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Fustanella: Wikis


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Fustanella (for spelling in various languages, see chart below) is a traditional skirt-like garment worn by men of many nations in the Balkans, similar to the Kilt. In modern times, the fustanella is part of traditional Albanian and Greek dresses, worn mainly by ceremonial Greek military units (such as the Evzones) and both Albanian and Greek folk dancers.



The fustanella is derived from a series of ancient garments such as the chiton (or tunic) and the chitonium (or short military tunic).[1] The Roman toga may have also influenced the evolution of the fustanella based on statues of Roman emperors wearing knee-length pleated kilts (in colder regions, more folds were added to provide greater warmth).[2]

Byzantine Greeks called the fustanella, or pleated kilt, podea. The wearer of the podea was either associated with a typical hero or an Akritic warrior and can be found in 12th century finds attributed to Manuel I Komnenos.[3] During the Ottoman period, the fustanella was worn by the armatoloi and the klephts.[4] The fustanella was thought to have been originally a southern Albanian outfit of the Tosks and introduced in Greece during the Ottoman occupation that began after the 15th century.[5][6] Similar garments exist as part of the folk costume as far north as Romania and as far east as Syria, with nationalists on every side claiming the garment to be an indigenous creation.


The garment is made from long strips of linen sewn together to make a pleated skirt. Some Greeks, such as General Theodoros Kolokotronis had almost four hundred pleats in their garments, one for each year of Turkish rule over Greece. The style evolved over time. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the skirts hung below the knees, and the hem of the garment was gathered together with garters and tucked into the boots to create a "bloused" effect. Later, during the Bavarian regency, the skirts were shortened to create a sort of billowy pantaloon that stopped above the knee; this garment was worn with hose, and either buskins or decorative clogs. This is the costume worn by the modern Greek Evzones, the Presidential Guard.

While the image of warriors with frilly skirts tucked into their boots may seem impractical to a contemporary audience, it should be noted that modern paratroopers use a similar method to blouse their trousers over their jumpboots. Lace was commonly worn on military uniforms in the west until well into the 19th century, and gold braid and other adornments still serve as markers of high rank in formal military uniforms. Fustanella were very labor-intensive and thus costly, which made them a status garment that advertised the wealth and importance of the wearer. Western observers of the Greek War of Independence noted the great pride which the klephts and armatoloi took in their foustanella, and how they competed to outdo each other in the sumptuousness of their costume.


The word derives from Italian fustagno 'fustian' + -ella (diminutive), the fabric from which the earliest kilts were made. This in turn derives from Medieval Latin fūstāneum, perhaps a diminutive form of fustis, "wooden baton". Other authors consider this a calque of Greek xylino lit. 'wooden' i.e. 'cotton'[7]; others speculate that it is derived from Fostat, a suburb of Cairo where cloth was manufactured.[8] The Greek plural is foustanelles (φουστανέλλες) but as with the (semi-correct) foustanellas, it is rarely employed by native English speakers.


Name in various languages

Native terms for "skirt" and "dress" included for comparison:

Language Kilt/short skirt Skirt Dress
Albanian fustanellë/fustanella fund fustan
Aromanian fustanelã fustã fustanã
Bulgarian фустанела
Greek φουστανέλλα
Italian fustanella gonna
Macedonian фустанела
Megleno-Romanian fustan fustan
Romanian fustanelă fustă
Turkish fistan


  1. ^ Smithsonian Institution and Mouseio Benakē (1959). Greek Costumes and Embroideries, from the Benaki Museum, Athens: An Exhibition Presented Under the Patronage of H.M. Queen Frederika of the Hellenes. Smithsonian Institution. p. 8. 
  2. ^ Notopoulos, James A. (1964). "Akritan Ikonography on Byzantine Pottery". Hesperia 33 (2): 108–133. doi:10.2307/147182. ISSN 0018-098X. 
  3. ^ Kazhdan, Alexander P. (1991). The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford University Press. p. 47. ISBN 0195046528. 
  4. ^ Ethniko Historiko Mouseio (Greece), Maria Lada-Minōtou, I. K. Mazarakēs Ainian, Diana Gangadē, and Historikē kai Ethnologikē Hetaireia tēs Hellados (1993). Greek Costumes: Collection of the National Historical Museum. Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece. p. xxx. 
  5. ^ James P. Verinis, "Spiridon Loues, the Modern Foustanéla, and the Symbolic Power of Pallikariá at the 1896 Olympic Games", Journal of Modern Greek Studies 23:1 (May 2005), pp. 139-175.
  6. ^ Nasse, George Nicholas (1964). The Italo-Albanian Villages of Southern Italy. National Academies. p. 38. 
  7. ^ Institute of Modern Greek Studies (Thessaloniki) (1999). Λεξικό της Κοινής Νεοελληνικής. Aristotelion Panepistimio Thessaloniki. ISBN 9602310855. 
  8. ^ Oxford English Dictionary; Babiniotis, Λεξικό της Νέας Ελληνικής Γλώσσας.

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