Clothes are an important part of a region’s tradition. The geographical position, the climate, the work of the locals and their interaction with other cultures are factors that influence the type of clothing that each region has.
The folk costume of Lefkada has been influenced by Western Europe, especially Italy and Southern France.
Today it is still worn by a few elderly women, mainly in the villages. The younger women and the residents of the town of Lefkada stopped wearing traditional clothes in the first half of the 20th century. After the 17th century the traditional folk costume was called “Romeiki” (Greek) in opposition to the “Fragkiki” (Western) clothes of the upper classes.
The women’s folk costume consists of:
Poukamisso: Shirt made of linen, woven by loom. It was worn as underwear and it was long, down to the ankle, often with sleeves, comfortable and always beset.
Foustani or sayas or darayi: Dress. It was the main piece of garment, in yellow, red or blue. In the front it was vertically open down to the chest, with silver buttons. It was worn over the shirt, usually with a belt. The name “sayas” derives from the Byzantine years.
Kavathi or katouni: Like a shirt, but vertically open in the front, with sleeves down to the elbow or the wrist, and usually beset.
Kontogouni: Short fur cardigan.
Κampsela: The lower part of the dress.
Segouni: Woollen lining made of thick and warm fabric, woven by loom, which was worn over the dress or the “kampsela”. It was buttoned up on the side or tied up with strings. It was elegant, with a few string ornaments. It was similar to the “kontesi”.
Kontessi: Woollen lining made of thick and warm fabric, without sleeves, vertically open and ankle long, richly knitted and vividly coloured. It served as an overcoat.
Flokata: It looked like the “kontessi” but it was woven all over with red silk laces and it had woollen linings with decorative threads hanging all around.
Podia: Apron worn by both married and single women, everyday and in special occasions, but not by brides during weddings. The upper part was narrow, the lower one was wide, but the apron was always thin and light. It could be ornamented or plain and usually it had a pocket on the right side. Often there was a decorative stripe along the selvedge that was called “kammoufo”, which was masterfully woven. The materials used to range from humble fabric to silk. Its colour matched the one of the dress.
Thema: Small thin and cheap scarf that older women used to keep their hair together, something like a hairnet. Its fabric was thin and flimsy and it covered the top of the head while it was tied up on the back part, below the plaits.
Skoufia: A head cap much like a rich beret. There was a small tassel in the middle. It was worn by wealthy older women and priests’ wives. The everyday caps were plain but the festive ones were ornamented.
Kefalomantilo: Headscarf. It was an essential garment of the Lefkadian folk costume, always square shaped. It was worn everywhere, even inside the house. Its colour, quality, kind and size were related to the woman’s age and financial state. The colour would usually match the colour of the dress: yellow, green, red, brown, blue or black. And the fabric could be silk, cotton, linen or wool. The headscarf was worn over the head cap in a masterful way, or it was put there folded, not in the middle, but in a way that the two edges were symmetrically laid on the shoulders while the third edge was laid between the plaits. It left the neck uncovered and created symmetric analogies between the neck and the shoulders. The cheap and practical scarf of the Lefkadian woman should always be worn, because an uncovered woman could easily become the object of rumours, gossips and social condemnation..
Kaltses: Socks, made of cotton or wool, in white, brown or dark blue colour.
The traditional costume of the Lefkadian woman in more recent years, the one that we can still see, though rarely, is primarily based on the dress with a strong Western influence. The garments of Western origin that became part of the costume, along with the dress, were the “yeleki” (vest), the “kamiseto”, the “spaleta”, the “kotolo” and the “berta”. The older garments that were abolished were the “sayas”, the “segouni”, the “kavathi”, the “zonari”, the “kampsela”, the “kontogouni” and the “skoufia”. The “tsoumpes” came from the Aegean Sea tradition.
Yeleki: An inner vest that was worn over the shirt by married women, made of cotton or linen. It was a kind of bra that supported the breast. It has a square opening in the front and from there downward it has a vertical fastening with four buttons. Sometimes it has small sticks on both sides that provide the vest with a permanent oblique incline. The void between the vest and the shirt was stuffed with pieces of fabric give the breast the desired shape. Some vests were ornamented. The ornamented part is called “pontzos”. Its colour was always white.
