Tradition modernity scarf Serbia –  The oldest surviving headscarf in the family that my great-grandmother Yevrosima – grandmother Rosa once wore. It is a Turkish-style headscarf. The model spread in the age of the Turks and stayed until the middle of the 20th century. Fortunately, the family saved her photo with the old women’s bandage from that time.

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Nada Idvorean with friend Patricija Marjan (left) Novi Sad

Here is the article with photos and scarves of several women through the generations of my family. This will be my personal story with characters: great-grandmothers Jevrosima and Ljubica, grandmother Radmila, my mother, aunt, me, and my daughter. I inherited a couple of copies from my mother, which my grandmothers wore. Along with a couple of my mother’s pieces, mine are more numerous, but most of the household collection consists of my daughter Nada’s scarves.

In our era, many centuries-old traditions of the headscarf as a complete covering of a woman’s hair and the head are ending. Furthermore, scarves are developing in our modern times. Besides practice, decorative, and fashion roles prevail.

Tradition modernity scarf Serbia – Love and marriage from the pastures near South Morava

My relatives, the Stevanovići in the village of Rutevac near Aleksinac, recount an idyllic story from the end of the 19th century. Milosav Radić–Misa is the main character whose descendants still bear the nickname Misići. He originated from the Vranje region, from the stream of settlers who, after 1833, flowed towards free Serbia. In the village of Korman, young Misa looked after the sheep grazing in the fields near villages on both sides of the South Morava River.

A handsome guy attracted the girl Anica, the only child of wealthy parents in Rutevac. The ancestral family couple gave birth to six sons. In time, they all gave birth to and developed numerous family cooperatives. Traditionally son-in-law of the wife’s family. Misa bore his surname Radić, but the sons received the family surname Stevanović.

My great-grandfather Dobrosav and Yevrosima – Rosa

First, they had their eldest son Dobrosav (1905) marry Jevrosima from nearby Bradac. The village is on the slopes of the Sokobanja mountains. He died shortly after the birth of my grandfather Radivoj (1907). The cooperative remarried widow Rosa with a baby to a family in neighboring Vukašinovac. The marriage agreement bound the mother’s new family. It referred the return of the child to the father’s family cooperative when he turns seven years old. That tradition is to inherit the father’s part of the property. Until he reaches adulthood, the child is under the guardianship of his uncles in the cooperative. It is a traditional rule to preserve the family link, as the son will continue the branch after his father. There was also luck, along with human kindness. With our grandfather’s half-brothers, my family got relatives of close relations that last even until today.

Rosa in Vukašinovac was less than half an hour’s walk away and easily has remained in constant contact with her son and former housemates. I remember her as a short, frail old granny, quiet, mild-mannered. Her surviving photograph illustrates the typical tying of older women with a headscarf.

The photo of my great-grandmother Yevrosima-Rosa
illustrates the usual way of tying scarf for older women of the region.
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An authentic old example of a Turkish type of headscarf in my family heirloom

In a family heirloom, I found the same model of a scarf, light yellow and faded from wear and washing. Published analogies in Serbian costumes confirm it.

Grandfather Radivoj and his wife Radmila from Vitkovac

The family chose a bride for my grandfather Radivoje when he was old enough to marry. It was Radmila from Vitkovac, a village on the opposite bank of the Morava. Radmila and Radivoj got their first child, Dragoslava, later my mother, in 1928. And finally, granny gave birth to my aunt Ljiljana in 1938. Among the pictures, I also have preserved a pale photo of Ljubica, Radmila’s aunt. She is dressed in the old-fashioned way, with a light-colored scarf. Ljubica, just as our ancestor, grandfather Misa, was from Korman. The village is located between the railroad and the South Morava river, in the direction of Aleksinac.


Here, we can see a characteristic winter knitted woolen scarf in the same photo. A similar piece will later be much better visible in the picture of my grandmother Radmila. But this other photo was taken many years later, in the 1950s, in Rutevac.

My town, Aleksinac, is on the main road between Europe and Asia. That’s why it has been, for centuries, a place of the rapid flow of cultural peculiarities. And fashion is the leader, which also spills over to the surrounding rural population. This is how the costume of women in the countryside here quickly adapts to urban clothing.

This shows an example of the large square woolen scarf mentioned above. The women from the village adopted them, imitating city women in Aleksinac. They liked the elegance of a European-style wool scarf. So, in times, peasant women developed a transformed type of homemade clothing created on civilian models. They knitted themselves cloaks from the wool of their sheep. It was a beautiful, thick large scarf for winter. Women also imitated embossed decorative borders and twisted fringes along the edges.

Tradition modernity scarf Serbia – Modalities in women’s clothing in the countryside, 1960.

Combined with a small headscarf, my grandmother also wears a large, thick woolen scarf. She folded a big square into a triangle, put it on the back to the front, and crossed, then tightened and tied it back at the waist. So it was used in winter, over other clothes, as an additional top upper dress.

