Like other countries, fashion has always been an integral part in Maltese culture. In present time one can clearly see the European influence on modern Maltese stylists and clothing ranges. But one is still able to occasionally have a glimpse on other more traditional clothing trends that had an impact in our country.
And the first thing that pops to mind when it comes to traditional Maltese attire is the ‘Għonnella’, also called the ‘faldetta’. Being the most well-known attire in Maltese culture, its origins remain unknown. However, it is believed that it is originated from Sicily.
A local legend recounts how women from Celani, Italy, used to wear the għonnella as a sign of mourning after being exiled from Sicily and subsequently from Malta, following the deaths of their husbands in 1224. Another legend, eventually dismissed, says that women wore these to ward off Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops, as it shed similarities to the nuns’ habit. It was also believed that the għonnella was developed due to the strict Canonical requirement, where women had to veil their head before entering a Catholic church. It is also believed that poorer country girls, who could not afford a cloak, met the requirement by placing an extra skirt over their head. This is believed to have gradually evolved into the għonnella.
The għonnella was so popular back in the day that some women’s sole job was to sew them. But with end of WWII, the trend started fading out, until reached its end in the late 20the century.
Another item that was common in traditional clothing was cotton. This material was the primary object which all items for commoners and peasants were made out of. Traditional Maltese clothes ranged from country folk attire to the lavish costumes of the more privileged classes. Gentlemen’s waistcoats and ladies’ clothes such as the bodices, wedding dresses, bathing costumes as well as Maltese traditional clothes were part of our fashion back in the days.
Presently, fashion in Malta has been developing thanks to popular fashion bloggers like Daniel Azzopardi from ‘Devil Wears Praduh’ and many others that followed suit, and the introduction of Malta Fashion Week in 2011, showcasing Maltese designers, models and more. The introduction of popular international shops such as River Island and New Look further boosted Maltese high-street fashion. Television programmes with the likes of ‘Venere’ have also helped Malta break further into fashion, showcasing extravagant styles from hair, make-up down to the clothes and shoes. Many television programmes in Malta also feature fashion sections, where they promote trends or local stores. Probably the biggest breakthrough for Malta in fashion was when local model Tiffany Pisani who won Britain’s Next Top Model, which was when her career skyrocketed.
In the present, authentic traditional Maltese clothes can be found at the national collection of costumed and textiles at the Inquisitor’s Palace, located in Vittoriosa, which is still open to the public to this day.