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Traditional Andean Clothes

Updated on February 21, 2011

Traditional Quechua Dress

Traditional Dress

Traditional Quechua dress varies greatly in colour, design and style, depending on the region of Peru. In some communities they do very intricate embroidery on their skirts, and some use things like buttons, beads and flowers to adorn their hats and jackets. Embellishments on clothes and hair usually communicate one's social status in the community. Certain regions of Peru have very distinct traditional attire, and often you can tell what community or region a person is from just by the clothes they are wearing.

This lens gives you a glimpse into the many traditional Quechua costumes that are still worn daily in the Peruvian Andes.

Before there were synthetic materials available, the Quechua people would always weave their clothes from wool that was shorn from their own animals, they would colour that fiber using natural dyes made from plants, minerals and insects, and then hand-spin the wool into yarn using a puska (drop spindle). But indigenous women in the Andes tend to wear synthetics today because it is more convenient, and because they love to stand out wearing bright and intense colour, which you cannot achieve from organic dyes. They reserve their naturally dyed, organic fibers for woven products which they sell to tourists or foreign markets.

Men & Women

Women's Dress

Quechua women's dress today is rooted in traditions from pre-conquest Peru (a fusion of Inca and Huari cultures), and Spanish Colonial peasant dress (often with some modern items thrown in).

From London to New York, fashion is a personal choice. And increasingly in the high Andean villages where Threads of Peru works, we find a woman with a skirt bought from a traveling merchant that she "liked' but does not pertain to her region. However, technically, each village and region has a unique style of clothing which identifies them as such.

Increasingly, young women choose to wear modern clothing if they live in Cusco, and traditional clothing in the community.

Men's Dress

Men's traditional dress has been more eroded by Western contact than women's dress and younger Andean men now mostly wear Western-style clothing, such as sport clothing and baseball caps. Many of the elderly men wear knee-length, dark handwoven pants. In the Patacancha region, the bayeta pants a beige/white colour. Knee length pants are much more practical for working in the fields, and its common to see young men with their tracksuit pants rolled up to the knees.

Please read more below and visit ThreadsofPeru.com for more information about Traditional Andean Dress.

Lliclla

Woman's Traditional Andean Shawl

Lliclla is a Quechua word, and this item is also known as a Manta. A lliclla is a square woven cloth that covers the back and shoulders. It is secured at the front using a tupu (straight pin), a sturdy safety pin, and/or is tied.

When folded and pinned about the shoulders it acts as a small heavy shawl, which keeps the women warm in the chilly Andean air.

Llicilas are intricatly woven and colourfully decorated for festivals and other special occasions. At which time they may wear multiple Llicilas over top of each other.

Llicilas or mantas can also be used for carrying children on the woman's back. Women and men use these in the same way for carrying cargo. Some call larger mantas a k'eperina when used for this purpose.

Traditionally, wool jackets decorated in colourful patterns of buttons are worn under the Lliclla, but nowadays it is common to see women wearing sweaters or cardigans.

Quechua Woman Wearing a Lliclla

A Chumpi

Traditional Quechua Belt

A Chumpi or belt is traditionally worn by women to fasten their skirts. Chumpis are also worn by men as a means of supporting the lower back when carrying heavy loads, and to tie their pants.

Depending on the region of Peru, the size and colour of belts vary. Some are long and narrow belts which dangle down the skirt, and there are also very wide belts which are wrapped high around the waist multiple times, and in some communities it is common to layer the belts.

On Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, the women weave their soon to be husbands a belt as a wedding gift. This belt is often a "calendar" belt, which shows the months and seasons of the year.

Chumpis are also used to secure swaddled infants.

Many weavers make belts to sell at the market to tourists.

A woman and man wearing a chumpi on Taqile Island

A Jobona

Traditional Andean Jacket

Jobona is a Quechua word for a traditional wool jacket, worn by women, that is adorned with patterns of colourful buttons, and worn under the Lliclla.

The jobona comes in many different styles depending on the region or community. Even communities that are located less than a couple hours drive apart, women will wear a different

style of jacket.

Nowadays it's common to see women wearing sweaters or cardigans, which they buy at the market. Often women will then decorate these sweaters with their own beads, buttons or pins.

