Today I will talk about yet another costume whose region is bisected by an international border. This is found in a region north of Milan, in the northwest of theregion of Lombardy, Italy called Brianza and the neighboring region of Mendrisiotto in Switzerland. Here is a map of Northern Italy and its neighbors. Lombardy is shown in orange in the middle.
The region of Brianza is more or less centered around the city of Como. Here is a map of Lombardia with Brianza labelled on it. Brianza is a historical region and has no current official boundaries, overlapping several contemporary provinces.
Mendrisiotto is the southernmost part of the arm of Switzerland just northwest of Como, south of Lake Lugano. The traditional language in most of Lombardy and the Swiss Canton of Ticino is Lumbard. This has historically been considered to be a dialect of Italian, but recently linguists describe it as a language of the Gallo-Italic group, along with Ligurian and Piemonteis. The definition of Lumbard as a dialect was based mostly on political grounds, and the fact that it is somewhat similar to Italian, more so than Ladin or Friuli, for example. Lumbard is quickly being replaced by Italian on both sides of the border, a fate which is shared by many of the minority languages and dialects of Europe and the rest of the world. For those who are interested, here is an article about Lumbard written in Lumbard. For English or other language translation, click on the list at the left.
We tend to think of languages as being 'divided' into various dialects. In fact, the opposite is true, Dialects are grouped into Languages. Each local dialect exists independently, having Its own history and its own life in its community. Groups of similar dialects are placed under the heading of one language or another, often for political reasons, and some very divergent ways of speaking are often shoehorned into a language for other than linguistic reasons.
This costume is found on both sides of the border, in fact, the only reason why Mendrisiotto is not considered to be part of Brianza is that it is in Switzerland. Switzerland is unique in the world in being a nation that is identified not with one ethnicity, but several. This is actually true of most nations, but most do not readily admit it. Often residents of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, etc, were told to take the Swiss as an example. This was not helpful, as there was one huge difference; the Swiss Confederacy was VOLUNTARY.
Let us take a look at this costume. Here is the depiction of the Italian version of this costume by Emma Calderini, an eminent expert on Italian costume.
'This costume is worn for grand occasions, composed of a chemise of fine linen, ornamented with lace and silk ribbons.. - The bodice is laced up in front, and the skirt is very full, of heavy silk embroidered by hand. - The sleeves are attached to the shoulder of the bodice by ribbons. - The apron is of fine linen with embroidery, openwork and lace. - The shoulder shawl is in wool of vivid colors. - Knit stockings. - Wooden clogs with leather straps. - Coral necklace, silver spadini in the hair, hanging earrings of gold and coral'.
For comparison, here is Emma's print of the everyday costume of this region.
Originally this was composed of a set of large silver hairpins, a couple dozen or more, of three different types. [The first set includes a pair of matching earrings].
The hair was gathered into a chignon at the nape of the neck, and braids were attached in a circle on the back of the head. The 'spilloni' were arranged through the braid and into the chignon.
There is one large sticklike pin with olive or ball shaped ends, the Sponton, which secures the bun, 1 to 3 pair of larger pins which anchor each end, the Spadine, and the remainder are spoon shaped and usually smaller, the cucchiaini, the concave shape on the ends catch and scatter light.
Here are some drawings of the various types of hairpins used.
This was obviously difficult to assemble, so later on a fake braid was incorporated into the headpiece to hold the spilloni together at consistent intervals, and the ends were then pushed into the bun.
This structure may be embellished with a silk or velvet ribbon.
Some examples look suspiciously like they were made as one piece of metal.
This is so striking and attractive that la Raggiera also forms a part of several other similar costumes in the general region.
Galliate in Piemonte
A few photos of performing groups in Brianza wearing variations of this costume.
An informative article about la raggiera, in Italian
A couple of local performing groups of the region
Videos of these groups performing
Emma Calderini, 'Il Costume Popolare in Italia', Milan, 1953
Lotti Schuertz - Louise Witzig, 'Trachten der Schweiz', Bern, 1978
Louise Witzig, 'Schweizer Trachtenbuch', Zurich, 1954
Elba Gurzau, 'Folk Dances, Costumes and Customs of Italy', 1981
Louise Witzig & Edwige Eberle, 'Costumes Suisses', Payot Lausanne