Ariola Prifti

The magic of the Albanian Folk Costumes

The story of the Albanian Folk Costumes
One of the important aspects of lifestyle are folk costumes that with their diversity and variants enrich the Albanian cultural heritage. As instrument tools, housing and food clothing are considered like the most important means of human life. The first traces of human endeavors to wear his body, are seen in the late Paleolithic (early gender order). Although various categories explain the origin of clothing with aesthetic reasons, magic, etc., we think that the most compelling reason was the need to protect the body from climatic factors, to feel warmer and more protected by other factors. Should always know that its development has gone hand in hand with social development, historic and cultural of human, having as main purpose the protection and the comfort of the body and then the decoration of individual parts.
Gradually in the process of development of human society were created appropriate clothing to the season, sex, on the occasion when used, age, occupation and social class. All these have created the great wealth of variety of clothing. Like all peoples of the world the Albanians, have this cultural affluence. By the time were created the ethnic types of the Albanian folk costumes. Aesthetic tastes used for decoration, but also the way of style are those that reflect particular ethnicity. All the development of clothing, is closely connected with the history of the development in this population, therefore connected by the history of the Albanian people.
As time passed the parts of clothing and materials used for their preparation overcame everything and were further enriched.
For the Albanian folk costumes we can talk after the formation of the Albanian nationality. As is well known the formation of cultural and economic communities in the Albanians began in the XII century with the Principality of Arbër. Further followed the other, and so were gradually taken a powerful emerging economic and trading center, which not only produce merchandise for the local market but also for export. At the time of formation of the feudal principalities, began to take their appearance the folk costumes. As it known, these principalities were separated and enclosed in itself, so it create significant differences in material and spiritual culture. In this context it was created a wealth variety of folk costumes, traces of which were preserved until the XX century. But the differences are also the result of cultural processes that took place after the Turkish invasion. A population categories which embrace the Muslim religion fell more under the influence of this culture. While differences were created by the establishment of various social strata and from the creation of different professions. However it should be noted that despite the influences of Western and Eastern cultures (due to the geographical position of Albania and historical development conditions) or the class distinctions, this type of early Albanian folk costumes has nothing in common with the foreigners. Most of the clothing and prepare the rural population inside family economy, then woven and sewn with linen cloths, wool, cotton and silk less. While in the town, along the parts woven in the loom, often a large part of clothing were sewn and embroidered by the craftsmen and tailor embroiderer specialized accordance the taste and different requests of the population.
Foreign sources provide us with interesting data about the clothing of Albanian fighters of the XVIII century. Many of the suites which accompanied foreign personalities, who travelled through our country, were made up of brave, nimble footed Albanians, “dressed in their characteristic clean white costumes (fustanella) carrying guns of a prodigious length which they run with upon their shoulders as if they did not feel the weight of them, the leader, singing a sort of rude tune not unpleasant and the rest making up the chorus”. This is how Lady Montague describes the Albanians of the time in a letter of the year 1717. Other reports speak of the uniforms of the Albanian troops who made up the guard of princes of Moldavia in their palace at Jasi. If there were soldiers magnificently dressed and properly equipped with weapons, in the Moldavia of this century, “writes a Rumanian chronicler”, they were, without doubt, not the troops of “ciohodars” of the powerful Stavrache, but the gurd made up of Albanian Arnauts of the Vojvod Grigor Calimache, in 1740”. The “arnauts”, as is known, had entered service in the court of Jasi at least as early as 1715. In 1740 Kostandin Mavrokordati organized a similar guard of Albanians in the court of Bucharest also. This guard of “arnauts” remained in service in subsequent years, always dressed with the same splendor, with their uniforms heavy with gold braid, leggings of fine cloth …, their plated fustanella and turbans on their heads “armed to the teeth”, as F.J. Sulzer describes them admiringly in 1780. A very striking engraving by Choiseul Gouffier, entitled “Albanian soldiers”, shows the costume of Albanian fightersmof this period. It depicts five warriors, four of them sitting down and one of them standing. The author met them at Koron, near Livadia (Greece). It seems that theu haq a very martial appearance with their long rifles and white fustanella, because the author says: “These proud Albanians could again be heroes, if they had a Skanderbeg at their head… They are all tall, slim, wiry men, quick in their movements. Their clothing consists of a pair of baggy breeches, a short kilt, a jerkin ornamented with many rows of silver buttons, plates and chains; on their feet they wear sandals tied with laces, which sometimes reach the kness and hold leggings to protect the calf of the leg from rubbing against the horse; their coats decorated with colorful tassels and braid complete their very picturesque costume: on the head they wear only a cap, which they throw off they charge into battle”.
