Maggie Alderson, bestselling author and blogger, explores the traditional costumes in one of Belgrade’s most popular museums.

Illustration Anna Johnson

Next time John Galliano or Karl Lagerfeld are short of  inspiration they could think about heading for the Ethnographical Museum in Belgrade, to check out the extraordinary collection of traditional costumes from the Balkan states.

Grouped by regions, which include all the territories of the former Yugoslavia, the variety of the outfits is fascinating, including every day outfits alongside more elaborate pieces from ceremonial occasions. There are bridal headpieces festooned with peacock feathers and waistcoats covered entirely in tiny coins, which are so exotic they bring to mind the hill tribes of Thailand, rather than central Europe.

The museum opened in 1901, but systemic collecting of the traditional costumes started in the mid-19th century, for the All-Slavic Exhibition which was held in Moscow in 1867. It was then continued specifically for the museum, which now has an archive of nearly 9,000 items.

Alongside the clothes, which are displayed in groups of outfits, are wonderful photographs from the early 20th century showing people actually wearing the clothes in context, which really brings the whole display to life. There are also collections of household items, jewellery, and agricultural tools.

So if you are heading to Serbia for the Exit festival next July, or just to experience Belgrade’s crazy club scene, slot in an afternoon to soak up some of the country’s traditional culture. But one warning for those used to glamorous museum shops – the one here is a good reminder of Serbia’s more recent Communist history.

Belgrade Ethnographic Museum
Studentski trg 13
381 (11) 3281-888