The Celebrated Albanian Kilt; Fustanella e Fameshme e Shqipetarit

Man wearing Albanian Kilt

Man wearing Albanian Kilt

The famous Albanian kilt (or fustanella as it is known in the Albanian language) was common dress for men in the 13th century where it was regularly worn by a tribe of the Dalmatians, one of the Illyrian progenitors of the Albanians. At that time, the kilt was called “Dalmatica”, however, theories exist that the kilt really had its origin during much earlier times as a long shirt called “linja” which, when gathered at the waist by a sash, gave the appearance of a knee- or calf-length kilt. Depending on the social status of the wearer, materials used in fabricating the fustanella (thereby defining the number of pleats) ranged fromcoarse linen or woolen cloth for villagers to luxurious silks for the more affluent. Although the kilt was once worn by men throughout Albania, today it is seen only on special occasions in southern Albania, especially in the Gjirokaster area, and in the Albanian regions of Montenegro, Kosova, Serbia, Macedonia, and Greece.

The Hungarian sociologist, Baron Nopcsa, believed that the Albanian, or Illyrian, kilt became the original pattern for the Roman military dress, and, because of its similarity to the Celtic kilt, he also theorized that the Roman legions in Britain, through the presence of its Illyrian element, probably started the fashion among the Celts (it may also be interesting to note that the Celtic word for “Scotland” is “Alban”).

Lord Byron, in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, observed the “…Albanian kirtled to the knee”, and T.S. Finlay in his Travels through Greece and Albania states, unequivocally, that “It was the fame of the Albanians which induced the modern Greeks to adopt the Albanian kilt as their national costume.”

See “The Albanians and Their Territories,” Pages 164-166, “8 Nentori ” Publishing House, Tirana, 1985, and Faik Konitza’s “Albania: Rock Garden of Southeastern Europe ,” Pages 81-90

From at least the 14th century, a strong cotton cloth called “fustan” was produced – hence the name of the garment “fustan” and later the diminutive “fustanella.” But archeological evidence points to the fustanella as being a more ancient form of clothing. Among the more important (archeological) finds are:

1. a small ceramic statue from the 4th century C.E.(AD) found in Durres which depicts a man wearing a long fustanella fastened with two bands across the chest

2. a gravestone from the 3rd to 4th century C.E.(AD) found in Smokthine, near Vlora, which shows a man dressed in a fustanella

3. a much more ancient figurine found in Maribor, Slovenia, which dates from the 5th century B.C.E. (BC) which also shows a fustanella worn with the two bands across the chest.

LIRIA, December, 1991

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