In some Maltese villages (most notably, Żabbar and Żejtun), women
wore a variant of the għonnella known as a ċulqana, which was typically
blue, decorated with white polka dots or a white floral embroidery.
In Għargħur, the għonnella was known as stamina.
But there was another type of għonnella called ċulqana , bluish in
colour with white polka dots, worn by the peasant women of Żabbar
It was dotted with small white floweret’s for Żejtun womenfolk. This was not made with the same care and finesse as the għonnella. In fact it was an outer garment worn on the head and covering three quarters of the back and sides of the body. It is said that the ċuqlana preceded the għonnella. In the 18th century the għonnella worn by rich or noble ladies was white and sometimes coloured.
The origins of the għonnella are unknown. It has been described as a "western garment, worn in an eastern fashion." Maltese historians
Ciantar and Abela were of the view that the għonnella had evolved from traditional Sicilian dress: "One cannot deny that the frequent interchange made between the Maltese and Sicilians did not influence local customs.
Sicilian influence may be discovered both in the eating habits of the
Maltese as well as in the costumes worn in Malta. The garb worn by
the Maltese women is a case in point. The women of Malta wear a
long black mantel that flows down from the head to the heels. Unlike in
dismissed as a fairy tale in a National Geographic essay about Malta (1935).
Canonical requirement (pre-Vatican Council II) that women veil their head
before entering a Catholic church. It is said that poorer country girls, who
could not afford a cloak or shawl, met the veiling requirement by placing a
spare skirt over their head, which gradually evolved into the għonnella.
Others speculate that it is a vernacular modification of the eastern veil,
in which case it likely dates back to the period of Arab rule over
Malta (869-1127 C.E.). It could also be a local variation of the Spanish
mantilla, in which case it could date back to the period of direct Spanish
rule over Malta (1283-1530 C.E.).
There are references to the għonnella in the early records of the Knights
of St. John (Order of Malta), and in eighteenth century travel books.
Louis De Boiseglin, historian of the Knights of Malta wrote as follows:
"The Maltese women are little, and have beautiful hands and feet.
They have fine black eyes, though they sometimes appear to squint,
owing to their always looking out of the same eye; half of the face
being covered with a sort of veil made of silk called Faldetta, which
they twist about very gracefully, and arrange with much elegance. The women even of the
highest rank, unlike their husbands, constantly preserve their costume; and any
one who should adopt the French fashion would make herself very
ridiculous. They are extremely fond of gold and silver ornaments,
and it is not uncommon to see even the peasants loaded with trinkets
of those metals."
intrigued by the Faldetta, describing it as follows in 1851: "Next,
tripping lightly down the steps behind, is a Maltese lady, enveloped
in her elegant black silk mantilla, a costume of which it may be said
that it renders even the ugly attractive, while the pretty become
positively irresistible: so grave, and yet so piquant, so nun-like,
and yet so coquettish, are its rustling folds, tastefully drawn
round the head, so as to throw additional expression into