Traditional customes of Cyprus
Traditional customes of Cyprus
Cypriot costumes have a conservative look, usually covering most of the body however the patterns and details of the costumes are quite diverse and elaborate. Each costume is a complexed work of art, which implements various weaving techniques and decoration as well as the craftsmanship from its creators. The Cypriot costume reveals historical trade-economic and cultural ties Cyprus has with other nations; it reveals the borrowing and adaptation of nations near and far. Equally the costume demonstrates local traits and symbolisms.
WOMEN’S COSTUME The traditional women’s costume with a ‘sayia’ (outside part of the costume, with long sleeves) is one of the most notable characteristics of the Cypriot costume. The costume stems from two similar variations from Paphos (west Cyprus) and Karpasia at the East. This costume was preserved in both areas until the beginning of the 20th century. The ‘sayia’ from Karpasia had a straight cut with bigger side openings for more comfort when walking; whereas the ‘sayia’ of Paphos had smaller side openings but gained width by adding more fabric. Under the ‘sayia’ women wore a long blouse and long underwear and a belt with a buckle in the waist. Often the costume with the ‘sayia’ was complete with the traditional Cypriot ‘sarka’ which is a short, fitter jacket.
The rural costume consists of an outer long dress, made of cotton striped or checkered woven fabric, a blouse, long underwear and low boots. Women usually wore two scarfs on their head; an inner scarf to hold their hair called a ‘skoufoma.’ They also wore an outer scarf, in a different colour, which was tied in a bow on the side so that a small, silk lace made with needle called a ‘pipilla,’ could be visible. Often, they decorated the bow with natural or silk-made flowers.
In the past, unmarried women wore a deep-red headband (in Morfou the colour was an olive green). The dark purple ‘tsemperia’ (head scarfs) that we know today were only worn by old women (who were not grieving). The aprons were also not part of the everyday costume but only worn in festivities such as weddings. The apron was a necessary part of the formal costume in previous times. The most popular costume today consists of a red toned ‘sayia,’ white blouse and long pants with embroidery and a dark purple head scarf.
Like the women’s costume each area of Cyprus had its own distinctive costume, with different characteristics in terms of colour, fabric and decoration. The most notable characteristic of the men’s costume is the ‘vraka’ adopted from Greece. The vraka is a pleated skirt usually made from cotton (called ‘dimito’). The ‘vrakes’ were dyed in all tones from dark to light blue and black. Depending on the age of the man and the area in which he lived, the man wore a different sized ‘vraka.’ In addition to the ‘vraka’ a shirt was worn, a dark cotton stripped one for every day use and a silk one for Sundays or festive occasions. The jacket was either with or without sleeves.
The costumes for everyday use had simple embroidery whereas the costumes that were for festivities usually had more elaborate embroidery. On the waist, a belt is worn. Farmers wore heavy boots and men from the cities wore lighter boots or regular shoes. Today the most common coloured vraka is black however in past times, Cypriot men did not only wear black ‘vrakes.’ During summer men wore lightweight, white ‘vrakes’ and throughout the remainder of the year, stiffer ‘vrakes’ in a blue colour. In the countryside the ‘vrakes’ were a dark blue and the black ‘vraka’ was only typically worn during festivities. Today the men’s costume consists of a white shirt, black vest with embroidery, a black vraka, black tights and high, long boots.