The Cypriot female costume basically consists of the outer garment, the chemise and the distinctive long pantaloons caught around the ankle.

Costume of Karpasia, "saya". Late 19th Century.
Collection of the Cyprus Folk Art Museum.

The 'saya', a kind of frock open at the front and sides, was common in most urban and rural regions of Cyprus until the 19th century. Local variants were still worn in the remoter parts of Karpasia and Paphos in the early decades of the present century.

The 'foustani', a one-piece, waisted and pleated dress, was the preferred over-garment in the rural areas of Cyprus, particularly the plain and the mountains, well into the 1950s, which decade was a turning point for modernization in the countryside. The festival foustani was worn with an embroidered apron, the everyday one with a plain. In Paphos the saya' was retained alongside the fousta'ni, since it was considered easier to wear. Both garments, saya and foustani, had a large oval opening in front, the trachilia' or dickey, to facilitate breast-feeding.

>From the second half of the 19th century, in Nicosia and the other towns, as in the urban areas of Greece, variations of the so-called Amalia costume came into vogue. This type of dress diffused to the extensive rural settlements of Cyprus too. It comprises a wide silk skirt, a short fitted jacket with sleeves, the sarka, a fez and kerchief.

In Karpasia and other rural regions of the plains, the women working in the fields in the summer lifted up the hem of their saya' or fousta'ni and tucked it in at the waist. Some just wore the chemise and zoma, a sash improvised from a diagonally folded dark kerchief, tied round the waist with the pointed end behind.

Analogous with the zoma is the foutas, a rectangular piece of cloth, folded diagonally and tied in front. It was worn round the waist like a broad cummerbund, covering the chemise below.

Costume of the Messaorias, "fousta'ni". Early 20th Century.
Collection of the Cyprus Folk Art Museum.

Costume of Karpasia, "saya'" with "douple'tti". Late 19th Century.
Collection of the Cyprus Folk Art Museum.

In the towns the women used the foutas in the bath-house. The pa'nna, an equivalent garment, was worn in the mountainous regions of Cyprus and as part of the festival costume.

The female headdress which prevailed not only in the rural but also in the urban world was the kouroukla, a square kerchief of fine cotton in different colours; crimson, 'kraseti' (bordeaux), dark green for young women and brown for older ones. The floral designs on the borders are applied with wooden stamps by special craftsmen known as mandila'rides. The "best" kerchiefs are edged with crochet trim, pipilla, in various patterns, such as yasemoudin, foulin, kamaroudin etc., named after the basic motif. The kerchief was folded diagonally, the triangle behind, and the two loose ends turned back and tied high up at the side so that their lace edging was displayed. A silver kerchief pin, 'karfitsa tou mandiliou', a flower of crocheted silk, or real flower was placed in the bow (Franz von Loher, Cyprus, historical and descriptive, London 187, p. 32).

Young girls were psiloskoufomenes, that is they wore the kerchief tied high on the head to expose the brow, since, according to a Cypriot rhyming couplet, those who wore the headdress low, chamiloskoufomenes were "shamed". The hair was parted in the middle and plaited into two long braids. Old women, widows and those in mourning wore a black kerchief, under which they placed a second dark-coloured headsquare, the kouroukla, which covered the hair, forehead and ears like a snood, and was known as the skoufoma.

The stamped kerchiefs replaced earlier ones which were embroidered in threads of coloured silk and metal wire. According to a 19th-century visitor to Cyprus, at that time upper class Nicosian women wore a diaphanous white silk veil, in contrast to the bright blue, yellow and buff scarves worn in the other towns (Franz von

The wealthy bourgeoise ladies wore the singular polychrome silk kerchiefs known as koilaniotika. These were tie-dyed with plant colorants in vivid hues, predominantly vermilion, kraseti, gold and green. The technique was exclusive to the village of Koilani and these highly-prized kerchiefs were exported, mainly to Kastellorizo.

In the mountainous villages of the Troodos, the women wore a woollen kerchief with fringing, krossia, the tsemberi. Embroidered in one corner of the festival or bridal kerchief was a bird, generically called peacock, pagoni, or a flower, which could be seen on the triangle behind.

