VISITORS to Bulgaria will notice that alongside the Cyrillic alphabet, mashed carrot, and powerful rackia, the country is noted for its traditional yet glamorous women.
Although we will see women in Western Europe still sometimes wearing feminine dress, it’s more of a fashion statement as opposed to regular uniform, because the rules on dress have loosened considerably.
Typically, Bulgarian women dress in a noticeably more feminine way. That means typically longer hair, modest dress, and make-up. And it’s far more common that women in Bulgaria wear tights or stockings underneath their trousers and skirts, in all weathers. As in many countries, the ordained dress code for professional women has included strict guidelines for what women should wear to the office.
As in Japan, Spain, Eastern Europe, Bulgarian women still dress in a more formal and professional way.
I wondered if there were other reasons why Bulgarian women are more likely to cover their legs. Was it the weather? I couldn’t discount it, although it was not particularly cold when I was there.
Was it because there are factories in the city where nylons and stockings are manufactured, making them more affordable than in other cities? That may be a more likely reason.
To try to understand the phenomenon more closely, I visited a small, kiosk in the city centre selling all manner of ladies hosiery. At around 6:30, the store was attended by an old, somewhat matronly lady of about 55. I was aware that my visit was greeted by some surprise, but I wasn’t put off from browsing through the various items on display.
There were dark, tan, and flesh coloured tights in various denier. In the end, I purchased the pair (*pictured below). Not knowing the word for stockings, I couldn’t exchange my purchase for what I really wanted. But it was a nice experience all the same. I imagined how it must feel to wear fabric that clung so sensuously close to the skin. To be aware of it and to be have to adjust it now and again, as women often did.
At the end of my trip, I was still not to sure if women really wore stockings more commonly, or it was just the ones I encountered that did. But it was true of various women I encountered. The expensively dressed glamazons entereing a state function in the government building definitely were wearing stockings or tights (an expert would be able to tell either way). And the last Bulgarian women to really impress me, could well have been wearing stockings under her official airport uniform – if only she hadn’t been behind a desk.
And so, I came away from my trip with a greater appreciation for the women I had met, if only for a very short period of time.