Perhaps not as well covered as their northern counterparts, the South American continent is home to extremely diverse and rich cultures. They have Spanish, Indigenous and African influences due to migration patterns over the last few centuries; nevertheless, each culture puts their own spin that makes their clothing unique to others. Below are some of these interesting and rather eye-catching pieces from this region.


1. Chamanto

The chamanto is a key piece of clothing for Chilean men. Similar to a poncho in style, it is woven with a silk thread and wool, where its entire contour is finished with a ribbon edging. A key difference between ponchos and chamantos lie in their reversibility; a chamanto is fully finished on both sides.

Making a chamanto also requires great diligence due to the detail and exquisiteness involved in weaving silk and wool, alongside the intricate design sketched by the threading. Usually, chamantos feature the copihues, Chile’s national flower, blackberries, barley and wheat ears, fuchsias etc.; any flora or fauna that represents the Chilean climate. It has also particular notoriety when they were worn by all 21 leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in 2004 as the official photo.


2. Pollera

Translated as “Skirt”, this big, one-piece skirt is seen and used in many traditional festivals and folklore throughout Spanish-speaking Latin America. They can be made from a variety of materials (although cotton and wool tends to be most popular), and are often embroidered with colourful decorations with flowers and animals as common designs.

Somewhere between the 16th and 17th century, polleras, a form of Spanish colonial dress, were enforced on the indigenous population in the Andes by hacienda owners. Over the years, polleras stuck as tradition and became associated with indigenous and folkloric forms of dress.


3. Huipil

Probably the most common traditional piece you would see! It is usually worn by indigenous people in Mexico, and consists of a loose-fitting tunic made from 2-3 rectangular pieces of fabric joined together through stitching, ribbons and fabric strips. They range from traditional ones (which can be extremely elaborate) to more commercial ones where they would be made out of commercial materials.

This distinctive dress is native to the people of Mexico, and is worn from the very rich, to the very poor. They have an interesting history; they endured the Spanish colonisation, but evolved to incorporate elements from parts of Europe and other regions. It is made from cloth, usually accompanied by a backstrap loom.

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