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My mother is in urban clothes, a granny with a woolen scarf. While the others are wearing diverse outfits. Shot on the occasion of the village wedding party, Rutevac, in the 1950s.

The previously attached photo shows several varieties of clothing combinations on the women present. It is a group of local women at a wedding party in the village of Rutevac. In the foreground is my mother Dragoslava (1928-2004), along with her mother (1908-1984). My grandmother is wrapped in a woolen scarf, while her daughter is dressed in urban-styled clothes. In a winter coat, with a fine, light-colored scarf around her neck, has a lady’s purse over her arm. She is the only bareheaded with a modern hairstyle in the company, while the other women are wearing headscarves. Their outfits are diverse. From woolen sweaters and skirts with aprons, then two-piece stuff costumes, and long winter coats.

However, about fifteen years later, even my grandmother Rada changed her attitude. She relented when she saw that her generation was embracing new cuts and materials. Here we see her in a straight-cut summer dress, with a satin scarf on her head.

Here we see my grandmother (on the left) dressed in straight-cut summer clothes, with a satin scarf on her head.


So, ending with my grandmother’s generation, the traditional type of headscarf is being lost in the family. My mother still continued to tie a scarf, outside, in winter. But, on the reason to protect herself from the cold. At the same time, she was very selective. Usually, took care of what suited her, and it turns out, also about fashion trends.

Tradition modernity scarf Serbia –  Design by Desa Tomić Đurović

Finally, with the current research, when I reviewed material preserved for generations, an unexpected discovery happened. Namely, I vividly remember how my mother, for years, often wore a scarf with an op-art design. It is a combination of white and ocher yellow colors. I found out design is from 1969 by applied artist Desa Tomić Đurović. She used to create designs for ready-to-wear production. So, my mother somewhere bought that piece. There is a print of her signature on the scarf. But it is not dated, unlike her works in the Museum of Applied Arts in Belgrade  6.  and 6a. Image

The op-art designed scarf by Desa Tomić Đurović inherited after my mother purchased it in the early 1970s, signed in down angle, right

Tradition modernity scarf Serbia –  Ljiljana Stevanović, born 1938. Rutevac, schooling in Aleksinac and Niš

My aunt Ljilja, in a group of friends cheerful, in a summer dress. They tread barefoot in the stream. They were on the way back after a visit and picnic near the Church of the Holy Trinity in 1954. A small scarf is high above her forehead, the ends tied at the nape of her neck.

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My aunt Ljilja with her friends, in the stream after a visit and picnic near the Church of the Holy Trinity, 1954. A small scarf high above her forehead, tied on the back of her head.

Two years later, at age 18, Ljiljana was studying medical school in Niš. Here is the pose of her sitting at the desk, dressed in a hand-knit sweater in a dark scarf with light circles.

Ljiljana Stevanović, student of medical school in Niš, 1956.

Tradition modernity scarf Serbia – A fashionable detail of the outfit of the 1960s, Aleksinac

Six years later, on January 1, 1960, it was the morning after New Year’s Eve. Slobodanka initiated taking a photo as a memory of me and those festive days. In the written dedication left, she wishes me to remember her. For years I was ashamed because of that photo, with cut bangs almost down to the roots of my hair. This tagged me for family jokes because of trying a fancy haircut for the celebration. My hair soon grew back, but the memory remained of how Slobodanka proudly posed with this adornment. She was beautiful to me too. In this case, I am attaching a photo, an illustration of the coquettish tying of a fashionable nylon scarf she borrowed from my aunt for the occasion. 

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With Slobodanka, with coquettish tying of a fashionable nylon scarf, January 1, 1960, after New Year’s Eve

I keep almost the same piece, actually, my mother’s scarf. Because the two sisters often bought or sewed the same or similar models.

The nylon scarf was owned by my mother since the 1950s. Now the scarf belongs to me.

At the age of eleven, along with the two of them, I wanted this fashion accessory for myself. Since my mother and aunt put on scarves, I begged for one for myself due to shooting photos.

This is me at the age of eleven, Aleksinac in 1961. I am posing imitating my elder women.

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Eleonora Vein is among the younger women from my family branch, the daughter of my aunt Ljiljana. This is how my aunt dressed up her Ella in 1973.

Ella Vein, born 1970, in Zadar, 1973.


Fashion detail in the trend of strict elegance of the 1970s, Novi Sad

At the end of the seventies of the last century, in my thirties, the fashion for classic suits and costumes for businesswomen took hold. There are matching scarves, scarves, and even ties. The photo with my colleagues in the Ethnological Department of the Vojvodina Museum, 1977. I tied the scarf of thin, smooth silk into a tie-type knot. It was one of the possibilities to add a casual touch to your everyday work outfit. Unfortunately, meanwhile, I lost the scarf. The same cases happened with other favorite selected pieces purchased at the Centrotextil boutique in Dunavska street in Novi Sad.

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In the Ethnological Department of the Vojvodina Museum, shot 1977.

