Dance teacher of the Music & Literature group "ORFEAS" Lefkada
Source: Pantazis Kontomichis "the folk costume of Lefkada"
The folk costume of Lefkada
Lefkada's women folk costume is characterized by its simplicity, unpretentious and elegant line than for the innumerable embroidery, the many jewels, and the fancy presence, which characterize many other areas' costumes. All the peasants stubbornly wore it until the end of World War II. After the war, of course, things began to change.
The civil war, the economic crisis, led to immigration, and, of course, the women who emigrated threw away their local clothing and wore European “clothes”.
Here we should note that immigrant men had no problem with their costume because men's traditional clothing had long ceased to be worn. In the city, they stopped wearing it from the middle of the 19th century, while in the villages they wore it until 1920-25. The wars of 1912-22 were a decisive factor in stopping the villagers from wearing the traditional breeches.
Under these conditions, the local folk costume finally lost the battle and is now considered as something outdated. Only the elderly women of the villages wear it today.
The important thing is that at least the costume is still worn today and the descriptions that will follow are based on the real picture and not on conjecture.
Significant similarities have the Lefkada traditional costume with the Spanish of the Pyrenees region, with the Toulouse from the South of France and much more with the city of Foggia from the South of Italy where here we have a resemblance to the men's costume.
The influence of the newest women's costume of Lefkada from western standards is obvious. This influence took place through Venice as Western standards began to claim a place in Lefkada’s costume at the end of Venetian occupation in Lefkada.
Foreign travellers testimonies
In 1795, the French diplomat Andre Grasset Saint - Sauver visited Lefkada. In his notes, we read: "Women, beautiful and generally free, have a weakness for ornaments and luxury. All their dresses are embroidered with gold, silver and silk ".
In 1822, the English poet and painter William Blake arrived in Lefkada as a traveller. The visit coincided with the celebrations on the occasion of the weddings of Prince Wales and Princess Alexandra. On the evening of the official celebration, a dinner was given at the Governor's premises, where the nobles of the city and the dignitaries of the villages were invited. He describes the costumes he saw that night: “Some ladies wore the traditional costume and they were more interesting. The costumes they wore were more Byzantine than Greek. The dresses were made of silk but without a great variety of colours. On the hem, they had gold embroidery half an inch wide. The dresses were not worn with crinoline, but they were felling richly into the ground. Behind their neck, a second d dress began something like long feathers, with gold embroidery of the same kind and the same width. The sleeves had strange shapes, and from the elbow to the wrist they were very narrow. In the elbow, there was a double gold piping shaped differently from the others in the dress. Above the elbow, the sleeve was shaped like a small balloon with many facets. The headscarf was a long fabric made of thin linen and lace hanging behind and below the waist. On the left side of the head, there was a gold ornament or fez, like a shell and placed so that it is part of the decoration of the hair ".
"Companion" or "vraki"
"Companion" was called women's underwear. The companion was white, knee-length and usually embroidered. At the bottom, it had a wide lace.
The shirts are everyday and festive underwear with the corresponding decoration. They are long and reach just above the ankles. In most cases, they have sleeves, but short-sleeved and sleeveless shirts were worn in the summer. On the chest, the shirt is open and embroidered. The embroidered part is called traxilia or xechilia. The unmarried wore simple embroidered shirts. The most beautiful ones were intended for the brides. The wedding shirt was the most beautiful. Usually, the groom's mother gave it to the bride for the wedding night. On Monday morning, they were showing it triumphantly, raising it high like a flag so that everyone in the village could see it, marked with the traces of the bride's honour. After this ritual, it wasn’t worn again; it was kept as it was unwashed, to wear it for second and last time when they would die.
The camisole or kabzeto
From the Italian camiciotto, this is another type of bra made of linen or cotton fabric. It has no back, like the vest, it is passed over the shoulders with two straps and tied at the end with two ribbons. It is rectangular in shape, worn over the waist or without it. The curves have rods placed inside in vertical slots. The reeds are about 10 cm long and are made of common reed or small lamb bones.
Only married women wore a vest. They were made out of linen or cotton. It was necessary to support and symmetrically project the chest, a kind of bra. In front, it has a square opening (neckline) and from there on down it is vertically torn and fastens with buttons. To the right and left they put recessed rods so that the garment would take a steady inclination. The gap formed between the waistband and the shirt was filled with pieces of cloth or scarves and gave the desired shape to the bust. The vests were some embroidered and some plain. The embroidery was done with silk thread, coloured or white. The vest was always white.
The kotolo is a kind of inner skirt made of wool, linen or cotton cloth. It is also called mesofori. Like the camisole, it is a remnant of the Italian influence. Both married and unmarried women wear kotolo. Brides wear many kotolo together, four to five, to make a big round and to spread out the fabric of their dress.
The dress is fitted, narrow from the middle and above and wide from below the waist. The upper part is called kapzela. The bottom is poured rich with well-ironed infinite pleats. On the right side, it has a hidden pocket.