In the XVII-XVIII centuries men’s folk costumes continue their development on those same main types as in the previous centuries, while in women’s costumes, in addition to the type with a long smock worn under a jerkin, which we have seen before, we find descriptions of the costume with xhubleta and that with two aprons. Anyway, during these two centuries, all folk costumes evolve, achieving improved forms in their variants and this, without doubt is due not just to the creative talent of the folk craftsmen who made them, but mainly to the general economic development of the country. In these centuries there is another important phenomenon which attracts attention: the extension of a main type of Albanian clothing for men far beyond the borders of our country. We are referring to the costume with the fustanella, so much admired by all who haq the opportunity to know it in the phase of its full flourishing, which covers the period from about the middle of the XVIII century to the middle of the XIX century. This costume, with its beauty and majesty had owed the other costumes of that time. The wide, white fustanella gave Albanian men that appearance of pride and luxury, that martial character and elegance of movement, which no other folk costume of the Balkans could rival. In the preceding centuries we saw that this costume spread to Greece and Italy, through the Albanian who migrated to those countries and Albanian cavalrymen. As a consequence of military expeditions, in which troops of Albanian warriors took part, in the XVI-XVII centuries the fustanella became well known also in many countries of Western Europe, while in the XVIII century it had gained very wide popularity in all the Balkan countries and in Turkey. This extension favored its development and flourishing which reached its culmination at the beginning of the XIX century. The XX century saw the birth and development of the capitalist relations in our country. Among the factors which influenced a number of aspects of the development of clothing at this period, we can mention: the disintegration of the self-sufficient household economy, the ever greater influence of the town on the countryside, the increased exchange and circulation of goods which brought the ever more intensive introduction of manufactured materials in peasant clothing and on the social plan, the deepening of the stratification of society and of contradictions between social classes. With the emergence and development of capitalist relations of production, industrial products came into aver wider use in the countryside, either as textiles fine (cloths, silks, cambric, kerchief, fabrics etc.) from which garments were made, or as auxiliary materials for their decoration (ribbons, braids, laces, buttons, threads, beads, spangles etc.) or finally as readymade garments (such as fezzes, girdles and belts, etc). Many of these articles of apparel were imported now for the use not only of the wealthy strata, but also, of other broader strata of the people, especially wedding costumes. At the beginning of the XIX century the caps which the Albanians used were imported from the Italian cities, while the gold and silver braid used for the decoration of clothing came from Vienna.
During the XIX century in the most flourishing economic centres of the country (Shkodra, Prizren, Gjakova, Elbasan, Berat, Korça, Janina etc.) the number if aertisans engaged in saving and decorating garments for the peasantry increased, responding to the demands of the consumers. These craftsmen steadily increased the number of items of apparel that they produced for the peasants, especially for their festive attire. Thus, the folk costumes of many regions gradually came within the sphere of artisan production, gaining a new stability in the forms of their cut and becoming enriched with new decorative elements along with the traditional ones. In this way the reciprocal influence between town and countryside was enhanced and many minor local distinctions, which existed previously, were eliminated.
The Museum collections for Albanian folk costumes have started to be created after World War II. Before this period there have been small private collections, collected by Franciscan priests.
Besides the collection of clothing that are conserved in the National Historical Museum there are quite conserved and clothing exposed to several other museums in Albania. Particularly valuable are the volumes of albums containing costumes of various Albanian regions, as well as those of minorities. Are considered very valuable studies done for the classification of Albanian folk costumes, especially for the classification of Albanian folk costumes designed by Prof. Rrok Zojsi, which has even the greater merit for their collection in museum funds of the National Culture Institute, also the major study of Andromaqi Gjergji titled “Albanian Costumes through the Centuries” etc.
According to a classification based on the development stage costumes at the beginning of the XX century.
For both genders are classified 10 types of clothing: five for women and five for men.
In the women costumes are distinguished these types, named by their distinctive parts.
1-The wearing with the xhubleta (Veshja me Xhubletë).
It takes this name from a type of dress by the shape of the corrugated bell. This dress is held in all the highlands of the Albanian Alps including the Alps in Montenegro. Xhubleta rapresents the earliest dress in Albania and the Balkans. It brings the messages of Illyrian civilization in Albanian folk culture.
2-The wearing with a long shirt and the duster (Veshja më këmishë të gjatë dhe përparje).
The main part of this dress is a long shirt with long sleeves, wide or narrow. This dress was prevalent in Mirdita, Dibra, Mat, Shpat, Çermenikë, Dumre, Myzeqe, Berat, Korca, Kolonje, Gjirokastra, Saranda. Etc.
3-The wearing with two duster (Veshja me dy futa).
Even this dress consisted in a long shirt. This variant was spread in some villages in the district of Puka, in the Highlands of Gjakova (Tropoje district), in some villages of the district of Has, as well as in some villages in Dukagjini district (Kosovo).
4- The wearing with the envelopment (Veshja me mbështjellëse).
The main part in this type of wearing is a kind of wide dress, with the smaller side. This type of wearing is used in some Puka villages and the Mountains of Gjakova, in the province of Zadrima villages also in some villages of the province of Luma (Kukës) and in Shishtavec (Kukës).

