Following a Supreme Judiciary Council decision at the beginning of 2009, all judges and prosecutors will have an average of 177 leva deducted from their salaries towards the new attire. The manufacturer was chosen from among three candidates, and the new gowns were introduced for the autumn season.
But various groups of judges and prosecutors, as well as individual employees in the legal profession, have protested over both the design and the quality of the new costumes. While male judges tend to dislike the "crumpling" polyester as well as the new "scarves" they are made to wear, women complain that the material of the new robes is "too diaphanous," preventing them from getting away with just underwear beneath it when it's hot.
Sweating and even rashes are among the most common complaints.
Some judges have voiced the opinion that their new clothes are "too similar" to those worn by barristers, making it difficult for both the general public and their colleagues to tell them apart. Prosecutors from Sofia, Ruse, Pernik and Haskovo have refused to put on their new gowns, reverting to the old models.
"Mine is seven years old, a bit frayed at the cuffs, but otherwise it's OK," a Sofia judge told the media.
The wrath of the Bulgarian legal profession is directed at Zheni Zhivkova, the designer who won the contract for the new clothes.
"I have great experience with various materials. I made the new robes light and comfortable to wear. However, with such a big contract it is impossible to satisfy everyone," Mrs Zhivkova was quoted as saying.
Designer Zheni Zhivkova, a former MP for the Bulgarian Socialist Party, is the daughter of Lyudmila Zhivkova, the Communist-era minister of culture, and the grand-daughter of Todor Zhivkov.
Under Zhivkov, judges were not required to wear special costumes as these were considered "bourgeois" and they had to obey the Communist party rather than the law. In fact, the law was made by the Communist party. But now they have new robes.