Headcover woman identity of a Vojvodina woman – part of the exhibition “Headscarves as a cultural signifier.” For this purpose, M. Sc. Katarina Radisavljević from the Museum of Vojvodina presented the content titled A small story about women’s identity in traditional society.

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Detail of the Serbian veil, the upper cover that a bride receives when getting married. Gold embroidery is the most expensive decorative textile technique.

Thus, she included the field of the host (Museum of Vojvodina) under the umbrella theme. She added a story about women’s head coverings in the Vojvodina village. Starting from the cultically vulnerable female hair, it exposes the elements of the head covering, bringing out the local remnants of archaisms and the ongoing development processes.

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As she herself writes: Ms. Katarina Novaković Radisavljević is the head of the Department of Ethnology at the Museum of Vojvodina. As the curator of the museum’s collection of folk costumes, she entered not only the world of beautiful clothing and traditional aesthetics. Additionally, she became involved in the far more subtle, complex world of female identities and non-verbal communication.
In clothing of the traditional community, there were regulations on what and how an individual should or should not wear according to gender, age, and social status. The external, visible systems of marking symbolism simultaneously show the inner sense of action and the framework orientation in the traditional community.

All the same, I did not escape the conclusion that the content builds on and fits into the universal fund of meaning that we observed in previous posts. In an intercultural space, we got a great picture of the colorful traditions of Vojvodina. It bases on rooted models but is developing at the intersection of East and West influences.

Headcover woman identity Vojvodina – Our intercultural Area is remarkable in such a sense

From childhood, except in winter, girls are heads uncovered and combed into braids; As they grow older, their accessories change due to the status roles of women. Thus, adorning the hair, add ribbons and artificial flowers. For the girl marks a time of maturity for marriage. Bridal decorations added to the engagement. Choices of personal taste, following the family’s approval, but within the limits of collective rules in the village.


In the ethnic communities of Vojvodina, there are preserved features from the countries of origin. A clear example is the engaged Slovak woman. A combination of a girl’s “wheel” with a circular decorative form made of silk ribbons, with a bridal wreath. A wreath covers the whole head and falls over the shoulders; In the photo, we can see a wheel with ribbons lower on the back of the bride’s head, falling down the back. After the wedding, at midnight, the bride takes off the wreath; Then, the women comb and hairstyle the bride like a married woman. Finally, they put her a cap, an external level covering a married woman’s head.

The composition of a woman’s headdress consists of layers: an inner hair holder, a lower cover, and an upper ceremonial cover. The base is hair shaped around a solid inner holder. Then a triangular scarf as a lower cover, in the bottom, or a cap made of plain cloth for the same purpose. Thus, so fixes the shape of the hairstyle. Over everything is some veil-type form of upper covering, lavishly decorated caps, or festive square scarves, triangle folded.

Intimate and public in covering a woman’s head

In the composition of the traditional head covering, the meanings and functions of the layers are contradictory. Hence the completely different personal experience of the woman as well as the attitudes of the others.

As for the upper class, very few houses had economic strength for the splendor of the daughter-in-law’s headdress. Although keen for confirmation prestige in the local community. That includes Serbian and Croat festive veils and headscarves with gold embroidery.

Instead of the luxurious equipment of the rich, a modest bridal headdress was all that poor could afford. A house of lesser means was less capable of public display.

Inner hair Holders

It is an unsightly object of some closed forms. This intimate accessory, a woman made herself. When finds some solid material. Possibly wood, wire, or tin and covers it with canvas or leather. Use twisting hair around this frame and “sewing” with a cord into a tight bun. The shape must last until she combs again after a week (Saturday night or Sunday morning before dawn, while the household is sleeping).

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Detail of the exhibition: specimens of the archaic type of lower coaster and the newer one, in the form of a metal comb

A metal comb with rare teeth uses as a replacement for the internal holder. Folk names are variants or translations of the name comb for processing hemp. It originated from the urban clothing context from the 18th century when women accepted it as an external decoration over a bun already shaped around the archaic tool.

Headcover woman identity Vojvodina – Lower Covers

The previous type was a plain scarf folded into a triangle. A tightly tied headscarf completely covered the hair. Serbian women around Kikinda used to say scarf close to the head, and Slovak women towel behind the neck. Later for the same role, they use the lower cap, sewn from plain cloth. A woman could walk in the house and the garden for business among her close people. But she was not allowed to show herself like that in front of a stranger.

