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Macedonia is one of my favourite places to visit, and luckily I get to visit here often. When I walk through our small village I’m surrounded by the quiet of the mountain forests, breezes off the river Treska, and the tinkling of goats foraging for food. It's an ancient land that has experienced much throughout time. From the Roman occupation to the 'troubles' of the 1940's, history is all around me. I imagine the lives of the many women who once lived in these small remote villages.

In the early 20th century there were an estimated seventy distinct regional styles of richly decorated costume in Macedonia. Over the centuries, women have developed myriad ways of decorating their day-to-day clothes as well as the more important outfits used at weddings and funerals. The regional differences were brought about by geographic isolation, migration to other lands, the settling of foreigners and having a diverse population.
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Republic of Macedonia. © Bruce Jones Design 2009

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As we find in many societies, the gathering of plant material, the processing of the fibre and the dyeing of the yarn was largely done by women; the shearing or clipping of animal hair would be done by both women and men. Some villagers farmed their own silk worms and spun silk yarn. Materials were also traded at markets or with travelling hawkers.
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Clothing and domestic furnishings were made in the home, in village squares and in the fields where women gathered, menfolk worked and children could play safely. It was considered important for girls, who had reached puberty, to arrange their dowry (glory boxes) to take with them as new brides. These items included their personal dress and underwear as well as rugs, towels, tablecloths, curtains, baby wear and even gifts they would have made for their intended husband and mother-in-law.
Textiles for celebration, rather than everyday life, included the use of reeled silk, gold and metallic threads. These were usually sought from outsiders. Because of the skill needed to work with such materials usually the elder, more specialised women, completed these items. Girls that showed a talent for fine detailed work were quickly trained to do so. Today, it is these highly crafted items that are sought by collectors and museums. What makes these items so impressive are their magnificent embroidery, appliqué, ornamentation, fringing, srma (fine metal threading), braiding, beading and stitching on of precious jewellery, crafted flowers, coins and other trinkets (usually Christian tokens).