Kamizeto: It was a kind of bra made of linen or cotton, without a backside. It was worn through the shoulders with the help of two thin stripes. Its shape was a rectangle and it was tied from armpit to armpit. It was worn over the “geleki” as a decorative garment, because it was ornamented or without a “geleki”, over the shirt that acted as a vest. It was worn by brides and it was of Italian origin.
Kotolo: A kind of inner skirt made of wool, linen or cotton. It came in many colours and with various decorative elements. It was tied around the waist with a rope, over the shirt. Kotolo was usually ornamented with geometrical shapes. Its origin was also Italian. The newly wedded women used to wear many “kotola” at the same time (four to eight) in order to create more volume and make the dress look puffy. For the women of the villages it was of practical value since they had to raise up their dress when they were working on the fielda, thus making the inner skirt visible. Furthermore the wintertime inner skirts provided them with extra protection from the cold.
Dress: It was formfitting, tight from the waist up and loose from the waist down. The upper part (called “kampzela”) was sewn around the waist and the lower part (called “komplesa”) run down to the ankles with many well-ironed creases. The “kampzela” was the most stylish part of the dress and quite tailored to the woman who wore it.
The “kampzela” of unmarried women was closed to the neck and had a vertical opening to the waist. The cleavage should never be provoking and so it was round in a graceful way. The opening was tied with coloured little buttons. The sleeves of the “kampzela” were tight and tailored all along the arms.
The “kampzela” of married women was open in the front, with a big square opening that stopped quite far from the waist. From there to the waist there was a vent tied with buttons. The “kampzela” was also ornamented with pipings (called “hartza”) and beautiful silver and golden needlecrafts. The “hartza” were pipings knitted with silver or golden threads that run along the edges of the opening. The edges of the sleeves were also ornamented. Those garments were worn by newly wedded women otherwise they were worn on feasts and Sundays. The everyday dresses were much simpler and without ornaments. The colours of the wedding dresses were canary yellow, aubergine purple, sky blue, rose pink, olive green and pink. The dresses were made of cotton, silk or wool. The name of the dress varied according to the fabrics they were made of: “tmperi”, “pomplina”, “tesor”, twiggy, “seviotiko”, “rouho”. In order to fabricate a dress one would need 6.4 metres of fabric.
Spaleta: The impressive front scarf that the brides and the married women of Lefkada used to wear. The “krepi” was the silk “spaleta” in light or dark colour with fringes all around. The brides used to wear white, pink or yellow scarves. Their colours were usually light and cheerful and the fabric was silk or cotton with many fringes and woven figures in various combinations. Jewellery was a necessary complement to the scarf, usually brooches such as “spiles”, “pontalia”, “karfoveloni” and “stithovelones”. Women chose their jewellery according to their age, financial status and occasion.
Mperta: The coat of the backside, without sleeves that was worn like a shawl in festive occasions. It was almost round and it cover the whole of the back down to the waist. Its colours were green, red, dark brown, black and blue. They were knitted by women themselves in various patterns. They could be single or double (for the winter).
Tsoumpes: The lining of the wedding dress that covered the shoulders and the back, down to the feet, spread with well-ironed pleats. It was vertically open with no buttons at all. The sleeves were short, a little over the elbows. They were puffy on the shoulders and tight on the arms, with silver and gold pipings. “Tsoumpes” was knitted with golden threads on the back down to the waist. Its colour matched the one of the wedding dress and its fabric was usually silk.
Fesi: Fez. It was only worn in the wedding costume, gold knitted and beautifully ornamented. The colour of its first layer was black and the fabric was velvet. The velvet layer was usually knitted with flowers, leaves and various linear patterns.
Other accessories were of the wedding costume were the gloves (white), golden earrings with precious stones and “mpokoles” (ear jewels, smaller than earrings that brides used to wear three of four together).
The wedding costume of Lefkada can nowadays be seen during the re-enactment of the traditional Lefkadian Wedding that takes place every August in Karya, one of the most beautiful mountain villages of Lefkada.
The bridegroom’s outfit.
The groom used to wear an embroidered white shirt and, over it, a “yeleki” (vest) that sometimes had a cross form and was usually made of blue velvet. The back of the vest was made of shiny silk in burgundy or red, with broad leaved flowers. He also wore the “vraka” (short trousers) made of felt that was emproidered on the edges and socks that were also embroidered. The outfit was completed with the “zonari” (belt), the “fatsoleto” or “fesi” (fez) with a black tassel and usually the neck scarf.