Traditional jobona from the community of Chinchero

Polleras

Traditional Skirt

Polleras are wide skirts, traditionally made from handwoven wool bayeta cloth (but now often machine made and purchased). Women usually wear several of these over top of one another, and on special occasions women may wear up to 10 or more of them!

Skirts are usually trimmed with a colourful band, called a puyto, which is often applied by hand to a purchased skirt. These puyto can very from a subtle, narrow band with one or two colours, to wide, multi-coloured band which covers most of the skirt. The style of polleras are often an indicator of where a women is from.

Traditional Embroidered Skirt from Chahuaytire

Chullo

Men's Traditional Hat

A Chullo is a man's woolen hat, knitted with earflaps. The technique for knitting chullos was introduced in the colonial period.

Men almost always wear a hat, but the styles vary drastically depending on the region. In some regions the hats are more elaborately decorated with buttons, beads and colourful tassels. In parts of the Sacred Valley they wear other types of hats, such as decorated felted sombreros, and more recently baseball hats.

Men traditionally knit their child's first chullo, but chullos can be knitted by either men or women, (depending on the area) using five knitting needles.

A variety of Andean men's hats

Montera

Traditional Woman's Hat

Montera is a Quechua word for a traditional hat, which varies in style depending on the region.

The sanq'apa is a woven strap which is decorated with a heavy layer of (predominantly white) beads. The number of beads generally reflects the social status of the woman.

Currently many women buy their hats in the market, but choose to decorate them in their own manner using sequins, flowers, safety bins, or bric-a-brac.

It is often possible to identify the village or region that the women come from by the type of hat she wears.

Various montera styles from the Peruvian Andes

Hojotas

Sandals

Hojotas are sandals made from recycled tires.

They are a favored footwear because they are practical for wet conditions and crossing rivers. Men, women, children, and the elders wear these shoes.

When foreigners first see the Andean people wearing these sandals, they often think that it would be better for them to wear shoes and socks, but the Andean people are very comfortable in these sandals and their feet are hardened to the cold conditions.

Sandals for sale at a market

Poncho

Men's Traditional Andean Poncho

The poncho is only worn by men. The poncho is made of two woven panels that are sewn together with a gap for the head.

Ponchos are extremely heavy, and for this reason are becoming less popular for Andean people when traveling. But they are almost always worn when attending a community meeting and on special occasions and during weddings.

Depending on the region or community, ponchos vary in design, colour, finish, shape and size. Ponchos are generally made using synthetically coloured wool because it is easier to work with, and because the intense colours, such as red, is very popular in Andean clothing. Also it is mainly the women who weave their men ponchos, and they keep their naturally dyed, hand spun wool for making marketable items.

A young Quechua Boy wearing his poncho

The Chuspa

Small Andean Bag

The chuspa is a Quechua term for a small bag used to carry coca leaves. It is usually a mens bag. Sometimes the chuspas have a separate pouch that is used for llipta, the lime ash catalyst that activates the alkaloids in coca. The chuspa pre dates Inca times.

It is also called a "medicine bag". The chuspa is a popular item for tourists and women often weave these bags to sell at the market.

Men from Taquile take Coca leaves from their chuspas

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    • profile image

      louboutin009 

      6 years ago

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    • threadsofperu profile imageAUTHOR

      threadsofperu 

      7 years ago

      @Runnn: Yes, you are right. So many native traditions are fading all over the world, and most likely in time, so too will this way of dressing. But, Threads of Peru is doing what we can to celebrate it while it is still very much alive in the Andean communities. We also understand that cultures and traditions evolve, so we are working with women weavers to sell their work, which they produce using traditional methods of hand-spinng, hand weaving and natural dying. These methods date back to before the time of the Inca, and were nearly lost with the rise of cheaper synthetic materials. As the world gets more and more interested in natural and organic products, there is an increasing market for their traditions, and therefore a reason for the people to preserve and practice them. Thanks so much for commenting!

    • profile image

      Runnn 

      7 years ago

      Soon or later, this culture is unlikely to preserve. At least this lens document something that we may not see it in future. Well done.

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