The first thing that catches my attention in Peru is the colourful, traditional attire sported by the natives. Layered skirts, ponchos, blankets, tunics and hats in bright reds, yellows, pinks and blues, contrasting with blacks and greens. The geometric patterns and designs on them further add to the allure of the clothing.
Like the national costume of any country, Peruvian traditional attire, too, is heavily influenced by its history. The very fact that it was conquered by the Spanish Empire in the 16th century has had a significant impact on its clothing.
As it stands today, Peruvian traditional clothing is believed to be a fine blend of styles from pre-Spanish days and that of the Spanish colonial peasants.
It is also amazing to note that despite outside influences, the people of Peru have managed to save most of their traditions, as is revealed in the way they dress.
Another amazing quality of Peruvian clothing is, they are still handmade, at home. Also, they are thick and warm, to keep the chill of Andean air away. Though generally made from the wool of alpaca, they are sometimes made from the wool of sheep or llama, too.
These clothes also serve as definitive pointers to the social standing and region of the wearer.
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They also have interesting Quechua names. While lliclla is cape, chumpi is belt, jobona is jacket, montera is hat, pollera is one-piece skirt, and hojotas are sandals.
It is interesting to note that llicila, which is a square cloth that is worn over the shoulder and secured at the front with a pin, has multiple uses. They are used to carry children, and loads.
On special occasions, women wear heavily-embellished, multiple layers of llicila. Under the lliclla is worn jobona, adorned with colourful buttons.
Pollera, traditionally made from handwoven wool cloth called bayeta, are colourful, and worn in layers.
On certain special occasions, they wear up to 15 polleras in graduated layers. The trim of the skirt is lined with a handmade band called puyto, whose designs and colours depend on the occasion the skirt is worn for, and chumpi is used to fasten the skirts.
Men also wear chumpis around their waists, sometimes to fasten their pants, as also to support their lower backs while carrying heavy loads.
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The best part of the attire is the montera, the hat, whose style varies region-wise. Heavily embellished with sequins, pins, beads and flowers, these hats also serve as pointers to the region the wearer hails from.
While this serves as an introduction to women's clothing, men's clothing deserves a mention, too.
They generally wear woollen, knee-length handwoven bayeta pants with a chumpi, as also a woollen, heavily embellished waistcoat known as chaleco. The most distinctive feature of men's clothing, however, is the handwoven poncho in red. Knitted hats with ear flaps, known as chullos, also form a part of men's traditional clothing.
The importance attached to this item of clothing is such that the first chullo a child receives is the one knitted by his father. Men also wear wide-brimmed hats known as sombreros.
When it comes to footwear, both men and women wear hojotas, sandals made from recycled tyres, by themselves.