Cretan Traditional Costumes

The Cretans no longer wear the traditional costumes in everyday situations. Mostly, they are used at festive occasions or at folklore festivals or performances that include folk dances. In the remote mountain villages, however, you may see older men wearing part of the traditional costume like the 'βράκα' (vraka) the baggy trousers or the high boots, the στιβάνια (stivania), or perhaps the 'σαρίκι' (sariki), the black kerchief tied around the head. 

You will probably never see women wearing traditional costumes in everyday life and even the tradition of widows wearing only black clothes is slowly declining. 

The costumes varies from one region to another and from the lowlands to the mountains. For example the 'βράκα' (vraka - baggy trousers) worn in the central and eastern regions of Crete are usually longer and wider than those of the western regions of Crete. The colours of the jackets and waistcoats differ, sometimes the kerchief is replaced by a kind of fez etc. 

There are also differences between the costumes used for festive occasions and everyday use. Mainly, with respect to the quality of materials used and the embroidery and accessories included. And over time the attire has changed. For example the black kerchief that is today considered the traditional headgear of a Cretan man only dates back as far as the beginning of the 20th century. Before that a turban like headgear was used or sometimes a fez. 

Men's Costumes, Crete

Men's Costumes 

Many of the garments that form part of the traditional costume of the Cretan men as it is worn today came into use in the fourteenth century. Others like the kerchief are later additions. On their heads the men would wear their 'σαρíκια' (sarikia), the black kerchiefs of special netted knit edged with a fringe of tiny little knots. According to the legend the knots symbolize the 'tears of Crete'. The mourning over the people lost at the explosion in the Arkadi Monastery during the uprisings against the Turks. 

The Cretan man wear α black shirt and a sleeveless waistcoat, the 'γιλεκι' (yileki), is worn under a sleeved navy blue felt jacket. Around the waist they wrap a ζουνάρι (zounari) which is a red silk sash about 8 meters long. Tucked through the sash is a silver knife, called a μπασαλής (basalis). Finally, there is the 'κιουστεκι' (kiousteki), an ornamental watch chain, worn around the neck a an embroidered cape, the 'καπότο' (kapoto). 

The trousers are the 'βράκα' (vraka), wide baggy trouser made of heavy wool felt to protect the owner from the cold. On the feet they wear silk knitted socks and high boots 'στιβάνια' (stivania) which can be either white or black. 

Women's Costumes, Crete

Women's costumes 

There are several different kinds of women's dresses depending on from which region they originate. Like with the men's costumes they vary over time also. Some of the elements in the costumes date back to Byzantine times (12th century). But there are two basic variations: The 'Sfakiani', from the area of Sfakia in western Crete. The "Anoghiani", which was designed in the middle of the 17th century was mainly worn in the province of Mylopótamos, the neighbouring province to Geropótamos where our holiday house is. 

The Anoghia Costume consists of a red draped half skirt, a 'σάρτζα' (sartza), worn over white 'vraka'type trousers. Tied around the waist the woman wears an embroidered double apron called a 'μπροστοποδιά' (brostopodia).She also wears a jacket in dark coloured felt richly adorned with gold embroidery. Tied around the head the woman wears a 'σκουφωμα' (skoufoma) a red kerchief decorated with a cotton fringe. A red wool sash is worn around the waist and a knife with silver sheath is tucked into the belt. This knife indicates that the woman is betrothed or married. Finally, she wears a necklace of cold coins. Boots are also worn by the women, though these are a little shorter than those of the men. Or they wear high heel black shoes.