Fashion, Identity, and Lifestyle in Belgrade in the 19th and Early 20th Century: Gatherings, Sports, Recreation, and Excursions

Fashion, Identity, and Lifestyle in Belgrade in the 19th and Early 20th Century: Gatherings, Sports, Recreation, and Excursions

During the 19th century, social life in Belgrade developed intensively. A popular form of social gathering was women’s posela, which had been held since the late 1830s. The first posela were organized by Marija Milutinović, known as Maca Punktatorka, the wife of the poet Sima Milutinović – Sarajlija, and later by Anka Konstantinović, the daughter of Jevrem Obrenović, brother of Prince Miloš. At these gatherings, various women’s topics were discussed, with fashion occupying an important place. Additionally, the gathered women were introduced to European culture, advised on child-rearing and home decoration, and discussed various daily events. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such gatherings became known as žurevi. This term originated from the French term jour fixe, which denoted a fixed day of the week when the hostess would receive her friends.

An indispensable part of life in Belgrade also became various sports activities. On the city’s streets, especially on the Promenade in Knez Miloš Street, men and women could be seen riding horses recreationally. Among the first women to engage in this sport were the daughters of Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević. They rode on side-saddles, wearing half-cylinders on their heads and boots. The first horse races in Belgrade were organized in 1863 by Prince Mihailo Obrenović, who was himself an excellent rider and a great lover of equestrian sports. In Belgrade, fencing and shooting, as well as gymnastics and martial arts, also developed. The fencing society “Serbian Sword” was founded in 1897, and in 1906, the football club of the same name was founded. The football club “Soko” was established in 1903, and BSK (Belgrade Sports Club) in 1911, while the First Serbian Society for Gymnastics and Wrestling was founded as early as 1857 by painter Steva Todorović.

In the last decades of the 19th century, recreational sports such as cycling, ice skating, tennis, and swimming emerged. The first Serbian cycling society was founded in 1884. This society also had its own ice rink, located where the Army House stands today. A reporter from the newspaper Politika noted in January 1905 at the ice rink of the First Serbian Cycling Society that male and female skaters were not dressed as they should be, recommending cycling attire for men and the shortest possible skirts for women, noting that this was not shameful since in America and England, women already wore such skirts on the streets, and no one laughed at them.

During the summer months, excursions were an important part of city life. Wealthier citizens temporarily moved to their summer houses in Topčider, and traveled to some resort or spa, while excursions to the city’s surroundings were a pleasant summer pastime available to the broader population. Popular excursion spots around Belgrade were Topčider and Košutnjak. The Austro-Hungarian travel writer Felix Kanitz recorded that especially on Sundays and holidays, /…/ the shady paths leading from the railway station to the restaurants were covered with crowds of cheerful people and that people preferred to stop in the wooded corner around Hajdučka Česma. Excursions were an opportunity not only to rest from daily obligations but also for more casual attire, suited to outdoor activities.

In a group photograph of excursionists in the vicinity of Belgrade, from the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts, taken around 1900 by the famous photographer Milan Jovanović, a rich assortment of various men’s and women’s hats is documented. While women, in accordance with the fashion of that time, wore striking and decorated hats, on the heads of men we can see almost all types of men’s headgear characteristic of the 19th and early 20th century: fez, top hat, bowler hat, homburg, fedora, boater, and caps worn as part of a uniform. Although the lawyer and politician Dimitrije Marinković noted in his memoirs that in the mid-19th century, the fez was not considered unusual, while men’s hats at that time, and later, were very rare, by the beginning of the 20th century, the hat had become an indispensable detail in men’s attire.

Skating rink of the First Serbian Cycling Association, 1900s; photo: the collection of Miloš Jurišić

Cyclist, 1900s; photo: the collection of Miloš Jurišić

People on a side trip in Košutnjak, Belgrade, 1913; photo: the collection of Miloš Jurišić

People on a side trip on the lake in Kijevo, Belgrade, 1909; photo: the collection of Miloš Jurišić

Milan Jovanović, Group portrait of people on a side trip, Beograd, oko 1900; photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 RS DEED / Museum of Applied Art in Belgrade / user: Gmihail

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