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Wedge-shaped colthes

Emergence and persistence in Istria     24.06.2003 - 31.10.2003

June 24. - October 31. in the Ethnographic Museum of Istria

This exhibition presents the design of wedge-shaped clothes that appear in numerous variants of Istrian folk costume, the samples of which are today kept in the holdings of the Ethnographic Museum in Zagreb. For the purpose of the exhibition, namely that of the Ethnographic Museum of Istria in Pazin, Labin and Buzet. It is known today that, as a principal component of clothes-making and outstanding element of the national costume in Istria, the wedge has existed for much longer than was previously believed. This is why the exhibition displays a rich comparative body of material, which is characteristic of the European continent beyond the borders of the Mediterranean cultural area. By presenting various interrelations and logical interactions, the exhibition strives to highlight the significant role of Istrian traditional costume, as well as its emergence and persistence in the context of European cultural history.

The author of this exhibition is the prominent Croatian ethnologist Dr. Jelka Radau╣ RibariŠ, who proposed in her Ph.D. dissertation (1964) and later in her book “Female National Costume in Istria” (Pazin, 1997) the theory on the origin of the wedge-shaped clothes on European continent outside of the Mediterranean cultural area. She followed their development from prehistory, through the Middle Bronze Age, as well as the Old and New Iron Ages respectively. During the great migration of peoples, wedge-shaped clothing design spread across most of the European continent (in the period between 6th-8th centuries). The Normans, Angles, and Saxons brought the wedge to Western Europe and the British Isles; the movement of the Langobards took from Eastern Europe to Northern Italy; and the Visigoths carried it all the way to Spain. As essential element, the wedge can also be found in the costume of Slavic peoples, namely the Czech, Moravians, and Russians, as well as Croatians. Wedge-shaped clothes, similar to those found in Istria, also appeared in the settlements of the Vikings in Greenland (11th-15th centuries). In the Middle Ages, especially after the Crusades, the wedge was adapted to accommodate wider clothing fabrics that were coming from the East, which required a new method of cutting and fabrication. The style made in this manner became representative of the upper classes, and almost forbidden for the lower classes. The most elegant of costumes, the so-called “Burgundian fashion”, appeared in the 15th century, and marked the end of this particular style. During the Renaissance, wedge-shaped clothes were substituted for newer costumes consisting of a small waistcoat and seamed skirt.

Wedge-shaped clothes remained present only as a folk costume in areas on the periphery of its earlier range of influence until the 19th and 20th centuries. This is why it can be found with the Croatians in Istria, Slovenians in the south-west of their country, Romanians in Transylvania, in the territory of the Ukraine and Byelorussia, as well as with the Sami in Scandinavia. The wedge-shaped clothes worn by the Hausa tribe in West Africa are especially interesting, since they were certainly at some point imported as foreign cultural element.

Wedge-shaped clothes in Croatia act as irrefutable evidence for the presence of Croatians in the cultural patterns of the northwestern and central European area in the distant past. The Istrian samples, therefore, should be seen as a good example of how our traditional cultural heritage can be preserved trough time.

The exhibition is organized in cooperation with :