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With Illustrations from Natural-Color Photographs by Colonel Luigi Pellerano
IN MOST other parts of Europe fine old costumes of other days have entirely disappeared, but in Sardinia, if one visits the right places at the right time, beautiful souvenirs are still to be found of times when the pageantry of the Middle Ages expressed itself even in the everyday dress of the common people.
There are almost as many variations of costume on this Mediterranean island as there are villages, for each little community has some feature of its own. In one locality a certain combination of colors may be used exclusively, while in another the cut of the apron or the arrangement of the headdress may be the distinguishing characteristic.
These differences in village styles were once to be found all over Europe and may be traced to the remoteness and comparative isolation of places in medieval times. On the Continent they have been ironed away by contact, but in Sardinia efficient and easy means of transport are of more recent development, and some of its mountain solitudes have not yet felt the full force of this standardizing influence.
A SOBER-MINDED PEOPLE FOND OF COLORS
Although the Sards are essentially a sober-minded people and not particularly addicted to display in other respects, their costumes are riots of blue, scarlet, orange, green, and all the shades that go between. These are often elaborately embellished with embroidery, gold lace and brocade, and gold and silver buttons. Many of the finer ones have been handed down from generation to generation and possess, in addition to their not inconsiderable intrinsic value, the sentimental significance of heirlooms.
While varying so widely in color and style, there are certain features common to nearly all the island costumes. The apparel of the Sardinian woman consists of a heavy skirt of silk or wool, a white waist, a colored bodice or corset, an apron, and a sort of kerchief to cover the head. The skirt is sometimes of a sober hue, but may be of scarlet, blue, orange, or purple (see Color Plate III). Over it is worn the apron, which is nearly always
of a brilliant color and varies greatly in size and shape with the locality.
The women of Aritzo, who wear one of the richest and most original costumes on the island, affect a tongue-shaped apron of scarlet, faced and banded in bright blue. Other villagers wear long. dark aprons much embroidered in bright colors (see Color Plate VII), while still others wear fan-shaped ones with a rubyred center and a wide white border garnished with figures of blue and gold.
The white waist is worn beneath the bodice, and the kerchief, perhaps white, but generally of bright hue, covers the head and sometimes the shoulders, and is brought together under the chin with a fancy pin (see Color Plates III and VII).
The exact origin of this kerchief or head-cape is unknown, but it dates far back into antiquity, as the head of a statuette of the Goddess Vesta in the Etruscan Museum at Gori, Italy, is draped in much the same style as that popular with the women of Sardinia to-day.
So impressive are the costumes of some of the peasants that the occasion of their leaving church on Sundays and fête days has been likened to a scene at the court of some prince of the Arabian Nights. The flaming reds, blues, and purples are frequently decorated with gold lace and brocade, and as the worshipers descend the church steps with their silver and mother-of-pearl rosaries in their hands, the richness of their costumes, the beauty of their faces, and the background of odd balconied houses all combine to produce a truly medieval atmosphere. Last among the women come the widows, dressed usually all in black.
THE WIDOW'S MOURNING USUALLY LASTS
The widow's dress is not the same throughout the island. While in most places she must wear the black habit of mourning all her life and endure an existence as somber as the color of her garments, in some villages only a kerchief of black is worn, and she may continue to gratify her love for bright colors in the rest of her costume (see Color Plate V).
Among the villages of the great Sardinian plain (Campidano), which stretches for fifty miles from citadel-crowned Cagliari to Oristano, these brilliant and costly peasant costumes are seldom seen nowadays. The beautifully fabricated grillwork over the well is a relic of the age when Spain dominated this island hub of the western Mediterranean (see "The Island of Sardinia and Its People" in the National Geographic Magazine for January, 1923).
Only on feast days and Sundays do the men of Oliena wear this gay attire. Many of the Sardinian women have a serenity of expression which would have delighted old masters seeking models for Madonnas.