Folk dress is an important part of the Bulgarian people’s material culture and a vivid distinguishing national mark. Besides language, it is one of the most certain indices of national belonging.
The ancient folk costumes in their main forms are working cloths, conformed to the different conditions of work and well adapted to the basic occupation of the Bulgarians in the past – mainly agriculture and stock – breeding.
In the course of their historical development the folk costumes form several basic kinds with a definite area of geographical spread. The difference in the top garments, put on directly over the shirt, unites the female folk costumes in three groups – two – apron, sukman and saya.
The two – apron folk costume consists of shirt, belt and two aprons, belted round the waist – one in the front and one at the back. They were made of materials specially woven by hand. The front aprons are made of one cloth or two cloths. The back ones quite often consist of two cloths and are pleated or gathered round the waist. They have a wide variety of ornaments for decoration. The place – names are different – valnenik in the area of Vidin, brachnik and pishtmal in the central part of Northern Bulgaria, karlyanka in the area of Ruse, etc.
This kind of folk costume was spread all over the Bulgarian lands in the past, but for the longest time in the Danube Plane.
The sukman folk costume consists of a shirt as a main dress. The sukman is put on over the shirt. It is quite often made of woolen black or navy – blue cloth, home woven. The sukmans are sleeveless (in the areas of Sofia, Tran, Stara Zagora, Elhovo, Karnobat, etc.), with a short sleeve (the areas of Samokov, Ihtiman) and very rarely with a long sleeve (the area of Smolyan). The decorative ornaments are concentrated over their bosoms, sleeves and skirts.
At first the apron of the sukman folk costume had only a practical function. It gradually became the richest decorated part of the folk costume. The apron is a missing element in the Sunday clothes in some regions (the areas of Sofia, Tran).
The sukman dress is widespread in the central and western uplands of the country and partly in the plains (the areas of Troyan, Karnobat, Sliven, Ihtiman, Tran, Smolyan, Stara Zagora, Yambol and Elhovo).
The saya folk costume is formed of a top garment, called saya. Its length is under the knee, opened in the middle along the whole length of the front part. The saya has short or long sleeves. The decoration consists of linear ornaments and is concentrated on the bosoms and sleeves of the saya. The saya is made of cotton or woolen home – woven materials.
The apron is an obligatory element of this folk costume. The red colour with stylized floral and geometrical ornaments predominates in it.
The saya folk costume is mainly spread in southern and southwestern regions of the lands, inhabited by the Bulgarians – the areas of Kyustendil, Blagoevgrad, Devin, Haskovo, Kardzhali, etc.
The museum displays folk costumes of the Bulgarians – settlers, whose birthplaces are now outside the territory of our country – Aegean Thrace – Gyumyurdzhina, Asia Minor – the area of Ivaylovgrad, Macedonia – the area of Dobarsko; the village of Zhuzhultsi, Kostur region; the areas of Drama and Northern Dobrudzha.