5- The wearing with wide trousers (Veshja me brekësha).
The naming of this type of clothing is determined by a kinde of overalls in black color. This dress is introduced from the beginning of the XX century and had limited use, mainly in some of the villages of Highland in Tirana, in Martanesh, in Polis, Berzeshtë, Gur i Bardhë etc. There are some cases where in the same region or area are holding some type, which is related to population movements, relationships in-laws, etc.
Even the clothing of mens are classified into five main types.

1- The wearing with kilt (Veshja me fustanellë).
This men wearing gets this name from a type of white dress, made with fabric cotton and with many wrinkles. By the beginning of the XX century this dress is held in all the Albanian lands, from Kosovo to Çameria. Afterwards it was used to the villages of southern Albania.
2- The wearing with a long shirt with dollamë or Cibun (Veshja me këmishë të gjatë e dollamë ose cibun).
This type of clothing is used in Mirditë, Mat, Dibër, Malësi të Madhe, Korçë, Kolonjë, Gjirokastër etc. After World War II this type of dress was replaced the wearing with tirq. Dollama continued to be held as ceremonial dress worn over the tirq or it used in cases of assemblies.
3- The wearing with tirq (Veshja me tirq).
The most typical element of this dress are tirqit that are like some narrow trousers. This type of wearing are usually held in the Northern Albania, Kosovo and Albania Northeast, reaching the district of Berati.
4- The wearing with wide trousers (Veshja me Brekësha).
This type of clothings is used in the villages of Zadrima (in warm seasons) in the middle Albania and in the villages of Mat, Martanesh, Mirdita, Librazhdi, Çermenika etc.
5- The wearing with pants (Veshja me poture).
This type of wearing has been limited spread, mainly in Labëri, Mallakastër, Myzeqe etc. The pants has replaced the wearing with kilt by the end of the XIX century.

Conclusions
The different outfits have been created as a result of differences in age, gender, cases when used, different social classes, professions and different seasons etc. Generally the albanian folk costumes possess enough elements that come from the earliest periods of the Illyrian culture, which determines their ethnicity.
The study and preservation of folk costumes is important not only to recognize this great cultural heritage, but also to overcome the cultural value from one generation to another. One of the main methods for the study of the history of dress, is the study of art history. The knowledge of art history provide some database of images, through which we can see and study the costumes. Through the art we can better perceive the changes in the costumes and appearance as determined by fashion and this can be identified easily, as in existing costumes or written documents. The connections between clothing and art are narrow; both are non-verbal language and are both social and visual experience, private and public. They register and interpret aspects of human life and provide valuable evidence for behavior, culture and vision of the time in which they were created. The costumes in the full sense is a “social model” with “complexity of signs”. Some facts may seem insignificant in itself, but the manner of presentation of the values of the coating (the forms, colors, placement of lines, etc.), may depend on the history of the system. Some forms may only be a consequence of the evolution of products interior, but it can come from a historical intervention, which disrupt the rhythms of the history of costume, bringing new systems, edit the background mode, but do not explain the forms.

Fig. 1. Waistcoat.
Made of velvet in violet colour, embroidered with gold thread and sequins, with different patterns, has a double headed eagle, lining made of calico in pink colour. City of Berat.

Fig. 2. Part of the dress (Mëngore).
Made of red silk, round worked with gold ribbons, two aprons with large flowers, the back with flowers and braches, the sleeves embroidered with denticulate lace and a row of flowers, in the back of the sleeve has 14 gold buttons. City of Berat.

Fig. 3. Waistcoat.
Made of velvet in red colour, embroidered with sequins in floral and zoomorphic patterns, it has a large round neckband and in both corners has eagles shaped. Length 30 cm. The city of Tirana.

Fig. 4. Part of the dress (Xhybe).
Made of velvet in cherry colour, worked around with gold strips, aprons worked with gold and silver teheri. Kosovo.

