Albania’s rich and varied culture is reflected in the wonderful array of traditional costumes to be found. Each region and village has its own distinctive style of dress, and in the Gjirokastra region alone, there are many different types.
Historically, an Albanian’s clothing allowed strangers to learn all kinds of things about them at a single glance—region of origin, marital status, the family’s wealth and position, age, and more.
Specialised craftspeople handmade these garments from cotton, wool and imported silk, decorating them with elaborate patterns and scenes in gold and silver thread and small river pearls..
Lord Byron was delighted by the beautiful costumes. In 1808 he wrote to his mother:
“I have some very ’magnifique’ Albanian dresses, the only expensive articles in this country. They cost 50 guineas each and have so much gold they would cost in England two hundred.”…
A popular Albanian expression states “Lunxhiotët goxha malldarë/florinë s‘dinë ta mbajnë/e bën cohë e kanavadhë” which implies that people of the Gjirokastra region would rather display their gold woven into their costumes, than save their money.
“But of all surprising novelties, here or anywhere else commend me to the costume of the Arghyro Kastro women! …Suppose first a right white linen mask fixed on the face, with two small slits cut in it for the eyes to look through. Next a voluminous wrapper of whit, with broad buff stripes which conceals the whole upper part of the person and is huddled in immense folds about the arms, which are carried with the elbows raised, the hands being carefully kept from sight by the heavy drapery; add to these, short, full, purple calico trousers, and canary-coloured top-boots, with rose-coloured tassels and what more amazing incident in the history of female dress can be fancied ?”
(Edward Lear, 19th century painter and poet).