Women usually sewed lower head coverings from ordinary plain cloth
Or women made them from scraps of finer fabrics, after tailoring other textile items

There is a specific type among various lower coverings in a few villages south of the Bačka region. Its definition derives from the original owner’s data referring to a museum sample (In. No.1827) and literature on Croatian Šokac costumes. So means the type of triangular shape scarf, a black base with red patterns. In this peripheral distribution area, its name of Turkish origin means scarf.

Cases of transition of head covering piece elements from the lower to the upper layer

Once, urban fashion brought, among the under coverings, a new type adapted to the bun shape, the cap. The author found its origin in the clothing of the lower middle class of Western Europe in the 15th Century. With the development of function and aesthetics, it has survived in the countryside until nowadays. Serbian women call it džega, Slovak women čepec, Russian cap, and Šokica also cap.

The lavishly decorated top cap of a Serbian woman, Srpski Krstur, Banat about 1900. Black silk covered with silver embroidery and pearl beads.

K. Radisavljević pointed out one type of lavishly embroidered Sokica cap as a striking example of fostering local identity. Such a cap is known only in the village Sonta and through family ties across the Danube, in Aljmaš in Croatia. She took the place of the top hat with her beauty.

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A Lavishly embroidered cap, a striking example of preserving the local Sokac identity, Sonta, early 20th Century

A similar development takes place in several types of caps of other ethnicities. An exemplary shape, expensive material, and, of course, fine decorative processing necessarily lead them to the place of the top level. Such is the black cap with gold embroidery for Serbian women. Similarly, wear Slovakian women of black cashmere with roses. A parallel to this is probably the previously described Croatian cap.

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Slovakian woman’s black cashmere cap with rose pattern
Detail, black wool cashmere with floral, rosy printed pattern, twill weave

Headcover woman identity Vojvodina – Upper ceremonial head Covers

The photo of a wedding at reach Serbian host in the 1900s. The bride herself is wearing a white wedding veil. But in front, two recently married women wear traditional upper covers. Their headdress is heavy with goldish embroidery. Plus, complete with the Viennese-cut dress made of Lyon silk. That’s how a new daughter-in-law should expose herself until she gives birth to her first child. Here we see the old parallel to glamorous festive at the contemporary local rich man. Although the fact that they are not comparable in style. A long time ago, villagers were left breathless. Now global network blows up the toilets of celebrities all over the world “under the nose” of every girl daydreamer.

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Two newly married women in Sombor with the family at the others couple’s wedding party in 1917. (photo by Dr. Radivoj Simonović)
Veil with golden embroidery lace around her face and rose sprigs of waxed linen on both sides

A mannequin at the Hall with Costumes, a Permanent Exhibition at the Museum of Vojvodina:

There are two similar forms of upper coverings that a bride receives when she gets married. These are variants of the oblong scarf made of tanned plain cloth. The fabric of the thinnest cotton threads’ base interwove a weft filament of the same quality. For Serbian women, it is a decorative veil. Wide along the edges is a stylized pattern of solid embossed gold embroidery. The hem is of false golden lace. This veil covers the woman’s head, chin, and neck. But the most decorated part falls down the back. Additional decorative parts are “golden” lace along the face and under the veil and rose sprigs made of waxed linen on both sides.

Croatian women in the Bač area wore another lavish upper headdress. At the beginning of the 20th Century. The groom’s family ritually gave a luxurious veil to their bride on the wedding night. She used to wear it on festive occasions about one year after the wedding. The veil of fine linen, with “golden” lace, covered the inner supporting structure. Plenty of decor accessories (strings of artificial pearls, an artificial copy of gold wire, natural flowers, ribbons, and decorative pins) onto the whole formation.

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Veil of fine linen, with golden lace, covering the inner supporting structure with plenty of additional decor accessories, Bačka Sokac woman 1903,
Three generations: young married woman, the bride with veil and little girl, Bačka Sokac 1903, shut 1903, Dr. Radivoj Simonović EO Muzej Vojvodine.

Combing brides hear means ritual with significant potential for formal protection of intangible cultural heritage. Represent typical ethnic and identity expression. Traditional combing of the bride’s hair remained in common practice until recently. It usually happens on the wedding night or early morning. Until nowadays, it survives sporadically in the repertoires of folklore groups. However, modern attempts to revive wedding rituals can contribute to this heritage protection. I assume that some local environments can meet the requirements for inclusion in The List of Elements of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Headcover woman identity Vojvodina upper-silk-satin-headscarf-gold-embroidery-signed-owner-Vukosava-Živković-after-wedding-Laćarak-Srem-1907-EOMV-inv.no-2470.jpg
Upper silk satin headscarf with gold embroidery (signed owner’s name). Vukosava Živković wore after her wedding, Laćarak, Srem, 1907, EO MV inv. no. 2470.