Town-dwelling women of the 19th century wore boots and slippers of yellowish leather (Franz von Loher, op. cit., p. 24), while in the 20th century black court shoes became fashionable. In the rural areas, and especially the mountains, women wore short hob-nailed boots, potinia, made by the same cobblers, skarparides, as fashioned the men's boots or podines.

Cypriot women rarely wore hose; in keeping with the strict moral code observed, the long pantaloons covered even the soles of the feet.

Essential accessories of the costume of the wealthiest urban women were various items of gold jewellery, indicative of their social rank and economic status. However, most women wore silver and gilded ornaments with the festival costume, and those worn in the villages were often of silvered bronze.

The commonest articles were pins, splidzies, worn in the headscarf or on the chest, rows of chains upon the chest, mirmidia, from which hung tiny Turkish coins, pparaoudkia, and gems of coral or glass, necklaces - kertanedes and skalettes - various crosses, such as the trifourenos with tiny filigree spheres and coral, earrings, bracelets and finger rings.

Costume of Nicosia, "sa'rka". Late 19th Century.
Collection of the Cyprus Folk Art Museum.

Costume of Karpasia, "tsiofa's me ttellou'rka" embroidery. 19th Century.
Collection of the Cyprus Folk Art Museum.

Some bridal costumes included a velvet belt ernbroidered with metallic thread, fastened with a silver buckle, poukles. The broad sash worn by women in the towns had silk-embroidered ends and two large, shiny metal buckles at the front (Franz von Loher, op. cit., p. 24).

Cypriot jewellery was wrought by local goldsmiths in Nicosia and was embellished with filigree trifoureni, pierced, hammered and cast decoration .

Two general categories of Cypriot female costumes can be distinguished: urban and rural. The former display a greater number of European influences, like their counterparts in Greece, while the latter preserve more of the authentic local traits and peculiarities. The most representative rural costumes are those of Karpasia and Paphos, of the interior, mesaritiki, and the mountains, oreini.

Up until the beginning of the last century the saya was worn by women in the towns and in the villages. The saya is a long frock, open at the front to reveal the chemise and the ankle-length pantaloons. That worn in the towns was of sumptuous fabrics, brocade, kamouchades, damask or gold-embroidered silk, for which Cyprus was famous in the Middle Ages, particularly during the reign of the Lusignan kings. Striped silk material from Syria, sam alatzia, was also used. This was imitated by local-weavers, from the sayes brought back by pilgrims to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

>From the 19th century onwards the saya was gradually replaced in the towns by the short fitted jacket and skirt. Characteristic of the Cypriot version of the pan-Hellenic Amalia costume is the gaudy silk skirt, foustani of sattakrouta fabric from Nicosia, dyed with plant substances in shades of yellow, orange, green and earth colours.

The skirt was worn with a short, fitted jacket, the sarka, which had a large opening on he chest and long sleeves. The best sarkes were produced in Nicosia, whose seamstresses and tailors had a high reputation. The latter sewed and embroidered the fine costumes, women's sa'rkes, men's waistcoats and short jackets worn all over Cyprus. Local cloth was used, though black woollen felt, tsoufa, or velvet was purchased for "best-wear". The embroidery was executed in over-sewn metal wire, ttelia, or silk thread .

The luxurious pure silk chemise worn under the sarka is visible on the chest and the sleeves. Both the large frontal opening, trachilia or dickey, and the long maniketta or cuffs are embellished with delicate silk crochet lace, pipilla.

A dark crimson fez, often adorned with a band of crocheted flowers, with a rich black silk tassel, the flokko, was the usual head attired. The pan-Cypriot headdress with the stamped kerchief tied in a bow at the temple, to show off the pipilla lace, and secured with a special decorative pin, karfitsa tou mandiliou or a fresh flower, still persisted. Wealthy brides adorned their headdress with precious artificial flowers of pearls, fkioro.

