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Situated only a few minutes’ drive from Tirana, this shop-museum displays and sells the most intricate and beautiful authentic traditional Albanian folk costumes while offering a unique immersion into the country’s rich tradition.
As evidenced in the long epic poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” as well as in his journals, Lord Byron, the famed British poet, considered Albanian traditional costumes the most beautiful in the world. One look at them and it becomes easy to understand his preference for these wonderfully elaborate folk costumes. One place where you can see these works of art from up close is Tradita Popullore (The Artisanal Museum of Folk Tradition), one of the main spaces in which these costumes are displayed and sold located within the commercial center Casa Italia, in the outskirts of Tirana.
From century-old costumes to ones carefully reproduced by the hands of the artisans working at the museum’s workshop, here you can experience a genuine encounter with Albanian culture. A passion for embroidery and clothing inspired the creative Edlira Sulaj to establish this enterprise 15 years ago, with the idea of not only turning it into a successful business but also an opportunity to preserve and promote a part of the Albanian identity.
The Artisanal Museum includes xhubleta (Albanian kilts), vests and old costumes from all regions of Albania. All these different pieces enable us to embark on a rare journey through the country’s historical past, its traditions and the customs and behaviors of Albanian society throughout the centuries.
Among the many traditional costumes, one immediately notices a dazzling old vest, entirely embroidered in gold. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact date of the vest’s creation but it is thought to be a work belonging to the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th.
Edlira confirms that it may take years to realize a work of such caliber, especially if the process involves only one individual. The thread used for this embroidery was cut into 5-millimeter pieces and the raw materials were ordered from abroad. This particular vest belongs to the region of Shijak, one of the most famous areas of the beys of Middle Albania.
The other costumes exhibited within this space belong to the same period, as well. We stop in front of an item of clothing called xhybja e Mirditës, a kind of traditional vest from the Mirdita region. What is particularly fascinating about this item is the monochromatic embroidery, exhibiting layer upon cream-colored layer, thusly revealing truly delicate and masterful craftsmanship. An elegant embroidery, referred to as needle’s lace (tantellë gjilpëre), rests on top of the woolen layer, with the large pagan cross as the true centerpiece of this traditional item of clothing.
If you have come across Lord Byron’s famous portrait, on which he dons the traditional costume of southern Albania, you will surely recognize this costume’s almost identical versions in this shop. You may specifically notice the sleeves, wonderfully embellished with a golden cross. The time period from which this costume hails is the same as that of Lord Byron’s painting.
However, Tradita Popullore includes countless other reproductions, souvenirs, jewelry and many other typically traditional Albanian objects within its space.
In total, there are more than 400 different models of clothing items for men and women, girls and boys, infants and the elderly, many of which are nicely exhibited along the halls of this space. A significant amount of work goes toward the creation of each item. The initial step is the selection of the cloth, followed by the processing of the thread, the combination of the golden threads with the colors of the cloth and the rest of the decorations. The final step is the embroidering, the finishing touch which brings all the elements together.
The artisans here all share Edlira’s profound dedication to their daily work. Thanks to a staff of twelve, the quality and precision of the work is such that all the national and local events which require traditional costumes, such as folk concerts and festivals as well as television shows and other similar productions, are mostly supplied by Edlira’s team.
At Tradita Popullore, visitors may see not only the museum space and the reproductions, but also witness the making of a traditional garment including its threading, embroidery, and loom work. The visitors may even become involved in their own personalized creations and follow the events that are organized here.
To become acquainted with Albanian dress and tradition, to purchase a nice souvenir, or even to simply enjoy a lively and informative conversation with Edlira, we strongly recommend a stop at the store-museum, a place that preserves a significant part of the country’s wonderful rich legacy and tradition.
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