Headcover woman identity Vojvodina – A multipurpose Scarf

A square piece of cloth, the upper covering head women still use for various occasions. Outside in winter, female children wear scarves. Then, after marriage, a woman remains covered while staying alive. Tye scarf folded into a triangle. A simple headscarf always wore at home and work. Newer ones or of better fabric, women use in the village and the city, but festive scarves of expensive materials. The most popular choice in Vojvodina was silken satin. The main emphasis is on rich gold embroidery. Professionals stitched according to the design scheme: around the forehead, towards the ends, on the part that will lie on the bun, and the tail that falls on the back.

Usually, in the summer and otherwise, while staying home, the woman ties herself with a small scarf. She collects her hair tying the ends on the nape of her neck or the top of her head. It is folded laterally on both sides near the ears and tied at the nape of the neck. Or cross a worn scarf at the bottom and tie it on top of the head.

The practical side is caution when preparing food, but also hair hygiene. Otherwise, a woman feels unrestrained when working in the house or the field in the summer heat.

A Slovakian woman at breaking dried hemp, Lalić, Bačka, 1962, photo by Mila Bosić

Such tying Serbian call Hungarian. But exhibition confirmed the far greater prevalence of the simple tying types. The headscarf is of a more modest social origin than the civic cap. And in contrast, the drop is much more functional, and its popularity has survived all past historical epochs. In traditional clothes, it is held in that direction even today. But in the middle of the 20th century, high fashion made split and created an entirely new meaning for the scarf.

Headcover woman identity Vojvodina – Quality of scarf fabrics

Festive scarves were of the highest quality materials. If monochromatic, woven from wool, cotton, and silk decorated with complex weaving interweaves, also when are colorful with fashionable design. Anyway, women always chose expensive materials. Mostly cashmere, smooth and patterned satin, Lyon silk, or jacquard weaving such as damask or brocade; various types of velvet).

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Fićula, a lower cap for married women, in Bačko Gradište 1981.
I was a model for a demonstration of tying a black silk scarf, over a lower cap of patterned fine silk

Along with a formal black silk dress (skirt, blouse, apron) is fićula, a cap for married women; its owner, Magyar Justine, born in 1894, sewed the dress by herself as an unmarried girl. After marriage in 1918, Justine received this cap as part of a married woman’s headdress.

A colleague of mine, Marija Banski, arranged a black silk scarf over the cap fićula, according to the owner’s instructions. On that occasion, I was a model during ethnological research in Bačko Gradište in 1981.

Some unusual materials in museum collections bear witness to attempting to adapt foreign novelties to the taste of a more traditional environment. Thus, urban fashionistas, as well as village artisans, carried out complex finishing of plushies to obtain a floral relief pattern. In the 1970s, as museum researchers, we came across the name short hairy Paja. The women were proud of those expensive pieces worth every penny. Those textile processes mean deriving a technique of pressing soft tissue with plush relief molds under the influence of steam at high temperatures.

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Scarves in the collection of the Ethnological Department of the Museum of Vojvodina, have different decorative effects on the velvet tissue.
One of the popular methods was pressing soft velvet with relief molds, under steam at high temperatures, here is an enlarged detail.

Headcover woman identity Vojvodina – and new covering head practice

As women traditionally covered are inevitably leaving, the headscarf is also losing its place in the traditional local clothing culture. Thus the modern woman gets many new choices. For instance, to imagine and realize a new look, she is free to choose her style, which does not have to be to the collective’s taste. That’s why now, in the fourth part, I am completing the IV part, the presentation about the traditional head covering of women in Vojvodina.

In the next post, I will discuss the scarf regarding new functions in a different context. Its countless fascinating new roles challenge my interest. It is marketed in various designs and suitable sizes, depending on its uses. You can wear the scarf as a cloak, cover or tie your head and neck. May tye a bracelet, or as the belt; wrapped around the body like a dress in summer; even put like a bag over your shoulder. And the fanciest case, completing bag and a scarf of the same famous brand.

In short, headcover woman identity, the contemporary headscarf goes far beyond traditional functions. A scarf gets places everywhere and is pleasant for a person to have and feel it. Or to liven up a simple, unremarkable outfit.

It is a gloomy, cold Saturday at the beginning of December when I am airing this new post and waiting for all interested, as I always do.

Sincerely, Branka on Textiles

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