Fig. 5. Mantel (Japanxhë).
Made of red fabric, two large neckbands in the front and a hood behind, on the side a blue lace, on the shoulder coloured lace that end in tufts, the neckband and part of the hood embroidered with red thread, pink, yellow, purple, orange, green, on the side zoomorphic patterns in white. City of Shkodra.

Fig. 6. Short woollen jacket (Xhokë).
Made of black felt, on the side some lines with gold thread, aprons have stylized floral patterns, in the front a red background, striped with gold thread, in waist part has several geometric figures, rectangles embroidered in gold, the shoulders with purple fringes. Length 63 cm. Malësia e Madhe.

Fig. 7. Cradle Cover (Mbulojë djepi).
Consists of two foils, worked in the loom, with cotton and wool threads, with geometric patterns. Dimensions 160 cm x 57 cm. Gjakova, Kosovo.

Fig. 8. Women Bag.
Silver worked in filigree with stylized floral patterns. On top two lids that are buckled with grain like extensions, the handle is a round stripe with twisted wire. City of Shkodra.

Fig. 9. Fibula (Pafte).
Made of metal, consists of three parts, the middle portion in semi spherical shape, worked with grains of red, green and blue and stones, on the side a pear shaped with an eagle in the middle, worked entirely with floral and zoomorphic patterns.

Fig. 10. Belt for women.
Made of silver worked with filigree in stripe shape, with 9 lines, alongside with metal appliqués, the main appliqué in the shape of ribbon with a flower with petals, hang three tufts of filigree.

Fig. 11. Ornamental Object (Divid).
Made of metal, casted with floral decorations, the lid is connected with the dividin with a chain.

Fig. 12. Box.
Made of metal, used for tobacco, with filigree appliqués with floral patterns, in the centre an oval appliqué and on the corners rhombic appliqués..

Fig. 13. Pipe.
Silver, worked in filigree with floral decorations and rhombic appliqués, with grains and leaves, part of the mouth made of ivory. City of Prizren.

Fig. 14. Pipe.
Made of wood, with 5 parts, 4 parts make up the body and one to set the cigarette, on the side painted in red and green, with rhombic figures and zigzag patterns, in the middle a part carved in leaf shape. The city of Tirana.

Fig. 15. Basin with lid.
Made of metal, carved with floral motifs, the teapot with a handle with lid worked with floral patterns. City of Tirana.

Fig. 16. Musical Instrument (Lahutë).
Traditional chordophone instrument with an arch with a cord, worked from one piece wood, decorated with the head of the goat, the resonance part with kid leather. North Albania.

Fig. 17. Sword.
The handle is bended, in the middle a metal stripe engraved with leaves, has a cross, the blade is arched outward with an inscription in gold, in one side words of the Koran, on the other side a prayer of Sultan Murat, in the middle of the case coated with black leather with two metal rings engraved, on both sides with metal appliqués engraved with stylized floral motifs.

Fig. 18. Pistol.
The barrel is made of metal, silver plated appliqués, worked with floral motifs and with “savat” with rhombic figures, below at the trigger a bird, the handle rounded.

Fig. 19. Impelement to clean the barrel of the guns.
Iron with little sculpturing, below incised with silver, with an inscription Llesh Vata, the handle is silver with floral patterns worked in relief, the head is round from which a plate in the horseshow hangs.

Fig. 20. Pouch (Vezme).
Metal in rectangular shape, with a motif with three minarets like on each top a semi crescent, on four sides with floral patterns.

Fig. 21. Pouch (Vezme).
Metal, common forms of pouches, sculpted, with floral patterns and with a bird.
List of illustrations

Fig. 1. Waistcoat.
Fig. 2. Part of the dress (Mëngore).
Fig. 3. Waistcoat.
Fig. 4. Part of the dress (Xhybe).
Fig. 5. Mantel (Japanxhë).
Fig. 6. Short woollen jacket (Xhokë).
Fig. 7. Cradle Cover (Mbulojë djepi).
Fig. 8. Women Bag.
Fig. 9. Fibula (Pafte).
Fig. 10. Belt for women.
Fig. 11. Ornamental Object (Divid).
Fig. 12. Box.
Fig. 13. Pipe.
Fig. 14. Pipe.
Fig. 15. Basin with lid.
Fig. 16. Musical Instrument (Lahutë).
Fig. 17. Sword.
Fig. 18. Pistol.
Fig. 19. Impelement to clean the barrel of the guns.
Fig. 20. Pouch (Vezme).
Fig. 21. Pouch (Vezme).

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