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A blast from the past! Photos show Maltese women wearing the traditional ‘ghonella’
The ‘ghonella’ is also sometimes referred to as the ‘faldetta’.

Emma Galea

A series of photos shared by Carmelo Gauci onto the Facebook group ‘Old Photos of Malta’, show many Maltese women wearing the ghonella, a traditional piece of Maltese clothing.

Also referred to as the faldetta, the ghonella was a black women’s head dress and hooded cloak, generally made from cotton and silk.

One of the photos shows a Maltese woman wearing this beautiful garment while meeting a young Queen Elizabeth in Malta.

The other photos show other Maltese women going about their day wearing this traditional piece that is now no longer common.  

The origins of this Maltese garment are quite unclear, but many speculate that the ghonella was heavily influenced through previous and similar Sicilian garments.

Nonetheless, the are many legends surrounding this topic. One legend states that a number of women from Celano in Italy were expelled in 1224 after their husbands were massacred by Frederick II. They arrived at Malta in mourning and the ghonella was born.

Another legend states that poor Maltese girls would wear their skirts to go to church as they had to cover their head and they could not afford a shawl. Eventually this evolved into the ghonella.

The ghonella was worn by Maltese women throughout many centuries but it eventually fell out of popularity after World War II, as Malta started ushering in a more modern world.

4th April 2024


Emma Galea
Written by
Emma Galea
Emma is a Gozitan writer who loves all things related to English literature and history. When not busy studying or writing you will either find her immersed in a fictional book or at the cinema trying to watch as many films as she possibly can!

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