National Geographic : 1926 Apr
WHERE THE SARD HOLDS SWAY With Illustrationsfrom Natural-ColorPhotographs by Colonel Luigi Pellerano IN MOST other parts of Europe fine old costumes of other days have en tirely 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 commu nity 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 distinguish ing characteristic. These differences in village styles were once to be found all over Europe and may be traced to the remoteness and compara tive 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 moun tain 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 in trinsic 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 ruby red center and a wide white border gar nished 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 stat uette of the Goddess Vesta in the Etrus can 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 fete 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. TIIE WIDOW'S MOURNING USUALLY LASTS FOR LIFE 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 ex istence as somber as the color of her gar ments, 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).