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 the traditional female costume 

The Traditional Female Costume of Piana degli Albanesi undoubtedly represents the cultural identity of this colony founded in 1488.

Contrary to what one might think, our Costume does not arrive in Sicily as we see it today but in the eighteenth century it is radically transformed making it the unchanged symbol of our identity up to the present day.

The identity value of our custom is very strong because in addition to representing more than five hundred years of history as a Greek-Albanian colony in Sicily, it is also an extraordinary ethno-anthropological document that also condenses the aspects related to the Greek-Byzantine rite, still professed in Piana. of the Albanians.



In looking for the origins of the female costume of Piana it should not be forgotten that it has undergone various transformations over the course of five centuries, even if in a limited context. Not only have various parts of it been used on different occasions over the centuries, but they have changed in size, in the richness of the embroidery, in the fabrics and in the way of wearing them.
To find the origins it was therefore necessary to look at the prints of Houel of 1700, of Vuiller or at the most ancient dotal acts that mention this costume since the sixteenth century.
The fact that in Palazzo Adriano (country of Albanian origin) this type of costume was normally used certainly until the end of the 18th century suggests a common origin, but identifying this with Albania is not entirely acceptable or at least not as the only one . In fact, if it is true that, close to the Byzantine sphere of influence, Albania has been affected, since the end of the first millennium, by the charm and beauty of the clothes used at the court of Byzantium, as proof of this is the use of gold embroidery and of precious stones
both in the garments and in the sacred parameters, it is also true that from 1400 also Italy had entered into a relationship with this culture and this wealth, especially through Venice. And it is also true that in
Italy in 500 and 600 you can see dresses of great Italian ladies portrayed by the best painters of the time in clothes very similar to our ntzilone.

The wide skirt gathered at the waist by numerous folds, for example, was launched in the field of European fashion at the time by De Medici. Raphael's famous "Formarina" is an example of how the sleeves attached to the bodice by laces that let the shirt puff at the sides were a typical garment of the 16th century and that the veil worn in various ways returns in Venetian engravings of the 17th century.

The costume of Albania instead before the Turkish invasion had a straight and slightly flared cut similar to the medieval one even if rich in some examples of gold embroidery therefore very distant from the Arbëreshe one.

The Italian fashion of the 500 and 600 which in turn has suffered oriental influences is therefore the terrain from which it drew on to give life to this costume, especially the one today for brides but once (certainly until the end of the 700) used as normal gala dress. While important insights can be obtained by observing the historical crib of the Royal Palace of Caserta, it is noted that the (kurorë) bands of gold net worked with bobbin lace adorn numerous skirts of eighteenth-century female characters. This is an example of how strong the Sicilian-Campanian influences are in the other type of female suit consisting of a skirt adorned by kurorë with jacket and cape.

Furthermore, everyone remembers Antonello Da Messina's Annunziata and his cerulean cape which has become a fundamental garment of the Arbëreshe costume, clearly enriched in the place as usual with gold embroidery. In the same way you can find the prototype of the embroidered shirt and with the lapel falling over the shoulders in the Spanish shirt and without particular research you realize that the jacket (gipuni) is clearly a Sicilian garment also due to its etymology. One of the most particular and certainly original garments is the keza (female headdress) once it was used by all women who owned more than one for both holidays and weekdays.
Today this has been loaded with a new symbolism, that of the weight of family responsibility and is worn on the wedding day.

brezi costume tradizionale piana degli albanesi


An integral part of the costume are also the jewels. The silver belt (Brezi) in the first place. It is the result of the evolution of the oriental silver belt through the progressive enlargement and modification of the design of the front plate.

The most ancient brezi have in fact a flat and embossed plate without perforations. Earrings with pendants (pindajet), cross with breastplate (krikja and kurçets), ring of rough diamonds (domanti), double strand necklace of grenade stones closed in several points by filigree spheres, are the set that completes the dress.
These jewels of red gold sometimes enamelled that are found in the Sicilian jewelry of the 600 and 700 where rubies emeralds and roughly cut diamonds are mounted at night, can now be observed only in Piana, especially on Easter day. While it is interesting to note that in a painting by A. Durer 1505 the young Venetian woman portrayed wears the typical rusari around her neck.



The following cards on each type of traditional costume link each of them to various moments in the life of the women of Piana, from everyday life to marriage.
All this is now a thing of the past. In fact, even if the costumes are still handed down from mother to daughter and jealously preserved they have lost their link with the events, they are no longer clothes but costumes with all that this term implies. The progressive loss of this bond began in the 1920s, when the new European fashion introduced practical and light clothes, freeing women (invested with new social roles) from large and bulky skirts. The adaptation to fashion, however, was not immediate for the woman of Piana. The young women were the first to wear the new clothes, abandoning the daily dress in their youth but rehabilitating it in full maturity. In the thirties and forties the half-party dress began to fall into disuse. To go to mass, in fact, new clothes were preferred, especially those sent from America by relatives who emigrated in the previous decades, while women born after forty wore traditional costumes (except for the daily one) only on special occasions such as baptisms, weddings, especially Easter, but generally not respecting the relevance of the custom to the event celebrated. Only the bridal costume remained linked to the event, perhaps due to the great peculiarity of it.

the fact that these very rich and precious dresses have been part of the trousseaus of most of the marriageable women of Piana even if the "ntsilone" have always been rare), should not suggest an immoderate wealth of the families of Piana who to tell the truth they were in bad conditions especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The almost uninterrupted production of them is instead attributed to the great craftsmanship of the local women in transforming silk (mola) or velvet and gold (into threads, lenticiole and in canatiglie) imported from Naples in refined and precious clothes using the bobbin lace or the loom or simply the needle, as is done for the curling of the sleeves of the shirts and for the needlepoint laces.



Costume sposa Piana degli Albanesi
rrusarji | rosary
keza | headgear
kriqa and kurçetës | knocker
brezi | belt
ncilona | embroidered skirt
pindajet | pendants
krahet | corsage
mëngët | sleeves
shkoka perpara | front bow
shkoka te barku | front bow
shkoka te kryet | bow on the head
sqepi | veil


based on the documentary "idea of an island" by Roberto Rossellini, shot in Piana degli Albanesi in 1967

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