In the large villages of the island variations of this urban costume were adopted as festival or bridal dress. An English lady, who visited the town of Lapithos towards the end of the last century, describes the "best" costume worn by a local woman at the patronal feast: "The dress of the peasants is picturesque and certainly becoming to young people: yellow or crimson shoes, short white socks, loose white trousers-s fastened at the ankle, a skirt of bright cotton and a richly embroidered bodice (generally in velvet) cut in a low square on the bosom, which is covered with a transparent piece of worked muslin. Innumerable glass bangles on the arms complete the costume. On their heals they wear a silk handkerchief tightly fastened across the top, and holding back the two long plaits of hair. Bunches of jessamine and sweet-scented geranium leaves are fastened on the side, and on the other a half-wreath of worsted and silk flowers on wire. The effect is very quaint and pretty and suits the classic features and splendid dark eyes possessed by most of the peasants. A few had lines of khol painted round the rims, and all babies had a black line on both upper and lower lids. This, it is supposed, keeps the eyes cool and preserves them from attacks of flies". (Mrs Scott Stevenson, Our Home in Cyprus, London 10, p. 56).

In contrast to the urban costume, which frequently became a criterion of social class, a relative uniformity is observed in the rural world. The festival dress was usually also the bridal costume, the addition of certain accessories and the characteristic scarlet kerchief, worn in some regions throughout the first year of marriage, being the only features distinguishing the bride from the other female guests. Brides also plaited long strands of wire, ttelia, in their hair, and these hung down like a veil concealing the face. In some regions, such as Karpasia and the Morphou area, there was a special bridal headdress, which only a few women in the community knew how to arrange.

The female costume in the isolated region of Karpasia is the richest and most singular of all Cypriot rural costumes, in which earlier types and techniques of decoration survive. Here the saya held sway as the basic over-garment well into the early decades of the present century.

Characteristic of the Karpasian saya is the stereotyped straight cut with the large slits, schistres, at the side to permit ease of movement. The saya is usually narrow and closed at the front with a sash, the zoni, a square fringed scarf with twig design, folded diagonally with he triangle behind. The saya is usually slightly shorter then the chemise, so that the smocked embroidery, koukkoumoma, around the hem of the latter was exposed.

Variety in the appearance of the saya, dictated by its use, was achieved by the kind of material from which it was sewn and the manner of its decoration. The festival and bridal saya was made of camel-coloured checked cotton alatzia with multicoloured horizontal strips, 'moustres', around the hem. The neckline, the sleeve-seams and the side slits were bordered with applique braid of metallic or colourful thick cotton thread and pieces of felt, o tsiofas me ttellourka.

This decoration is particularly impressive on the earlier type of white silk-cotton saya witll coloured stripes, modistres, at the back. The cuffs are lined with cotton pasma printed with twig pattern.

Costume of Karpasia, silk-cotton "saya'". Late 19th Century.
Collection of the Cyprus Folk Art Museum.

Another version of the white saya is of cotton cloth, finished off with white applique embroidery and coloured beads, and a strip of white loom-embroidered cloth on the back hem. The women of Karpasia were renowned for the skill with which they embellished their sayes, as the same English lady visitor informs us: "The Karpass women are famous for their embroidery, and indeed decorate these dresses very prettily. I chose a white one of native cloth, worked with pale blue, yellow, and pink thread, and small beads of the same delicate shades sewn alternately with the stitches. Another one I chose was also of native manufacture, but a striped stuff, embroidered with black and crimson cloth, stitched down by gold and silver thread." (Mrs Scott Stevenson, op. cit., p. 262).

In contrast to the worn elsewhere in Cyprus, which were not embroidered, Those worn with the festival costume of Karpasia were of silk and lace, decorated with coloured beads on all the parts which showed beneath the saya (dickey, side slits, sleeves), as well as down the seams. Around the bottom of the "best" cotton pantaloons, visible below the chemise, was a band of dense loom-embroidered, pefkota, material, the kotsinoplouma. A simpler version of this embellishment was achieved with horizontal stripes of cocoons.

There was much variety in both the cloth and the decoration of the karpasitiki saya, overtly influenced by the region's rich tradition of weaving and embroidery.

Costume of Karpasia, "saya'". Late 19th Century.
Collection of the Cyprus Folk Art Museum.

A peculiar local garment is the doupletti, a white, densely pleated skirt, cast double over the shoulders like a cape; the standing collar, which is actually the skirt waistband, is embroidered in white with coloured beads. This skirt was originally part of the bridal costume, worn with the sa'rka.

