From the very beginnings the Alka has not only been just a competition in which heroes compete and show their chivalric skills in riding and targeting the small ring. Prior to the Alka all the clothes and equipment are prepared and touched up.
The alkars and squires’ uniforms stand out in the beauty of colours, cut and ornaments. In addition, various kinds of richly decorated weapons give to the procession and the competition even more ceremonious note and significance. Long ago, alkars themselves took care of preserving, renewing and storing the clothes and equipment, but in time the Alka Knights Society has taken over the care about that and all that is kept in the Alka Knights Society collection.
The weapons from the Alka collection come from the 18th and 19th century, excepting the Turkish sabre and a shield from the end of the 17th century. The weapons were not only used for defence and attack, but also to embellish the clothes and to show the owner’s taste and the master’s technique. The techniques of manufacturing and decoration are various: casting, intarsia, chasing, filigree, niello, damascening, incrustation with corals and many-coloured stones, with brass, silver and gold applications. As the alkars and squires’ costumes differ according to their position in the tournament, so does their weapon.
Alka horses also have special equipment. The most impressive decoration is a little silver or gold plate in the middle of the frontal strap, made by embossing, with decorative fringes in the Baroque style of the 18th century. There are also decorated reins, while the saddle is covered with embroidered abaya. A detail from the front part of the squire’s uniform. In the waistband a yataghan and two firelocks can be seen.
The armour bearer has a shield on the chest. The shield is of Persian origin and comes from the end of the 17th century. According to a legend it was captured in the defence of Sinj in 1715. It is coated with red silk with stylized brass ornaments and it is precious. Today the original is kept in the museum and the armour bearer carries its copy in the Alka procession.
Front part of the squire’s ceremonial waistcoat, on which one can see silver chest plates at the upper side, usually with the embossed plant motif, and a filigree ornament. Downward there are tiny ilikes, with bigger silver rings, fixed by silver rosettes. At the sides there are bigger silver buttons which do not button up.
Alkars wear white gloves. Trousers are made of dark blue baize decorated with silver embroidery. A detail from the front part of the alkar clothes: under the long dark blue dolman there is a waistcoat, the back of which is made of white linen. There are ornaments at the chest consisting of horizontally lined thick ribbons ending with loops by the opening. The girdle is made of many-coloured silk and it wraps around the waist several times.
The squire’s yataghan hilt: it is carried in the waistband, together with small guns, i.e. with firelocks.
Yataghan, oriental weapon for cutting, 60-65cm long, with wavy bent steel blade, honed from the inside, without a cross on the hilt, the haft bent downward. The ears of the hilt are made of ivory, buffalo bone or metal, rarely of wood. It is carried in the waistband. The yataghan hilt consists of two branching ears; white yataghans are made of ivory, the black ones of buffalo’s horn or wood, and there are also those made of silver or brass.
The macebearer with a mace in the Alka procession: mace is a weapon for striking, with carved hilt and iron head divided into flanges, so that people often call it “flanged mace”.
Young girls from Sinj, in their traditional costumes, are an integral part of the Alka ceremonies: martial character of that knightly competition becomes even more prominent in opposition to these queens of the tournament. Here is a detail from the front part of a female costume, which belongs to the so called Dinara type. A distinctive part of the costume is a long shirt with richly decorated embroidery on the chest and on wide sleeves. “Ječerma”, a sleeveless jacket made of dark blue woollen cloth, extending to the knee, is worn over the shirt. Today these elegant clothes are worn only in ceremonial occasions.
A unique exemplar of women’s clothing set, made and worn on the occasion of the arrival of the Austrian Emperor and King Francis I. in Sinj in 1918, but also on the occasion of the owner’s (Lucija Brajinović’s) forthcoming wedding. Selection of materials and careful manufacturing, by which it stands apart from common folk costumes, indicate that it is the female costume of rich alkar families from Sinj, as numerous illustrations confirm. From this comes the name “alkaruša” (the Alka woman). By the cut and function of its parts and by their names, the costume still reflects traditional forms of folk costumes from which it has come out, while the expensive and luxurious materials it is made of, give it a refine urban expression of the European 19th century fashion scene.