Artefact of the Month

Sárköz girl’s “horned headdress”

May, 2016


The párta was a highly decorated Hungarian girl’s headdress worn as a symbol of maidenhood and girlish innocence.  Positioned about the forehead so as to leave the hair visible, this article of headwear was the crowning feature of the unmarried girl’s festival attire.  Originally the province of the upper echelons of society, from the turn of the 14th century onward, the párta found increasing use among the common classes, its heyday lasting from around the 15th to the 18th century.  Following this period, its significance declined rapidly until by the 19th century, use of the párta was limited to a mere handful of locations, one being the region of Sárköz in Tolna County, where it still formed part of the festival attire of the girls of Decs, Sárpilis, Alsónyék, and Öcsény.

In Sárköz, locals referred to this particular type as a “horned” [tülök], “high” [magas], or “tipped” [csücsök] párta, its unusual form and mode of decoration granting it a special place among pieces surviving from the 19th century.  Falling outside the category of relatively thin, uniformly wide ribbon or ring headdresses, the tülökpárta featured a flared form about a hand’s breadth wide at the middle.  The backbone of the piece was fashioned of a bent whip or wire, while its body was stiffened with tree bast and layers of glued paper and homespun cloth, so that the bulk of the stuffing fell to the middle.  Given the thickness of its base material, the tülökpárta may be seen as a late descendent of a type of headwear that had been popular in the late Middle Ages, but that gradually disappeared during the modern age.  The crescent-shaped tülökpárta seen here adorned only the forehead, being secured above the nape of the neck using the cloth-covered wooden whip or wire that gave it its form, the ribbons that were attached to this frame, and a number of hair pins.  The surface of the párta is covered inside and out with scarlet cotton cloth, over which a row of “horns” or “tips,” each formed of a nested pair of sectioned cones made of cloth and paper, have been stitched.  The number of “horns” depended on the age of the wearer:  girls who had already reached adulthood wore headdresses with seven horns, while younger girls sported only three or five.  Most often, “the top and bottom edges of the párta were decorated in a row of appliqué spirals formed of silver and gold braid (passement), each with an islang, or tiny, shining metal plate placed at its centre.  The spaces between the “horns” were filled with densely executed roses and tulips made of silver and gold thread wound in the manner of a spring, a material known as fóris.”  The surface was additionally ornamented with flowers of scarlet silk.  The “horns” were “completely covered in wound silver or gold thread,” with a “large red, green, or blue rhinestone-headed pin stuck into each peak.”  Though extant specimens include a few with beaded surfaces, the metallic spirals that define the majority may be seen as an element of considerable antiquity.

The tülökpárta was the crowning jewel of the Hungarian girl’s festival costume, its use on ordinary days being restricted to the custom of “guarding the grapes,” whereby, as the fruit was ripening on the vine, girls would gather into groups and parade up the hillside in festival dress, shooing the birds with ratchets as they went.  During this period, they spent the days in farmers’ cellars and evenings dancing and getting acquainted with the local lads.

During the 1880s, use of the tülökpárta in Sárköz began to fade.  New ones were no longer made and old ones were rapidly discarded, though for a time, those that had been laid aside and preserved were still borrowed by others for use in weddings.  The last bride to wear a párta spoke her vows in 1887.  The primary reason for the párta’s decline was rooted in economics:  following the flood control measures of the 18th century that rendered the farmers of Sárköz suddenly wealthy, the tastes of wives and daughters began to adapt to those of the nation in general, which favoured a circlet of silk flowers as the best headwear for girls.  The change was further promoted by the Reformed church, which viewed the traditional headdress as inappropriately ostentatious.

Known as the bársony or simply párta, the headdress to replace the tülökpárta consisted of three parts, each a variant on one of the styles of headpiece worn by unmarried girls of the day.  The homlokbársony, which framed the face, resembled the homlokkötő, a headband that could be worn independently.  Behind this lay the középbársony, a modernised variant of the circlet of flowers, which was similar to, but more modest than the ring párta.  Crowning the composition was the nagybársony or nagypárta, an indispensable piece of festival wear consisting of an array of artificial flowers, whose form resembled the diadem-style headdresses worn as Hungarian national wear by the nobility of the 1860s.


“Horned” headdress, tülökpárta
Decs, Sárköz, late 19th century
Collected by János Jankó in 1900
NM inv. no.: 31457

Girl in festival dress wearing a new-style headdress
Sárköz, 1910s
Collected by László Madarassy from the Borgula Photographic Studio in 1921
NM F 35801