The most popular bridal costume in Karpasia was a local version of the urban Amalia costume: It consists of a multi-pleated cotton skirt dyed dark red with pine bark, routzietti, worn with a short jacket, sa'rka. Rare local examples of the sa'rka have survived from Karpasia. These are made of white cotton fabric, lavishly embellished with applique decoration and coloured beads

The entire chest was covered with jewellery; the mirmidi, the cross with the doudounia and corals, the necklace, the kertanes and other pieces. The belt around the waist is fastened with a silver buckle. The headdress is particularly striking: the scarlet kerchief, skepi, is held on the forehead with a frontlet of three successive ribbons in red, yellow and green. Affixed to the headdress is a silver ornament, the splinga, from which chains, coins and coloured beads hang down the sides of the bride's face.

A plainer version of the Karpasian saya' was worn in the Paphos district until quite recently. It was made of striped cotton alatzia with horizontal moustres and simple embroidered decoration around the dickey and the cuffs. The cut of the Paphos saya' is somewhat different; the gores, loxes, in the side slits widen the skirt, while the Karpasia saya' falls straight and has longer side slits so that the women may stride out. Here too the bottoms of the long pantaloons, which show beneath the saya', are richly worked with fydkiotiko embroidery. The sash around the waist is a square kerchief, stamped or of white cotton with embroidery in all four corners, to mandili tis koxas, folded diagonally with the triangle behind.

The one-piece dress with pleats from the waist, foustani, also worn in the Paphos region, was made of similar material to the saya. Its round or square dickey was decorated with polychrome twisted threadwork, gatani. The essential apron is embroidered in cross-stitch.

The pan-Cypriot rural costume, the foustani, worn in the large villages of Lysis, Assias and Lefkonoiko, centres on the extensive Mesaoria plain, differs in the choice of materials, the cut and even in the headdress. The young girls' foustani is usually of brightly coloured striped and checked alatzia. There is much variety in the shape of the dickey, which is decorated with tucks and trims, either embroidered by the girls themselves or finished with purchased lace and ribbons.

A modern version of the pleated foustani is still worn by women in Lysis. The bought cotton cloth is dark blue or black for old women and widows, and a dark carmine or Venetian red, veneto, for younger women.

The festival headdress consists of two kerchiefs, the inner one, the skoufa, covers half the forehead and the ears, and the outer, the colourful pipiliasti kouroukla, is arranged over it. Plaited into the two braids of hair, the vroL a are strips of coloured lace, pipilles, affixed to a black ribbon, the mostra. Over the skoufa of the bridal headdress, to which long strands of metal wire were attached, ttelia, several kerchiefs of different colours were arranged, one upon the other, and in such a way as to expose their crocheted edging.

Three silver pins, the pezounoudkia (doves), were secured to the skoufa on the brow, while other pins, splindzies, with finials of chains and coins, pparaoudkia, were suspended from the head. The whole arrangement was covered by the scarlet kerchief, the skepi, which was removed once the ceremony was over. An essential accessory of the bridal costume was the embroidered apron, under which the bride hid her hands .

In winter the women of the Mesaoria donned knitted shawls of home-spun wool, known as mallines.

In the mountain villages of the Troodos range, especially Pitsilia, the panna is cited as the earliest costume. This is a kind of skirt which, according to descriptions, consisted of two pieces, petsia', of cloth wrapped round the waist and fastened at the front with a buckle, poukla. A long chemise was worn under it and the opening at the front of the pa'nna was covered with an apron. The embroidered bottoms of the long cotton pantaloons were decorated with beads and sequins, ppoulia. The familiar pan-Cypriot saya' of cotton alatzia sometimes replaced the pa'nna.

The fousta'ni, in sombre colours and usually of two-tone striped alatzia' was worn both as everyday and festival costume in the mountainous regions of Cyprus, depending on the decorator on the trachilia.

In winter women wore an embroidered sleeveless coat with standing collar, yakkalin , known as a zavourkano and made of bought material.

The distinctive feature of the bridal costume in this region is the embroidered woollen kerchief (llief, the tsemberi, to which long strands of metal wire, ttelia, were attached. Cast over this was the well-known scarlet skepi, which virtually covered the bride's face. The earliest type of bridal kerchief mentioned is the alia, a kind of veil of diaphanous silk voile.