally made entirely from the local environment, by brisk, skilled hands, represent the strength, energy and resilience of Macedonian women.

Author: Lindie Ward and Rebecca Evans, 17th September 2010.


A Macedonian traditional costume including a woven woollen apron, an embroidered woollen vest, a linen shift, a cotton scarf and a lace bib insert.

A woven apron, made of wool and cotton, with a striped design of dark brown and yellow with thin green, blue and cream arrow shapes within stripe design. Apron has cotton printed ties with a cartoon rabbit design and red binding around the edges on the sides and base.

An embroidered vest made of wool, silk, cotton, metal and plastic with a heavily embroidered design with beading, braids, silk and cotton thread and velvet fabric. Vest has no sleeves with a low neckline which extends down the side of the chest and sits below the bust joining at the stomach. Embroidered design extends from the back hem in a zig-zag motif towards the front hem as well as on the neckline and shoulders. Vest is secured around the waist with two ties.

An embroidered cream shift made of linen and cotton thread, with a deep V-shaped neckline, set-in sleeves and two short splits at base on each side seam. Shift is lavishly embroidered with red, black and cream cotton thread on the sleeves, neckline and hem.

A simple V-shaped scarf made of cotton and plastic with a decorative fringe border of blue beading.

A lace bib insert made of machine made cotton lace, which consists of a half-circle length with two ties for securing around neck and two lengths of lace which extend down the chest, joined to the neckline.

Link to further information about this object

History and Provenance

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

Blaguna migrated to the Illawarra in 1997 with her husband. Her children were already living here and she now lives with them. She is from the village of Dolenci in the region of Demir-Hisar.

'People don't wear aprons any more. My great-grandmother was the oldest person to live and die in national costume. The cosula (vest) was made by my mother and grandmother and is the main part of the costume for that region. It was all hand-made at home, put together and then decoration added. For mother, getting parts was hard but jewel merchants in Bitola travelled around and visited once a month and sold things to the women.

The alena (apron) pattern is special to the region. Some ladies made changes in the pattern and mixed colours. When a girl got married she made many gifts for the family. She knitted thirty to forty socks and wove aprons for the women. Men were given pairs of socks, tied together with woollen ties and put around their necks. Marriage was different then. '

-Blaguna Naumovska

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This apron is an example of the central part of traditional Macedonian costume. This example was worn by the current owner's mother, Cveta Naumovska in the village of Dolenci in the Demir-Hisar region of Macedonia. The aprons of this region had been worn by many generations of Macedonian women and were central to their lives. Different aprons were worn for all facets of a women's life from marriage, childbirth, working in the fields to mourning and celebrations. In many part of Macedonia an apron with its regional design indicated not only where a woman was from but also who she was and what stage in her life she was at.

The 20th Century represents a period of significant change in the lives of Macedonian women. The introduction of chemical dyes, embellishments and mass produced fabrics from the rest of the world dramatically altered the techniques employed in the manufacture of traditional dress especially woven aprons. Aprons which primarily sourced supplies from the local environment, including wool from sheep, dye from plants and the occasional embellishment from the travelling salesman were now replaced by products and resources from outside of the local village. This in turn transformed the aesthetic of traditional dress with the introduction of brighter colours and embellishments. This is evident in this example with the use of novelty printed cotton ties which include cartoon motifs of a small white rabbit playing a range of musical instruments.

In the post-war period many Macedonian women migrated from their homes in small villages throughout the world. A significant number of Macedonian families migrated to the Illawarra region of New South Wales, lured by jobs for their husbands and male relatives provided at the Steel Works at Port Kembla, just south of Wollongong. Many of the women who migrated brought with them aprons, a singular representative component of their traditional dress. For the Macedonian migrants to the Illawarra, a journey across the world transformed this woven rectangle from an integral part of daily life into a memento of a culture and a past way of life. The apron had been central, both to special occasions with music and dancing, and to their working lives.

This garment has been exhibited

This garment was exhibited in 'Ties with Tradition: Macedonia apron designs', the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2009. The exhibition was subsequently shown at the University of Wollongong, School of Art and Design, 8th -27th April, 2010.

  1. Place of origin:

    Dolenci, Demir-Hisar, Macedonia

  2. Owned by:

    This outfit was owned and worn by Cveta Naumovska. Cveta wove the apron and embroidered the other parts to this outfit.

  3. Worn by:

    Cveta Naumovska and her daughter Blaguna Nikolovska

  4. Occasion(s):

    Special occasions, weddings and Easter celebrations

  5. Place:

    Dolenci, Demir Hisar, Macedonia and Port Kembla, New South Wales, Australia

  6. Designed by:

    The design on this traditional Macedonian dress is native to the region of Demir-Hisar and has been worn for centuries.

  7. Made by:

    The apron in this traditional Macedonian outfit was made by Cveta Naumovska.

  8. Made for:

    Cveta Naumovska

Trimmings / Decoration

The printed cotton ties with a novelty print of a small white rabbit playing musical instruments is believed to be a later addition.


Printed cotton ties on apron


Machine-made lace bib insert


Heavy embroidery around neckline & hem of vest. sleeves, neck & hemline of shift

Fibre / Weave

Apron: loom woven wool from local source

Vest: woven wool

Shift & scarf: linen/cotton mix

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Apron: Tapestry woven on a loom using weft face weaving techniques where the warp threads (made of cotton) are entirely covered by the woollen weft threads. The apron is woven in one thirty centimetre wide length of fabric, cut in half, hem the sides, and hand-stitch the vertical centre-seam along the selvedges. The result of this is an asymmetrical stripe sequence down the front.

Around the edge of the apron is red binding for decoration and at the top right and left are novelty, printed ties to secure the apron around the wearers waist.

Vest: Woollen vest hand woven by the local tailor in the village using local wool fibres and embroidered using purchased threads, sequins and beads by the women of the village. The cut and construction of a vest was traditionally unique to the village that it came from.

Chemise: Linen, woven on a loom and hand embroidered with purchased red threads.

Scarf: Purchased fabric and beads and made up by the owner

Lace bib: Purchased machine-made lace, made up by owner

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other


  1. Bias
  2. Straight


There are two ties on the apron to secure around waist and at the centre front of the vest.

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The thick weave of the apron and vest with its woollen weft allows the apron the stand rigid when worn.


apron scarf tunic vest
Neck 240 mm 245 mm
Chest 923 mm 735 mm
Waist 225 mm 760 mm
Cuff 335 mm
Hem circumference 144 mm
Front neck to hem 1244 mm 590 mm
Front waist to hem 675 mm 250 mm
Back neck to hem 1244 mm 678 mm
Back waist to hem 282 mm
Sleeve length 532 mm
Neck to sleeve head 950 mm 78 mm
Cross back 310 mm 304 mm
Underarm to underarm 449 mm 344 mm
Fabric width 210 mm 310 mm 304 mm
Convert to inches

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

Media release for 'Ties with Tradition: Macedonian apron designs', University of Wollongong, School fo Art and Design, 8th -27th April, 2010.

Other related objects

Accompanying this apron are other key components of traditional Macedonian costume including a linen chemise with a rich red and black embroidered edge, a heavy, rich embellished vest with beading and embroidery, a lace bib insert and a white cotton scarf with blue beading around the edge. It is believed that the lace bib and scarf are later additions to the complete costume.

Blaguna also owns a second apron. It has a horizontal seam a heavy dense weave, dark colours and plain ties suggest it was a working apron for an older woman.

Link to collection online



  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor
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