The second case is when I sacrificed a silk scarf that my mother bought at the Leskovac Fair in the 1950s. It happened according to the dictates of the fashion of the time. The material is undyed, finely spun raw silk. With the same warp and weft yarn, the scarf is woven in a square format with a relief texture. Stripped border, the entire inner field is filled with flowers. Industrial product on a jacquard loom. I cut it into two halves and reshaped it into an elegant shawl.

Former headscarf of silk that I have reshaped into an elegant shawl (detail).
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We used to wear formal outfits on our Museum’s anniversary, Novi Sad 1979.

In the right photo, my white scarf breaks up the blackness of my classic-cut blazer and silk shirt combo. Friend Ilonka is also on trend with a tie with a V-neck sweater.

Tradition modernity scarf Serbia – My samples from Kashmir motifs, Novi Sad

In my mature years, regardless of fashion occasions, I am very affectionate to clothing accessories of classic style. Among my favorites are two: a square scarf made of woolen cashmere, a souvenir from Ružomberok (former Czechoslovakia) and second, and a large wrap scarf from Bursa, Turkey. Both are within the same decorative theme of Kashmiri textiles. This type of plant ornamentation of Indo-Iranian origin is popular here, almost around the whole Globe.

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Woolen cashmere scarf, twill weave of right-Z direction

I have the first piece on tape after the opening of the ceramic exhibition of the academic sculptor Marina Popović in December 1995. The artist is holding a bowl, and I’m on the left with a brown hat. My coat is from the My way collection, already mentioned Centrotextil. I completed the winter outfit with a scarf made of thin cashmere, four-thread twill woven right Z-direction,  with a printed characteristic pattern.

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My winter outfit, coat with brown hat and cashmere scarf, Novi Sad 1995.

Another example is a large scarf with border friezes of Kashmiri ornaments at both ends and ends with fringes. Otherwise, it is for casual dressing on the top of a more elegant toilet. However, on this occasion, my daughter loosely wrapped it with visible multi-colored stripes to match a similar colored check tweed coat.

Nada’s photo is from the ceremony of the opening of the installation of the Third Tapestry Triennial of Atelier 61 (Institute for Tapestry Weaving) Novi Sad in 2007.

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The piece is distinguished by the good quality of the material. The raw material composition is dominated by silk, which gives refinements and shines to the festive scarf.

The percentage of cotton makes it soft and warm to the touch. The technique of weaving Bursa shawls is far more complex than the first example. For the decorative parts at the ends, the weaving procedure has been completely changed. A new interweaving system was installed with dozens of different lifting and dissolving threads into the yaw for weaving the weft. Thus, the possibility of shaping the ornamentation with free color changes is obtained. Produced on a modern jacquard loom.

In 2005, it is my only souvenir from Koza Khan in Bursa, a centuries-old center of silk production.

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Here I will point out a seemingly simple weaving of a spacious centerpiece. It is four threaded Z twill (left edge) split into two separate layers woven into a simple plain weave. On the scanned detail of the monochrome reverse, the points of connection of the two woven layers are visible. The layers are connected at regular intervals by crossed, one warp thread from the striped face of the fabric parallel to the light weft.


Tradition modernity scarf Serbia – Utilitarian functions of my scarves

I have several samples of large uncut pieces of fabric that are really functional. It is a pareo that originates from the tropics but has recently gained global popularity. It is most often used tied up to be a skirt or beach dress, which I do in the summer.

The trip by boat, with my husband, to Skiathos 2017.

Now I come to the end of my family story about scarves. So, just one last example follows, scarf in my kitchen daily practice. It covers my hair while I prepare food. An ordinary scarf, but soft so that it fits well and the ends are tied well. These days usually, take a triangle scarf from a first medical aid kit. Here, I am attaching a photo of a scarf tying as the presentation at the workshop hosted by the Svilara Cultural Station. Held in May was part of the Novi Sad – Capital of Culture 2022 program.

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My scarf on my head when I cook or clean

Tradition modernity scarf Serbia – Nada’s attitude toward the scarf

In our culture, as I have already concluded, the headscarf no longer has the role of hiding a woman’s hair and head. It serves as good protection from the sun or wind, but more and more as a decoration on the hair. In this case, it seems to control my daughter’s hair, thick and heavy. Of course, with the strong support of a ponytail holder.

My daughter Nada controls thick and heavy hair. In fact, here is a decorative scarf, but with the strong support of a rubber band.


Nada likes adding liveliness to an outfit if it is too neutral. Dozens of different models help her choose the right piece. The floral background here obviously caused her to pose. On the other hand, this image reveals her style of wearable aesthetics, an individual in a series of numerous diverse pieces of fabric.

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A scarf adds liveliness to Nada`s neutral outfit.
My daughter wears a natural color palette with a matching scarf.

So, I’m finishing the last part of the topic. As well hoping that occurred, in my own point of view, a somewhat rounded whole. My wishes should have come true if I had even roughly guessed where to put the last full stop as the junction of this circle.

I hope the current winter should attract people to dwell on my texts. Until the next new stories

Sincerely, Branka on Textiles

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