The Late Twentieth and Early Twenty First Centuries

The multicultural Andes in 2004 encompasses parts of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, where nearly 30 million people speak indigenous languages. Millions more without language identity still live fundamentally Andean lives, with cultural identities reflected through widely-differing costume. Many use style flexibly, changing costume to express different aspects of the multiple identities that are their heritage.

The most elaborately-patterned handwoven Andean cloth is made in rural villages from Cuzco south through Bolivia. Each village has a distinctive costume derived from fusion of Iberian and indigenous Andean models. Many village women wear full skirts of balanced, plain-weave, woolen cloth known as bayeta, white cotton blouses and vests with machine embroidery, and felt or bayeta jackets. Village-specific felt-covered basket hats and decorated warp-faced shawls indicate identity. Some Bolivian women use a patterned straight aksu overskirt derived from the original Andean dress.

The distinctive costumes of women who leave village identity behind to live in major highland cities, use manufactured goods to declare participation in the money economy and class, rather than village identity. Knee-length pleated skirts with machine-made sweaters and blouses mimic but are not confused with rural costume. Women wear shoes and hose rolled at the knee, and cover their shoulders with machine-made shawls. High-crowned white straw hats are the most distinctive feature of the area-wide costume worn by women of commerce.

Highland men may own village-specific clothes for special occasions, but usually wear an area-wide costume to indicate class rather than village identity. Most costume elements are store bought, such as pants and shirts, although men use a poncho handmade by women in their lives. In the twentieth century throughout most of Peru and Bolivia, this poncho was walnut-dyed brown without pattern, but red ponchos with supplementary warp-woven patterns have more recently become popular with university-educated men. Brown ponchos are usually worn with a felt fedora, while red-poncho men prefer to go hatless with a neck scarf in very cold conditions.

The northern Andes of Ecuador has very different costumes, mostly made by specialists from machine-made cloth. Women wear dark wraparound skirts at the knee or below and cotton lace blouses topped with voluminous bead necklaces. Felt fedoras crown the head. Men wear shirts and pants of white cotton covered with a machinemade or handmade poncho that may be reversible or even have a collar but has little patterning. The belt that both sexes wrap around the waist may be the last remaining handwoven costume item.

The arrival of the money economy, tourism, and the information age has brought great change to traditional Andean costume. While some villages adhere to traditional productive patterns and costume norms, even rural people adopt conventional store-bought clothes as they enter the money economy. Many discover the warmth and convenience of down coats and other garments left by hikers and tourists. With even the most remote villages now within reach of television, many women abandon braided hairstyles of previous generations and adopt jogging suits and other casual dress. For thousands of years, technology of cloth production and use has been both a visible fashion statement and the primary mode of intellectual exploration. Recent changes challenge the fundamental identity of Andean people, whose culture was built on cloth.

See also America, South: History of Dress.


Adelson, Laurie and Bruce Takami. Weaving Traditions of Highland Bolivia. Los Angeles: Craft and Folk Art Museum, 1979. Excellent photos of village specific cloth and costume from Bolivia.

Guaman Poma de Ayala, Felipe. Nueva Coránica y Buen Gobierno. Paris: Université de Paris, Travaux et Mémoires de l'Institut d'Ethnologie XXIII, 1936. Over a thousand drawings of Inca life, costume, and history sent to the King of Spain in 1615.

Murra, John V. "Cloth and Its Function in the Inca State." American Anthropologist 64, no. 4 (August 1962): 710-728. A fundamental account of the expanded use of cloth by Andean society.

Paul, Anne. Paracas Ritual Attire. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990. An excellent analysis of textiles and costume found in sumptuous burials from the Paracas peninsula.

Rowe, Ann Pollard, ed. "Nazca Figurines and Costume." Textile Museum Journal 29 and 30 (1991): 93-128. An excellent reconstruction of costume in ancient Peru.

-. "Inca Weaving and Costume." Textile Museum Journal

34 and 35 (1996): 5-53. An authoritative account of what people looked like during the Inca period.

-. Costume and Identity in Highland Ecuador. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998. An excellent and comprehensive examination of the costume used in the many cultural areas of Ecuador at the end of the twentieth century.

Rowe, Ann Pollard, and John Cohen. Hidden Threads of Peru: Q'ero Textiles. London: Merrell, 2002. An exceptional view of cloth and culture in a contemporary Andean community.

Ed Franquemont

TEXTILES, BYZANTINE Constantine the Great (r. 324-337) reunified the Roman Empire as its sole ruler in 324 and promptly began the expansion of the little harbor city of Byzantium on the Bosporus, renaming it Constantinople. Replacing Rome as the imperial capital, the city reflected the emperor's new Christian faith in the central cathedral complex, while Hellenistic and Eastern schemes were used in the city's public areas. The Byzantine Empire's vast, all-Mediterranean territory was greatly reduced after Justinian (527-565). It was beset by many reverses and crises throughout the flowering of the Macedonian dynasty (867-1056) and suffered its most brutal shock during the Sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204. Throughout the period Constantinople exerted a cultural, a spiritual, and at times, a military authority on its western and eastern neighbors, an influence that was reestablished during the Palaiologan dynasty (1261-1453). Byzantine art and architecture survived the empire's fall in 1453 to the Ottoman Turks by continuing in the Eastern Orthodox heritage.

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