The dress of Crete
The traditional everyday dress of males consisted of wide "vraka" breeches
which are tucked into knee length boots which are often coloured white. A
black or light coloured rough woven shirt is worn under the black "meidanogileko"
or waistcoat. A black or red, very long silk sash is tied around the waist
and headwear consists of the very characteristic black lacy and fringed
kerchief which is either wrapped around the head or draped over the
In winter the ensemble is finished off with a thick warm cape. More formal attire is very similar but made of finer fabrics such as silks and richly embroidered. The costume varies slightly from region to region on the island, for example in Sphakia the traditional headgear is the red fez with a navy tassel, the "sfakiano".
Black is the most omnipresent colour for clothes across Crete because it is the colour of mourning and because the extended kinship networks are vast and, even though there may be little contact with some of these family members, the tradition of respect for the dead is strong. One may also see the men in the mountain villages carrying guns or knives as a natural addition to their costume.
The Cretan traditional female dress is still worn by some at festival times. Unlike the males it is very rare to see women wearing traditional costume as everyday wear. It is
more elaborate than the male costume, often decorated with rich embroideries and gold coins. Typically it will include a loose blouse tucked into a long skirt. Colours and decoration of these will vary from region to region. Over the skirt they will tie a beautifully embroidered apron which can be specially designed for each woman. Over this goes a velvet jacket with a deep scooped neckline so it does not cover the chest.
It is richly decorated with gold braid and left unfastened in the front. On their head they wear a kerchief or a little red fez, a "papazi", and on their feet, flat boots or heeled shoes of black. In some areas full, long trousers with a long overshirt replace the role of a skirt and blouse. Jewellery, usually of silver and/or gold, plays a significant part of the costume. Worn around the head, chest, wrists, fingers, neck and waist they serve not just a decorative purpose but also these displays signify a woman"s financial and social status in Cretan society. Finally, the costume is completed by the addition of the "argirobounialaki" the woman's knife, which whilst similar to the male version, is smaller and attached to a waist belt. .