The Greek Folk Costume of Roumlouki Macedonia

Article Complied by Vasilios Aligiannis translated from Greek from Hatzimihalis Book

This article discusses the historical background and traditions behind the Greek Regional Folk Costume from Roumlouki – Macedonia. Teaching Greek Folk dance is linked to Folk costumes, it is important that dancers have an understanding of the costumes. In many cases style and form of a dance are directly linked to costume, e.g. if a costume is tight and restrictive it will limit the dancer in improvisation, etc. The information for this costume has come from many sources and books in Greek on Regional Folk Costumes.

In Australia, many Greek Folkloric dance groups wear the traditional costumes in their performances and in turn keep the folk spirit of Greece alive.

I have chosen this costume for three reasons:

One, the costume has feminine features that accentuate the body rather than hide it, like the other Greek Traditional costumes.
Two, the costume is linked to myth, legend, history and the cultural traditions based on the land.
Three, the costume is accompanied by a fascinating headpiece not found on any other costume in Greece.

The Historical Background of the Region is important to understanding the basis of the costume.

The villages of Roumlouki, some fifty large and small villages are situated in the region of Macedonia, over the plain of Thessaloniki, beyond the Loudia River, with Yannitsa Lake to the north and Veroia to the east. They were named that way by the Turks and it translates as Greek land. Greeks densely populated the area and they were mainly farmers that worked the land. The traditions and customs of the area are based on the land.

The Costume

The headpiece characterizes the womens costume all the women as a symbol of Greek heritage wear it. If any woman was seen in the area not wearing the headpiece, she was viewed as untraditional. This costume is often referred to as “the strange woman’s costume”. The headpiece according to tradition has been worn since the time of Alexander the Great, who, in order to punish the men for their cowardice and to reward the women who during the heat of the battle never ceased bringing water to the army, took the helmets off them and gave them to the women. This story is also told in Thessaly and Velvendo in the Nome of Pieria. In Roumlouki, the inhabitants believed that they descended from Alexander the Great, this tradition explaining the shape of the headdress, which is so similar to an ancient helmet, appears justified. The other pieces of the costume such at the sayias, and zonari are reminiscent of ancient breast armour, undoubtedly have ancient origins.

The costume is made up of a sayias , mproumanika , zonari apron and hat . The costume also follows a strict color code. The young girls, brides and grandmothers all wear the same costume but with different variations and various characteristics, especially on the headpiece. For example, the bridal dress is made from expensive fabrics and silver embroidery, while the everyday dress had no embroidery and was made from cheaper materials; it was called the halasmeni . The more formal or festive ones were called allagmenes .

Interesting enough the fabrics used in the costume is made in the region and mainly from cotton. Silk fabrics were used on rare occasions and only for brides, and then only used in the headpiece. The costume was made to accentuate the body and not to hide it like many other costumes from other regions.

Tailors in the region made most of the dresses. It was popular to go to a tailor (rafti) to make you a dress. Most of the materials used such as the silver embroidery chord were bought in Thessaloniki by the tailors.
The important part of the costume is the dressing up of it with jewelry. Various pieces cover the headpiece, apron, chest and waist. These all vary in design and size. The porpes (belt buckles) were made from silver by a specialized silversmith. The designs obviously varied depending on the amount one wished to spend to purchase a porpa. The silversmith also produced the jewelry for the katsouli, apron and chest.

The bridal costume is the most beautiful example to look at. This dress had many additions including the bridal veil . They also had multi-colored handkerchiefs placed under the sash. These were usually made from silk and presents from the wedding guests.

The inner shirt is also important and it was made from cotton. A thicker cotton undershirt was worn in winter and a lighter / thinner shirt was worn in summer. The cut and style of these shirts have not changed over the years. In addition, some of the shirts had a geometrical cross-stitch design. The embroidery was limited to only the sleeves and hem of the shirt. Today unfortunately, the shirts are made simple and usually the embroidery is replaced by machine made trimmings or chord in black, yellow or white. A thin strip of white lace is also used to replace the embroidery. The shirt is open at the front and in many cases; a type of bib is required to cover the chest area. These bibs, depending on an individuals wealth or status were usually made from expensive silks. Only in rare cases did they embroider the bib. The older women wore the shirts buttoned up to the top they refused to wear the bibs.

The sayia (overcoat) was usually a blue black color. Depending on the village you were from. White was also used and worn by the young and in some cases so did the brides. The sayia for the bride was purchased by the groom as a gift to the bride. Many of these sayathes were made sleeveless, only when they ended up with excess material did they add the sleeves.

The sayia is first worn by the girls who were at a marital age around 15 /16 years of age and the sayia was usually white Рa symbol of purity, youth and virginity. The white as mentioned before was also worn at times as a bridal or festive. The white saya was also popular with the newlywed women and was worn for 3-4 years after the weeding. When wearing the white sayia priority was given to the apronas embroidery which was usually done in white or red wool. The white sayia differs also in embroidery motif ̢ usually a flowery design was chosen.

A vest was also worn with the black sayia ̢ these vests had silver embroided designs and had long sleeves. The vests were worn more in the winter or on festive occasions. The older women wore it at all times. It was not worn with the white sayia. In many cases it was made from tsoha Рwoolen material or in later times velvet. Today, velvet is used.

The apron is the next interesting piece to be found on the costume. The more expensive aprons were embroided with silver chord and in many cases there was a flower embroided in the lower corners of the apron. The aprons were also seen as a status symbol by younger women. The older women refused to wear the highly embroided aprons and opted for the plain black ones. If a young woman also had given birth to children â she also refused to wear the silver embroided apron.

In many cases the young women also upturned their aprons â the older women refused to do this. The apron was upturned and held in place by the sash. The only time they let the apron down was when they were working the fields, entering a church or going to Thessaloniki or Verioa. It was reported that many brides entered the church with upturned aprons and only when crowned in the service with the stefana would they drop the apron. She then would exit the church with the apron down. The upturned apron tradition was popular with young women and can be found throughout the towns of Macedonia and the rest of Greece, especially in Megara in Central Greece.

The final piece is the sash. The sash is a woolen blue color used to tighten the sayia around the waist. It also held the apron in place. They averaged about 2:20 in length and about 20 cm wide. The everyday sash had a basic design woven on it from a loom. The festive one had special motifs and designs, in between the designs, they would fill up the spaces with white or silver sequences the sash was held in place by two large pins known as koumboveloves

Source: AMAC forums 

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Perry Peck says:

How very interesting to think of customs worn in the past and the customs we wear every day like skinny jeans or whatever the latest fad may be. Costumes are a way of life of expressing who we are as a culture and what we believe in go punk go yuppie go Goth etc…