The most well-made part of the dress is the kapzela, which is joined to the skirt in the middle and the seam there is quite visible when they are not wearing an apron. The kapzela must be completely fitted to their body. In the unmarried women's dress, the curve is closed up to the neck and vertically torn to the waist. The neckline, which never reaches the limits of bold, is round and gives grace without hiding femininity.
The sleeves are fitted along the entire length of the hand and are quite feminine over the wrist, with buckles or buttons that are all the only decoration on the unmarried women's dresses.
The colours in the everyday dress are strictly four: blue, burgundy, cypress and brown. Blue and cypress are considered the colours of modesty and nobility. The burgundy shows grandeur and is festive colour as opposed to the brown, which is worn daily.
The dress fabric was usually bought from the shops of Lefkada, and it was silk, cotton or wool depending on the season or the occasion. The merchants brought these fabrics from Italy and France, and they were monochrome with internal weaving of shapes, flowers, branches and vines. The women preferred happy colours for the festive and bridal dresses.
A necessary accessory and a real ornament of the costume has always been the apron. All women, married and unmarried, everyday and festive, wear it. Only the bride does not wear an apron. The apron is narrow at the top, wide at the bottom and concave made out of light cloth. The apron is sometimes plain, sometimes embroidered and usually has an out-of-pocket on the right. In this, the women used to put their handkerchief. Plain aprons usually have an additional decorative ribbon sewn into the bottom. The kamoufo is often masterfully embroidered. The pocket is also embroidered. The colour of the apron completely follows the colour of the dress.
"Berta" is a back cover. It was probably worn without sleeves from the second half of the 19th century and replaced the "kontetsi" and "flokata" of the older costume. It is circular, worn by married and unmarried women, made of wool and dyed in the dress's colour. There is a single fabric for spring and summer and double fabric for the winter. They come crosswise in front and tie back in the middle. They are knitted with crochet. The surface of the "berta" is divided into two parts, the top and the bottom. The first is called a "kambos" and the second "fratseta" that means peripheral decoration from the French frange.
The headscarf is a necessary accessory of the costume, always square in shape. Silk, cotton, linen or wool depending on the occasion and the season. Brown colour for festive scarves, white for wedding dresses. Famous are the scarfs from the Bosporus region. These are silk, transparent, with lovely embroidery all around. The most beautiful headscarves are the "kefalopania" for headcover. Rich, large like cobwebs made of fine cotton or silk fabric. All around they are decorated with lace. The white headscarves were worn only by the brides.
Spaleta is named the impressive front scarf worn by the married women and the brides. Spaleta is also called crepi. It is silky with fringed fringes. In everyday wear, the crepe is strictly the same colour as the dress, while for the brides are white and sometimes pale pink or pale yellow. The spaleta is famous for its beautiful woven figures with a predominant pattern, flowers framed by broad leaves held by thin and slender stems. It is worn with a folded diagonal triangle with the right angle on the back between the plaits. The other two ends merge in front of the kamizeto or the vest and form an impressive triangular bust decorated with chains, studs, bets, and crosses.
The wedding dress
The bridal costume is the same at the top and bottom line as the typical dress, but it also has the "tsoube", the fez and the gloves. The wedding dress is made out of heavy silk, in a dense and shiny weave. It does not form channels like the other; it only spreads wide, forming wide and inflatable folds because of the 4-5 "kotolo" worn inside. It is long till the ground. Around its circumference, they were sewed peripheral wide piping, shiny and golden. The skirt of the dress, as well as the round of the sleeves, they were decorated with piping and embroidery. The colours they preferred for the wedding dresses were: peacock, eggplant, sky, tile, crimson, blue, red, turquoise, olive, light blue, etc.
The "tsoumbes" was adorned with beautiful gold pipings along its entire circumference. The colour, as well as the fabric, is the same as the dress. But there is also the black silk "tsoumbes" that match all colours and is usually worn "on loan" from bride to bride when there wasn't financially possible to make a "tsoube".
Also impressive and beautiful is the ornament of the bridal costume is "spaleta". The bridal "spaleta" is made of pure silk, rich, and shiny with many caged fringes.
An excellent finish to the wedding dress was the fez. This fez was in diameter around 15cm and looked like an inverted saucer. Brides wear it crookedly, always on the left side, so it catches part of the hair and covers the forehead a little. Its presence is decorative and is worn only by the bride on the wedding day. The colour of the surface is black in velvet fabric. They embroidered with gold thread, silver thread, gold and grey, and formed flowers, leaves, and linear compositions on the velvety side. In many "fecia," we also find gold embroidery with pearls. Above the "feci", the two plaits cross in a round in order to hold the fez and on them sits the bridal like cobweb embroidered headdress that falls on the shoulders and back while around it is adorned with gold or white. Above the scarf obliquely above the "feci" is the most beautiful and characteristic piece of jewellery, the "tremoula". It is a metal rod up to 10cm, with 4-5 springs ending in golden flowers decorated with pearls and various precious stones. Beautiful gold long earrings with precious stones adorn the ears. On the neck, a gold chain with a heart or a cross. Lastly, they wear white gloves on their hands.
Nothing exceptional. All dresses, aprons, skirts, headbands etc. are painted black.