Saturday, October 22, 2016

Costume and embroidery of Desulo, Nuoro province, Sardinia

Hello all, 
Dèsulu, in the native Sardinian, or Desulo, in Italian, is a municipality in the southern part of the province of Nuoro [Nùgoro in Sardo] in central Sardinia. In a region of incredibly colorful and interesting costumes, this costume still stands out.

Here is a poster showing its location.

 While most of the province speaks northern Sardo, this area speaks the southern dialect.

At first glance, the bright attire of red, blue, and gold might strike you as using a profligate amount of galloon, golden yellow with jewel-like accents of blue, red and green. Perhaps you even wonder to yourself where you might get some, and think about the amount of time it would take to sew it on.

But upon close examination, it becomes apparent that these colorful bands are actually hand embroidered, and not galloon at all. Note that two different shades of yellow are used. Take a look at these two caps. OMG.

The appliqued bands of blue silk are sometimes replaced by brocade ribbon with a floral pattern, as in this apron. They are the only thing in this picture which is not embroidered. Compare with the second apron in which all of the ornamentation is embroidered.

It is clear why Sardinians are famous for their needlework.

Sa Camisa, the chemise, is the foundation of the costume, after bloomers, etc.
This is of linen or cotton, and rather full in the body and also the sleeves. It is long enough to also function as an underskirt, as chemises traditionally do.

The body is smock-gathered into the collar, and the sleeves are smock-gathered at both the  shoulders and the cuffs. For a grown woman this would be done in white, but this one is meant for a girl, and the patterned gathering and embroidery was done with colored thread. This is distinct from English Smocking, which is done on top of the gathers. This is done with the actual threads that gather the cloth. The embroidery on the shoulders of the chemise above was done by machine. The cuffs and collar are held closed with gold buttons/cufflinks.

 Here is a closeup of the cuff. 

Here is a closeup of the collar.

Here are closeups of the upper sleeve where it is attached to the shoulder of two other chemises.

The shoulder embroidery on this one was done by machine.

Two more collars.

Two more cuffs.

Here is the embroidery around the the front opening of the chemise. The collar is at left, and the patterned gathering of the body into the collar is at the top.

This images, and other closeups of this costume were obtained from the blog of a Sardinian woman who writes about embroidery.  Luckily for us, she writes in Italian. Thank you very much.

Su Camisedda.
This is a skirt which is made in two parts, with ties at the corners of both parts. The back, with the embroidery across it is tied on first, and the front is tied second, so there is a fold on the sides. It is made of a heavy red, fulled wool, which was traditionally woven at home.

The skirt always has a rather wide blue band or ribbon across the middle. It is ornamented with embroidered bands above and below.

Here is another skirt with details of the embroidery.

Su Saucciu.
This is an apron which is embroidered in much the same way as the skirt, also having a blue band across the middle and on three and a half sides, the top being left red in the center. Sometimes the apron is made narrower towards the bottom, resulting in somewhat of a shield shape.

 The apron is relatively short, not coming much below the blue stripe in the middle of the skirt. The top corners have metal hooks, and the apron is held on with a chain.

 For festive occasions, a second apron may be worn over the head, over the cap.

Is Palettas

This is a bodice which is open in front, being attached only at the bottom front corners, sometimes with a simple hook, sometimes with a hook and chain. It is elaborately decorated both front and back. The back sometimes having actual gold or silver galloon. 

This is an older bodice.

Su Cippone 
This is a jacket which is usually worn over the bodice. The body is short, often not coming to the waist. The sleeves are long, with a large notch on the outside at the cuff. The edges are all bound in blue ribbon or silk, and embroidered somewhat less than the bodice. The notch is to allow the fullness of the chemise sleeve to puff out.

There are four types of headdress worn with this costume. Three are shown below.

Su Cucuddu
This is a cap, or bonnet, which ties under the chin with a red ribbon. It is similar to caps worn by little girls in many places, and here it is the only kind of headgear that girls wear. However, it seems to also be worn by grown women in Desulo.

This is an older example.

I have already mentioned that a second apron is sometimes worn as a festive head covering, often over the cap. It is also fastened under the chin.

Here we see little girls in caps leading a Palm Sunday Procession. In the background you can see women wearing the most formal head covering.

Su Cappucciu

This is worn for solemn occasions, such as weddings and Church Functions. It is made of black silk damask, has black embroidery and tassels, and is fastened in front with long bands of black lace. I believe that it is worn over the cap.

Su Mucadore 

The fourth head covering is a simple kerchief as could be worn anywhere. This is worn for everyday, sometimes over the cap. One thing that you may notice is that for less festive occasions, the costume is worn inside out. It is apparently made to do this. The ornamentation can only be seen by the lines of stitching holding them in place. It seems that the embroidery is mostly done on separate pieces before attaching them to the garment.




Some older women make their outfit in a darker red. I have even occasionally seen black, still embroidered. I assume that some widows feel this to be appropriate. 

 Here is a rather long slow video which features photos of older women of Desulo.


The men wear the typical Sardinian costume with some uniqe details that identify them as being from Desulo

Sa Camisa
The men's shirt construction is similar to that of the woman's, but it is shorter, the patterned gathering is less extensive, and the embroidery is simpler. Just as for girls, the young boys have the gathering and embroidery in color, while grown-ups have it in pure white.

The cuffs and collar are closed with gold collar buttons/cufflinks.

Is Calzonese
These are short, rather wide linen trousers that come to somewhat below the knee. In this area they are not tucked in, but worn loosely.

Is calzas
These are gaiters in heavy black wool which cover the tops of the shoes. They are edged with red wool. Plain black shoes are worn under these.

Sa Braga
This garment is one of the most distinguishing for the male Sardinian Costume. It might be described as a black wool kilt, but in fact, it has a piece which passes between the legs. In Desulo it is quite short and full, with a red edging, and red lining on the lower part. It is my belief that they developed from knee length overtrousers such as are still worn in the southwestern corner of the island.

Sa Berritta
This is the classic cap worn by men on most of the island. It is made of woven black wool and is about 1/2 meter long. It is worn in many ways, loose, hanging in back or on the side, scrunched down, folded over, or rolled up.

Su Gilette
This is a jacket which is somewhat similar to the women's. It closes in front on hooks and is made of heavy red wool. The neck opening is very wide and worn low on the shoulders, and the garment comes just to the waist. There is a notch on the outside of the cuff, as in the women's jacket, and the embroidery is similar, but not as extensive. The inner seam on the sleeve is left unsewn for most of its length, to show the full sleeves of the shirt. A wide belt which is often ornamented is worn over this jacket. A second belt with pockets may be worn just under the first belt.

This is a vest made of sheepskin with the fleece to the outside which may be worn over the jacket at need.

Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. I would recommend taking some of this wonderful embroidery and using it in your home. 

Here is a video of life in Desulo, including scenes from the living historical museum of life which is there. This also features some of the distinctive singing style of Sardinia.The folk costumes show up at about the 2:00 mark. Towards the end it features a Church Procession.

 Here is a video of a local dance group 'Montanaru' doing Su Ballu Desulesu. This is an amateur video, so you can actually see most of the dance. I recommend this video over the next one.

Here is a 'professional' video of dancers from Desulo. As is usually the case with professional videos, the camerawork is crap. They seem determined to show everything except the dancers.


Roman K


  1. So ... this is what we should wear to do Passu Torrau.

    1. One of many options. The dance is widespread over the island.