Atondu by Ane AlbisuAtondu: A Proposal for the 21st Century

by Ane Albisu

In order to understand the purpose of this book, I would ask some fundamental questions: Why do we dress? What do we tend to put on and when? Every time we dress, we make a choice, depending on whether we are going to work, playing sports, going on vacation, staying at home, or other activities. On that basis, the garments and dress vary. There are also other conditions that affect our clothes: personality, body, money.

The way we dress in our society is conditioned by factors such as place, time, personality ... and fashion. In recent years, throughout the twentieth century, what has most influenced the way we dress is fashion. Today it is no longer an option, we are practically forced to dress as the market commands. There are exceptions, but generally speaking, it is true. For us, the word fashion, among other things, is associated with clothing, so that, when referring to a suit, we can say that is outdated or it is classic. Although we also have the term traditiona.

Family from Aramaio 1865Family from Aramaio (Araba). 1865.

With regard to costumes, we must say that in the case of the West of XX-XXI centuries, the use of these suits is limited particularly folk and festive activities, because it is a different from the everyday dress.
In some cultures, however, traditional costumes, unrelated to fashion, have survived for years without major changes. Sometimes wearing the whole suit, sometimes, only a portion, or arranged in a particular way. In these places, identity as a people is reflected in the suit itself, that is not only used in folkloric activities.

In this part of Europe, however, traditional costumes are used on special occasions: parties, dances and celebrations, usually associated with folkloric events.. For us, traditional dress has come to mean a dress preserved for years, that is worn in certain valleys and villages on special occasions for a dance or special event.

There are countries that are rich in this sense, and have preserved many of these suits. In our country, however, we have not kept this heritage. We have dance costumes and parties, but do not have a wide range of costumes covering all ages and different social situations.

When a person is about to do something special, he or she chooses a particular dress, likewise when it comes to showing the identity of a people. The suit takes on an expressive and symbolic value.

This choice in invoked on multiple occasions (weddings, inaugurations, sporting events ...), not only at festivals. In my opinion, is an aspect upon which we should reflect. In international ceremonies there is often a representative dressed in the traditional clothing of his country as a sign of local identity. Many others, however, either do not have that kind of costume, or reserve it for festivals or dance, because they don't deem it appropriate for ceremonial use. That is the crux of the issue.

It is here we confront a significant gap. In our case, we must recover traditional garments and modes of adornment, and regenerate tradition.

In certain places or circumstances, for example, local identity can be expressed through clothing. In cultures that have preserved their traditional dress, most of the time it includes some sort of head covering. In many cultures, as a sign of local identity, they wear a hat, turban or traditional headscarf, although the rest of their outfit consists of globalized Western clothing. After all, is in our heads, in our ideas, that our identities and personalities reside, and that why the head covering persists and is one of the few traditional elements that tend to persist. In our case, it is the txapela and to a lesser degree the tied head scarf that have been the most well preserved elements of Basque traditional dress.

Photo: Ikerfolk

The Basques use the verb jantzi (clothing) to refer also intelligent people." A person who is jantzi is a wise person. Therefore, on occasions in which we want to display our personality, our character, through our attire, we should what we deem to be the most appropriate for the situation. The pospolina, for example, or the white men's costume, although appropriate for dance, are not suitable for wedding attire or to receive an award. They are traditional, but not in these contexts.

We should then, make another observation. If the garments themselves are important, the way we make them and wear them is equally so. The materials and techniques used for the creation of these garments are aspects that require special attention.

These last two ideas are fundamental to understanding the role of ATONDU. What kind of clothing are we are talking about?

The origin of the "baserritarra" costume

In Western culture, the early twentieth century saw a drastic transition. Fashion became so prominent it became the conceptual innovation of that century. In the Basque Country, in particular, the emergence of fashion and the dominance of the cities, along with the renaissance of Basque culture, led to the creation of what we know today as the baserritarra costume, an outfit that became a symbol of the Basque people.

Farmers and fishermen in the early twentieth century retained a good deal of of our culture and traditional dress, and although similar clothing is found in many places outside of the Basque Country, the clothing worn by farmers and fishermen came to be regarded as a symbol of the essence of the Basque people. Because fo this, on certain holidays and for festivals Basque people began to dress in the manner of baserritarras, as an outward symbol of their Basque identity. Initially they found garments in the farmhouses, but when the whirlwind of fashion appeared later in the XX century, it affected these garments, and produced a great deal of change. What people once wore on a daily basis became a traditional costume.

The clothing worn by baserritarras of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had disappeared by the middle of the latter, although some traces remain. The baserritarra costume, however, continued to evolve throughout the century.


Image: Lamia

It became evident that there was a need for a model of clothing that could represent Basque identity in given situations. For many years this void was filled with the baserritarra costume. But as it evolved it lost much of its original character and in many cases became shabby (industrially produced garments with no knowledge of how they were meant to be worn, etc.) In the 1990s as a response to this need, there was a tendency to return to the original model of the rural people from the beginning of the XIX century as a pattern for clothing that could be used for different celebrations today.The last vestiges of traditional clothing that had survived until our days and inspsired the original baserritarra costume was the starting point. There was a movement to go back to the origins. This is how Atondu started.

The movement spread quickly and since original garments from the XIX century had all but disapeared, many were relying exclusively on black and white fotos choosing colors randomly, using shoddy fabrics and sewing techniques and relying on industrial production. That is how this new "fashion" of this kind of costume became so popular. This approach runs the risk of producing clothing that falls into a category that would include halloween costumes. Since our identity is being represented visually by our traditional garments, this is something we should pay very close attention to, in my opinion.

Atondu's Proposal

With all of this in mind, when we speak of proposing a model for traditional clothing or costumes that reflect our cultural identity, we should refer to reliable sources. Starting with this foundation, we re-create garments that formed part of the rural wardrobe, because we believe that by recovering lost tradition and giving it new life we are contributing to the maintenance of our traditions.

It is also important to recover some of the traditionscreated in the XX century that are on the verge of extinction. The socio-political and cultural are integrally linked and some garments we consider traditional may have taken on negative connotations. Today we are beginning the XXI century. It is up to us to adapt the elements we have available to us and use them wisely.

The ATONDU project wants to provide a solution. We believe that the priority is to create well-made garments that are appropriate to a given situation and wear them with dignity - not to create flashy, original costumes.

As you can see in my book, we began to design garments starting with a solid foundation based on the XIX century, and aiming primarily to dress elegantly. In order to carry this out, we avoid making the same outfit twice, and we use quality textiles and techniques.





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