The traditional costume of our island is an ornament and a symbol of our tradition and cultural identity, present in every festive event.
Ms. Liza Alexaki, President of the Lyceum of Greek Women of Corfu wrote for MyKerkyra a unique text in which she presents the history and the special features that compose the Corfu costume.
THE CORFU BRIDAL COSTUME
The traditional costumes are usually a the mirror of each society. The fabrics depict the history, social structure, fears, expectations, needs and separations of people in relation to their age, financial ability and social reality (unmarried, married, widowed ).
The colors, the laces, the relays, the gold threads that the tailors paint reflects on the dreams and goals that the women and men had on every era.
The Corfiot costumes are wonderful, unique and special.
The bridal, festive costume is the one that was created by the beginning of the 20th century and evolved over time in this form, following the historical peculiarities, the needs, the aesthetics, the economic possibility, the available raw materials and the fashion of the time.
It is, that is, the last special clothing of our place, before we all, all over the world, follow the same, common fashion.
We will start with the North where the costume is a little stricter, usually the “roketo” (skirt) is black, or very dark blue, strained, without an apron.
Inside the “roketo” there is always the hem, usually made of white cotton fabric, as well as the shirt with the rich inflatable sleeves and the nerves that adorn it and the garden.
The “bustina”, is the piece of fabric, which can be strained or with pleats, that is caught in front of the female body, in the bodice, above the shirt and there the ladies pin the nevi (pins) and spread their gold chains.
The most basic part of the costume is the “peseli”, the velvet or felt cardigan, embroidered with gold thread and decorated with gold tresses.
The basic symbols of Corfiot culture, the two-headed beggar, the tree of life, the flowered garlands, the partridges and other beautiful symbols are imprinted on the fabric of the “peseli”.
On the head, the “bolia”, with the elegant decorative finish with the needle or the crochet hook, is fastened to the hair with the stitches, which are patiently tangled, singing, in the form of a ritual.
We characterize the costume of northern Corfu a little more strict and it is, but it is also very elegant and stately.
It is definitely influenced by the mountainous landscape and the most isolated life of a small society that may never have even seen the island country. Both the microclimate of Ypsilos (Pantokrator) and the harsher life of its inhabitants make the figure of northern Corfu strict, modest and wonderful.
Going down to the middle of Corfu we will meet the ladies with the colorful pleated rockets, in fancy colors and pessary in many colors also, wonderful and valuable works of art.
The aprons are monochrome or floral, cotton or silk, adorned with tresses, lace, fringes or sharp embroidery.
The “bustina” is embroidered with cut embroidery and handmade lace.
But what makes the waist of Corfu stand out is the unique headband, the beautiful wreath of hair braided with a red satin ribbon and made to have an impressive volume.
And then a beautiful wreath of flowers adorns this creation and among the flowers small symbols of well-being nest to accompany the bride in a life full of joys.
Mirrors, crosses, blue beads, tiny dolls, peacock feathers and cockroaches compose a unique result which come and sign the wonderful tripods, all-gold earrings.
The back of the head is adorned with lace beads, which either falls backwards, on the silver backs of the girl, or folds in front of the chest.
Colorful ribbons are sewn on the rocket and by counting them one learns how many consulates each girl received.
In the South, the costume has the same pieces. But we add a wonderful, all-embroidered belt, with the double-headed eagle in the center and wonderful rosettes on the rest of the fabric.
Also the apron is different, from cotton tulle, embroidered and decorated with ribbons and fabric rosettes. It is an apron special, unique and absolutely typical of the area.
Finally, the “kokoras” , or torcos, is adorned with a bead woven from the finest flax, in a special way, so that it forms a triangle, like a collar, in front of the chest and then runs back to the neck and stays there fastened by the gold jewelry that the relatives give as a gift for the bride’s neck.
THE MEN'S COSTUME
The men’s costume is the same all over the island. The breeches that characterize all the Mediterranean peoples, in black, blue, white, green, blue (according to the descriptions of the travelers), a striped or monochrome belt, a white shirt with inflatable sleeves and nervir and a vest embroidered, made of black felt .
Garters, usually in color red, hold the socks to the feet.
Above the vest was worn a long-sleeved short cardigan and this embroidered or Frankish jacket (European fashion).
The fez used to be worn on the head, but from the moment fashion discovered the tritsa (the straw hat) the fez was left behind and the “tritsa” became nationwide, the symbol of the skilled Corfiot dancer, who uses it not only to wear it on the head but and to “torture” his queen.
The costume nowadays
It is truly magical to look at a costume and recognize its special origin. Throughout Greece there are countless different costumes that, in themselves, are a huge part of our popular heritage.
And it is amazing to wear what over the centuries has come to decide that suits him, serves him, makes him special and gives him a unique identity.
However, we live in the present, at a fast pace, with clothes that serve our continuous movement and action, we respect and study the past and hope for a future with aesthetics and respect for the traditions.
President of the Lyceum Club of Greek Women
We warmly thank Mrs. Liza Alexaki who with her useful details and information that she shared with us about the traditions and the culture of our island, through the presentation of the Corfiot costume.