Costumes (shops and workshops)

In Greece costumes present a major problem for folk dance troupes. In other countries the situation is not so difficult, either because the costumes are simpler to make and can even be sewn by the girls in the group (as is usual in Europe), or because there are still traditional tailors working (as in Arab and Asian countries). For a long time dancers in Greece mainly wore authentic costumes, acquired by the groups from the villages, but this caused considerable wear and tear on what, in effect, are museum pieces. More recently formed groups, on the other hand, tend to order their costumes from workshops in the cities, rather than finding out how they were made in the old days from the old women in the village who still remember.

The quality of workmanship in such city ateliers is extremely variable, though to a great extent this depends on the customer. If he has one or two original costumes and asks for copies to be made, a greater degree of accuracy will be achieved than if the workshop has only a photograph to work from. If specialist advice has been sought then details of the making will be copied too, so that the garments have a value of their own and are not just shoddy imitations.

There are numerous technical difficulties to be confronted. The cloth of the original costume was either hand-woven or brought from abroad by sailors or pedlars, but nowadays it is almost impossible to obtain such fabrics. It is just as difficult to match the colours of the original vegetable dyes. The embroidery executed by the women can still be reproduced, but the terzídika work (made by master embroiderers, terzídes, for waistcoats and overgarments) is extremely time-consuming and fiddly. Yet another problem is the jewellery, belt buckles and metal adornments in general, for which, of course, cheap imitations have to be found.

So, whether or not an accurate replica is produced depends as much on the person in charge of the folk dance troupe as on the workshop sewing the costumes. Undoubtedly the best solution would be for the costumes to be made in the villages by the young girls, who would learn this skill from the old women. On the other hand, there are small factories turning out cheap costumes for school performances.

Most of the shops and workshops dealing in costumes and costume-making are located in the area of Athens between the Metropolis and Monastiraki. There one can buy or hire authentic costumes, in order to copy them, or order garments from the tailors, seamstresses and embroiderers, as well as purchase scarves, tsaroúchia shoes and jewellery, either genuine or fake. However, before rummag­ing in these shops it is best to inquire in the villages (a telephone call to the office of the Community is all that is needed) whether there is anyone there who could make the costumes for the troupe.