Brides and Grooms of Anatolia

Worn on one of the most important days in their lives, the hundreds of bride and groom costumes in Anatolia all have ceremonial significance.

The bridal couples of this earth are like the flowers and fruit of the Tree of Life. And the wedding celebrations held, gifts presented and feasts that are spread have always taken place in an atmosphere of social festivity. This is the ceremony honoring the legal union of man and woman. The bride’s and groom’s costumes so painstakingly prepared according to the customs and traditions of old were permeated with sacred beliefs from head to toe. With their elaborate decorations, they made an enchanting and impressive appearance. So much so that from a tender age girls grew up dreaming of becoming brides, and boys of becoming grooms.
The wedding celebration, which lasts for forty days and forty nights, and the procession of the bride’s trousseau became the stuff of legend and fairy tale. Seven hundred years ago, for example, the stunningly beautiful and delicate only daughter of the Germiyanid dynasty of Kütahya traveled to Bursa to become the bride of an Ottoman prince. Together with her trousseau, which was carried by forty camels, the entourage made its way to Bursa in an ‘epic’ wedding celebration that went on for forty days and forty nights. Starting out from the Aegean, this wedding was celebrated all the way to the Marmara with the participation of the local people along the way. And thus the Germiyanid Principality was conjoined with the Ottoman. The story of this historic and fairytale wedding is still retold today with great fervor.
Let us therefore peek into the pages of history and take a glance at the bride’s and groom’s costumes of the Aegean and Marmara region.

The traditional dress of Kütahya, a city famed for its tiles, is rich in detail. Bride’s and groom’s costumes, for example, use fire and water, in other words red and turquoise, side by side. And the fabrics, either silk or broadcloth, are embroidered with silver or gold thread, sequins, pearls and beads, to create a total look from head to foot. The motifs of this composite are the needlework flowers, tendrils, leaves, crescents, sun-discs, horseshoes, ram’s horns, stylized snakes and dragons and evil-eye beads that represent the accretions of so many different cultures. All of these decorations express the wish that the bride and groom will lead happy, healthy and productive lives together, filled with strength and good fortune.
The influence of antiquity is in evidence even today in the bride’s and groom’s costumes of Izmir’s Karaburun region. A special headdress is prepared, which varies from locale to locale, for the bride to wear as she travels from her father’s home to that of her husband. This headdress, an example of which we have given here, is decorated with gilded laurel leaves, fresh cut flowers, gold coins and a richly embroidered veil of dark pink. Two tendril motifs of gold wire and sequins are applied to the bride’s forehead that her fate may be as bright as the stars. Star, flower, wheel of fortune, apple and pear shapes are also traced on her cheeks and chin. Thus arrayed in laurel leaves, spangles and gold leaf, the bride dons a silk caftan which is a rich blend of red, gold and silver. A ‘Trablus’ sash is tied around her waist and fastened with a ‘tombac’ buckle adorned with a star and crescent motif. Beneath her dress she wears dark pink shalwar made of silk. A ‘beşi bir yerde’ is attached to her breast. Her slippers are embroidered with flowers and rose buds. And the perfume of the village bride is a necklace made of fragrant flowers such as dried carnations. The bride is therefore bedecked from head to toe in flowers, leaves and plants. Nor is the sky left out of the picture, the star and crescent on her belt buckle conjoining earth and heaven. As for the groom, he is outfitted in a ‘tastar’ wrapped round his head and, on his feet, shoes decorated with floral motifs. Thus joined together like a bouquet of flowers, the two become a couple.

The heads of brides and grooms in today’s touristic haven of Bodrum are also adorned with flowers, vines and tendrils. And in their garments, which allow great freedom of movement, you can see some of the finest examples of Turkish embroidery. Our Bodrum bride wears a long robe made of a fabric with stripes of six different colors, which is edged with black cord and decorated with silver makrame. The metal buckle of her silver and sequin-embroidered sash, is incrusted with green stones. Her silk crepe shirt boasts purple stripes and edging, while her full-sleeved purple jacket of silk velvet is also adorned with silver makrame. Her head scarf, with embroidered carnation motifs at its four corners, is worked with designs in sequins and gold thread. Flowers again adorn her head. The groom’s costume meanwhile is an example of the type of garment worn by the swashbuckling young dandies of western Anatolia. A silk ‘kefiye’, edged with needlework and representing the sky, is tied around a tasseled Bordeau fez. The jacket and shalwar of blue broadcloth are decorated with black cord. A woollen shawl is tied round the waist and, over it, a specially woven sash. A kerchief of orange silk is adorned at its four corners with embroidery in silver and gold thread. Finally, ‘spats’ are wrapped around the calves over the stockings.
The costumes of Bursa brides and bridegrooms appear at first glance to be very much alike. The groom wears shalwar of green satin while the bride is dressed in shalwar made of pink taffeta, a finely woven, shiny silk fabric. Over the shalwar her shirt of silk crepe falls all the way to the ground. The groom’s shirt is worked with green leaves, while that of the bride has two rows of pink flowers, symbolizing matrimony, on the front. In other words, woman is a flower, man a leaf. The flowers on the front of the groom’s caftan and the flowers and vines on the bride’s robe represent woman’s fertility and the wish that life will flourish and grow. A woollen shawl is tied round the groom’s waist, and around the bride’s waist a sash embroidered with gold and silver thread. The man wears a black skullcap embroidered with triangular amulets and crowned with a metal crest which is edged with tassels of white silk. The woman’s headdress is adorned with pink edging, and her pink head scarf is worked around the edge with embroidered leaves and flowers. Both wear shoes and slippers decorated with embroidery.
Today in the cities weddings last all night long, and a ‘henna night’ is even held in some homes. In the villages meanwhile there are still weddings that go on for three or four days. And the traditions of the bridal bath, henna night, the bridal procession and the binding of the head continue, to some extent at least. The traditional costumes however have suffered a significant decline, and modern bridal gowns are now favored. White is the favorite color, but shades of ivory, ‘doré’ and ecru are also in vogue. Bridegrooms meanwhile sport dark suits or tuxedos. And this deep-rooted tradition continues to bring joy, happiness, strength and plenty to our lives.

The costumes seen in the photographs are from the Sabiha Tansuğ Collection.