Home PageKnittingCapturing Peruvian Highlanders’ Village Dress

Jun 25

Capturing Peruvian Highlanders’ Village Dress

When the squat woman bent over, my maker’s hands and prying eyes wanted to look at each layer of her underskirt. The delicate lace and sateen-looking fabric poked out from under the top skirt of woven black wool with a simple tapestry border . But under it, every layer was different, intriguing—dazzling, really.

The multi-layering of underskirts in Peruvian Highland dress


This visual treat lasted for the duration of my visit to the weaving villages of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco in Peru. I made up reasons why the multi-layering of skirts was needed– modesty when playing soccer, a visual treat when dancing, and a possible cushion for sitting on the hard ground.

Young woman playing soccer in Patabamba

My curiosity about the influences of the daily dress was solved while looking closely at the Cusqueña paintings that are all over Cusco—in the cathedrals, shops, hawked on streets. The finest detailing of dress is captured in oil paint. This one was painted by an artist from the Cusco School.

Lady Spinning painted by an artist from the Cuzco School of oil painting

I also wondered how closely the overall costume translated into the making of the village dolls sold at the Center. So while selecting the group for ClothRoads, I couldn’t help but peel away the layers of the doll’s clothing, each time being struck by the exquisite details, the whimsy of each piece, the personality of each one.

This doll is an exquisite example of the indigenous dress from the CTTC-member village of Patabamba. Every detail is handmade from the woven manta down to the woven skirt edging. This one even has a handknitted lace underskirt and lace blouse.

Artisan-made Peruvian doll in Patabamba village dress

Recently, photographer Joe Coca visited all the CTTC communities capturing images of the Elders and the way of life for an upcoming book. Here you can see the detailing of the dress—the lace cuffs, the intricately woven manta (shawl) and the stitched jacket. Can you see how some of the similarity of the painting Woman Spinning carries through to this day? And the doll–an almost true replica.

Elder from Patabamba community spinning


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