Embroidery, between old tradition and new fashion

Fashion comes in cycles and to understand the latest trends you have to know about fashion history and evolution. Embroidery is an old art that is very present in modern fashion. It comes in different shapes and has held an important place in many cultures all over the world – particularly in Macedonia. Let’s discover the history of embroidery!

Embroidery was practised since antiquity. First, it was developed in Egypt on hessian as a technique to make carpets and tapestries. It was used rather for decorative purposes and interior design and not in fashion. This art was first developed in the Orient and Mediterranean region. Later, during the Middle Ages, was used mostly for clothes – women’s clothes in particular. It was usually inspired by oriental motifs consisting of geometric shapes on the sleeves and collars. 

For a long time, the embroidery was an essential part of the Balkan traditional costumes and a way of cultural identification. In Macedonia, the embroidery was especially used in folkloristic costumes and more prominent in rural areas. It allowed differentiating the owners according to their native region and was also used as a way to represent your social background. There are over 70 different kinds of traditional costumes in Macedonia. They are traditionally made by women and reserved mostly for women’s clothes. It is a way for them to show off their sense of elegance, creativity, and finesse by wearing elaborate creations. Moreover, the embroidered clothes made it easier to tell the difference in heritage through colour and material. A characteristic of Macedonian embroidery is the red colour. From the darkest to the lightest shades, red is omnipresent in this country. 

In the West of Macedonia, this traditional red was also combined with blue, yellow, and green colours, depending on the region. In the East, traditional costumes were held darker, and black and red dominated embroidery. 

The other particularity in Macedonian embroidery is the relief of shapes that highlights these beautiful patterns. Usually, embroidery is accompanied by a lot of traditional jewellery which makes traditional costumes even more distinguished. 

Today, in Macedonia, the traditional costume is barely used anymore. However, in some national traditional holidays, the Macedonian traditional costume is still used. During weddings also in some parts of Macedonia, the groom can wear some traditional costumes with embroideries.

You may think that embroidery is unfashionable or old-fashioned but this year it’s having a comeback! Fashion is always repeating itself and a lot of old trends come back into fashion. Today, we wear clothes that our grandparents wore, for example, flared trousers or velour clothes. Embroidery is also one of the textile arts which became fashionable again. Even if traditional costumes are used less, nowadays embroidery is used to customize clothes, to create decorative elements or to offer an original present! 

Especially since the lockdown, a lot of people began to do arts and crafts. It’s easy to find books about how to make embroideries, which explain how to create different patterns easily. Furthermore, embroideries don’t require a lot of material. To make embroideries you only need sewing thread, embroidery needles, an embroidery canvas, and an embroidery hoop. There are a lot of iconic modern embroidery pieces you can recreate, or you can choose your own motifs like drawings, lettering, or flowers. In addition to that, making embroideries can be very therapeutic. Embroidering can be very calming as well. It gives you something to concentrate on while turning off everything else and just living in the moment.

Embroideries are even used in fashion industry and by a lot of famous creators. This year during the fashion week, the haute couture house Dior made a parade with a focus on embroidery. They designed a clothing collection with embroidery as the main topic. They also worked with women who specialized in embroidery to decorate the parade with huge, embroidered tapestries. They wanted to feature the old handcraft under the spotlight and acknowledge it by that. Finally, embroidery is a part of the cultural history of Macedonia and an emblem of traditional costumes. Today, embroidery additionally is one of the most fashionable textile arts. So, if you are bored of your basic clothes, if you search for an activity to do in your free time or just want to relax, embroidery is the thing that you need!

Camélia Sghayare

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