Xhubleta, the ancient Albanian folk dress worn by women, is an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

The Albanian Xhubleta is finally in the list of world cultural items curated by UNESCO. But what is it? Xhubleta is a traditional dress with a undulating bell shape, mainly used by women and girls in Northern Albania as well as Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Montenegro, and constructed by several strips of wool. Predominantly black with colourful embroidered motifs and patterns, the crafting process of this iconic dress entails preparing the shajak (woven felt), cutting, sewing and embroidering symbolic figures.

Shpëtim Baca ©Kube Studios, 2021

Xhubleta was once used in everyday life from the age of puberty, indicating the wearer’s social and economic status. However, its use and production have been decreasing over the past decades due to socio-political and economic reasons,” the UNESCO site notes. Although no longer functional in everyday life, this traditional dress remain an important part of Albanian heritage. The traditional folk costume with a bell-shaped bottom, which has a noticeable wavy espacially on the back, is constructed from between 13 to 17 strips of wool, five pieces of felt and a series of various accessories, ornate belts, shirt, knee-high socks included. Xhubleta is made in two colors, black for married women, and white for unmarried girls.

Shpëtim Baca ©Kube Studios, 2021

Xhubleta is a unique phenomenon in the artisanal craftmanship in the highlands. One of the most interesting element of this dress is the system of symbols and patterns applied on it. Unfortunately, today, only few women in the North of Albania possess the knowledge of the entire process, and traditional family-based transmission is very rare. Nevertheless, the garment has maintained its social and spiritual significance and is still considered an integral part of Albanian identity.

©Muzeu Marubi Shkodra