of Otavalo is daily wear for much of the population of the town and is
widely seen in the rest of the country as well. In many jobs
where a uniform is usually worn, such as in hotels, the
Otavaleños are permitted to wear their traditional costume
instead. It is said that if an Otavaleño ceases to
wear their traditional dress, they lose rights in the community.
dress for the Otavalo women consists of a long dark skirt with pale
underskirt, fastened with a woven belt,
and an embroidered white blouse with full,
lacy sleeves. The women also wear a cloth binding around
"skirts" are actually
two separate pieces of cloth with no tailoring at all, simply wapped
around and held in place by the belt. If you look closely you
may see tiny, detailed embroidery along the selvedge of the cloth.
The wide belts are woven in detailed and intricate
designs with traditional weaving techniques which have been used in
Otavalo for centuries.
blouses for the women of Otavalo have broad, intricately-embroidered
collars and sleeves. Traditionally all the embroidery would
be done by hand, though these days some is done by machine. A
hand-embroidered traditional blouse may take a month of work.
many strings of tiny
gold bead necklaces represent grains of maize and signify the
woman's importance in the
Otavalo community: more beads = more status. The
beads are not real
gold (at least, not since the time of the Conquistadores, who stole
huge amounts of gold to take back to Spain). These days the
apparently imported from the Czech Republic and then gold plated in
Ecuador, so are not more than about 8 or 9% gold. The red
bracelets are traditionally believed to ward off evil spirits.
men and women wear
open sandals called alpargata, made from cactus fibre,
although wellington boots are also common now. One
Otavaleña admitted that their feet can get chilly in the
traditional sandals, to the extent that elderly ladies sometimes
shuffle out in warm, sensible slippers instead.
traditional Otavalo costume of the men is white, cropped-length
trousers with a dark poncho and felt hat. They wear
their long hair braided, just as in the traditional woven pictures.
Otavaleño men also wear alpargata (cactus
fibre sandals), though these are usually white. Fewer men
women seem to wear the traditional costume, allegedly because the
keeping the white trousers immaculately clean is such a challenge that
they are usually saved for special occasions only.
best way to find out
more about this beautiful traditional costume and the people who wear
it with such pride is to see for yourself with a visit
to Otavalo and its textile market.
The Otavaleños' traditional style of
- design and symbolism of the Otavalo regional costume.