These photos by Gonzalo Díez show us the beauty of the Lagartera’s traditional costume.
Each item has a special local name, for example, the skirts are called ‘guadapieses’, while the bodice worn by this young woman is called a ‘sayuelo’. This version of the costume is one worn on Sundays in summer.
You can see the care and skill invested in every detail.
The traditional Lagarteran costume is well known all over Spain, thanks to the Lagarteran women who used to go out to sell embroideries in the big cities, dressed in their traditional clothes. In 1911, Sorolla was commissioned by the Hispanic Society of America in New York to paint characters, costumes, traditions and other symbols of the different regions of Spain, and he painted groups of Lagarterans wearing the costume. The costume of Lagartera and its people also inspired the Lagarteran painter Marcial Moreno, who went to live in New York, and the Valencian painter Amadeo Roca Gisbert.
Here we see a more modern painter, Carlos Gorrindo.
Nowadays, the costume is only worn on special occasions, for example, during the celebrations for Corpus Christi, when altars are set up in the streets in the path of the procession, and many women and children dress up in traditional clothes.
Here you can see children in a Sunday version of the costume sitting in front of an altar. There is a lot of preparation for the Corpus Christi procession. Lagarterans go out into the countryside to collect aromatic plants such as mint, fennel and rosemary, which are scattered in the streets, and which smell wonderful when they are stepped on.
Most of the altars have a little statue of the Infant Jesus in the centre, some of these statues are very old. The altars are decorated with coloured fabrics and the most valuable embroideries of the house, which are the oldest and those with the most complex designs, treasures that are usually kept safe in chests.
The men and boys also dress in the traditional costume, with embroidered garments, a wide sash, and a hat, although the most luxurious version is that worn by women, which has more the decoration, such as embroideries, ribbons and jewellery.
Here you can see a man and a boy wearing a special shirt called ‘chamarreta de los domingos’. Both are wearing a red sash.
There are versions of the costume even for the smallest girls.
In the second photo, you can see the ‘cintas de las pájaras’, which are special ribbons with a green border, which are worn in the bun.
We talk about the ‘traditional Lagarteran costume’ but in fact there are several types of costumes, for example, for everyday wear and for weddings, with variations for winter and summer. The popular image of a traditional Lagarteran costume usually includes a headscarf, but brides wore a headdress called an ‘espumilla’.
The second photo shows a girl with a golden shawl and a very original headdress.
It is often surprising for people who see the costume today, to discover that women used to wear it every day. When I was in Lagartera in the 1980s you could see many older women dressed traditionally, in the shops, or embroidering in the street. They used to arrange their hair in a bun on top of the head, and had large ‘traditional’ earrings.
You can see both the earrings and the bun here.
The costume that women wore every day was less decorated than the versions we see now on special occasions; even what is now called the ‘everyday’ version was simpler. The function of the costume has changed. Before, it was worn when women were carrying out daily tasks, such as cooking and cleaning, and of course, some tasks could stain or damage fine clothes, so a coloured shirt was usually worn instead of a white one. When it was cold, many women wore a ‘pañuelo de paño’, a type of shawl made of strong cloth, with colourful embroidery that showed on the back. Also, widows wore a black version of the costume.
Nowadays, when the costume is worn for celebrations, it can be put away afterwards, so that nothing can happen to it, so it is possible to wear a white embroidered shirt as part of the ‘everyday’ version. Here the shawl is made of printed wool and the apron is made of percale.
The roots of the costume are very old and linked to the history of embroidery. The most valuable garments are those with fine embroideries that show the skill of Lagarteran craftswomen.
Here you can see the profusion of embroidery on the ‘gorguera’, a rectangular item of clothing with a circular opening for the head.
Many details of the costume go back as far as the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, the costume has evolved. The rise of the local textile industry in the 18th century, and imports of fabrics from other parts of Spain in the 20th century, made fabrics of different types more affordable, and allowed for certain innovations in the costume.
Similarly, when times were hard, there was improvisation. If a traditional fabric could not be found, another was substituted. Nowadays, girls wear decorated shoes with the costume, but in the past, children from families with little money went barefoot in summer, and in winter the most important concern was to fit them with footwear more or less their size, and the decoration was the least important issue.
As you can see in these photos, each shoe involves a lot of work.
The girl in the middle of this photo is wearing a cloth scarf which was used in winter, on holidays and Sundays.
The function of the costume has changed, but the cultural roots of the village are maintained with pride and joy.
Alison Lever, Lagartera, January 2021
Thanks to Cairel Atelier for helping me understand the photos.
All photos by Gonzalo Díez.