During the last century, dance groups have used very different attire to dance the brokel-dantza. While the data relating to the dance list making up the brokel-dantza show a homogeneous pattern, there is less information about the costumes and what is available indicates there was a range of combinations.
An indication of what the dance clothes used in the 18th century were like is available thanks to José Maria Gandasegui’s descriptions of the guild festivities held in San Sebastian in 1732. He describes how the carpenters’ guild danced a sword dance and that the dantzaris wore hats with cockades. Maria Elena Arizmendi explained that the cockade is a rosette usually made out of various coloured ribbons, gathered or tied into arches around a point. He also said that the 16 dancers from the tailors’ guild and its leader who danced a troqueo dance wore the same uniform, i.e.: silk sashes from the right shoulder to the left armpit, baggy trousers or breeches to the knees and half skirt in the Valencia style. They were accompanied by four sergeants standing at the four corners of the group that wore the same attire: a type of fine suede waistcoat known as “coleto”, brightly coloured silk sashes and hats with feathers. The dantzaris’ wearing a short skirt over their trousers is not surprising as this costume is widely found in the folklore of many European regions and it is still used in Oñati during the Corpus festivities.
In his 1824 book, Juan Ignacio Iztueta described the attire of the espatadantzaris of that period: “well-dressed, with good shoes, stockings and shoes, and the others wearing a very white camisole and white caps on their heads".
Juan Inazio Iztuetak ere bere garaiko ezpata-dantzariek janzten zituzten arropen deskribapena egin zuen bere liburuan (1824) eta honela dio:
“The garments of the honourable Guipuzkoa ezpatadantzaris were so appropriate and exquisite that as they came out to dance they looked as if they were flying in the air like birds. They were all dressed in the same style wearing clean and popular garments, which consisted of:
Generous shirt and wide sleeves
White stockings with garters or dun ribbons that outline the shape of the handsome calves
Light, white shoes
Zaragüelles (underpants) or black long johns to the knees
And white scarves with red trimming carefully knotted around the head”
However, even though Iztueta lists these garments in his description of the espatadantzaris' costumes, he does not clarify whether the same were worn by the brokel-dantza dantzaris. Nonetheless, he places great emphasis on the fact that all the dantzaris have to dressed identically: “The 12 dantzaris have to be dressed exactly the same and their leader also has to wear the same costume". Iztueta placed great emphasis on the need for the costumes to be the same:
"Eight days before going out to dance in the square, the leader shall ensure that all the garments of the 12 dancers are brought before him and shall lay them out exactly in front of each dancer, so that none of the dancers shall appear in the square with more adornments than the others. The leader shall likewise then keep these costumes locked away until the day on which the dance is to be performed. He shall then order the dancers to get dressed in one house while he oversees the operation. When some leaders have failed to abide by this rule, serious fights have erupted and the dantzaris seriously hurt".
Iztueta was worried about the dantzaris’ custom to try and use the most elegant and conspicuous garments possible to stand out from the other. He adopted the aforementioned measures precisely to avoid these differences. Maria Elena Arizmendi points out that white hats were used by the dancers until the 18th century. As far as the headscarf is concerned, according to Arizmendi, the scarf was worn under the hat, but Iztueta considered the hat to be expensive and decided to standardise the dantzaris’ costumes with a headscarf to hold their hair in place. The txapela (beret ) spread rapidly after the Carlist wars. Yet Arizmendi claims that it was probably used prior to the wars and that given its rapid popularity thanks to the Carlists, Iztueta was likely to have seen the dantzaris dance wearing a txapela before his death around 1845.
Thanks to a document from 1858 unearthed by Iñaki Irigoien, we are able to discover what garments were worn by José Antonio Olano, leader and dance master, and the brokel-dantza dantzaris:
“N.B.: The director, Mr. José Antonio Olano, will signal the start of each part by dancing at the head of the group with a baton similar to that of the drum major. He will wear a red beret, two red cummerbunds crossed over his body, black silk breeches, bright tights and charcoal black shoes. The young men will wear white berets, red waistcoats, short white breeches, silk tights and leggings decorated with red ribbons."
The 20th-century dance groups have used various combinations of garments. We are using the following here: