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The Pollera

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Last update: December, 2009

Panama is famous for its birds and in the bird world it is the male of the species who sports the brightest plumage, not so in the world of humans. Here the Panamanian womenfolk dazzle while the men fade into the background.

If there were to be an international competition for national costumes, the Pollera, Panama's female costume, would surely win for its sheer beauty and grace. It has to be the most flattering garment ever devised and Panamanians are rightly proud of it. The formal version consists of a full skirt with two or three ruffles, each one embroidered or appliquéd in a floral design. The skirt is always white and only one other color is used to embroider it. It is worn over many petticoats. The matching top has one or two embroidered ruffles with colored yarn woven around the neckline and a pompom of the same color at the front. Ribbons of matching colors adorn the waistline and it is worn with soft slippers which also match. The hair is worn up and ornamented with tembleques ( hair ornaments of gold wire and beads) Gold chains hang from the neck and gold and pearl rosettes known as mosquetas hang from the ears or are used as pins.

The pollera montuna ( a pollera for every-day wear) is much less spectacular, a full cotton skirt of floral design worn with a fitted white lace blouse.

In comparison the men's costume is very dull. For formal wear they use black pants and a long-sleeved white shirt (camisilla) with gold buttons. A fine straw hat with a black striped design called a pintado and black and white soft shoes complete the outfit and across the breast is worn a coin purse called a chacara. For every-day wear they use brown, mid-calf pants, a long-sleeved calico shirt with or without embroidery, a regular straw hat called a junco and a pair of leather sandals called cutarras.

Related Links

Art & Culture section in Focus Panama
Panama's History section in Focus Panama
Panama's Carnival section in Focus Panama
Panamanian Food section in Focus Panama


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