Guadeloupe & Martinique : the traditional Caribbean clothing

Guadeloupe & Martinique : the traditional Caribbean clothing

In the 17th and 18th centuries, as part of the triangular trade, the ships of the East India Company imported silk, embroidery, cotton, Indian, lace and madras to the West Indies.

With the code Black, in 1685, the slaves have the right to obtain cloth clothes or 7.52 m of fabrics. Many people of colors become fashion designers or tailors and invent Creole fashion. Indeed, the traditional Creole costume is the fruit of the crossbreeding of many clothing elements from Africa, Europe and Asia. For example, madras are imported from Asia; the lace petticoat comes from Brittany; the scarf of Spanish and African origin; jewelry and bright colors are inspired by Africa. Indeed, the African influence is still visible through movements such as Rastafari, where the wrapping of the ties of the head.

The traditional costume is a real symbol of freedom struggle for slaves. One of the peculiarities of the traditional dresses of the Antilles is the madras. Indeed, it is widely used in the Caribbean and the Caribbean. Originally from a famous city of India, also called Madras, the madras is a colorful fabric with tiles and stripes with a very simple texture. It is made of cotton with bright colors, whereas before they were created with banana fibers. It is transformed to create headdresses, ties, shawls, belts and bundles, but also different house materials.


Composition of the Antillean costume of Guadeloupe or Martinique.

Today, the Creole costume is still worn during major events (weddings, baptisms, etc.) and at traditional festivals (Lewoz).


  • In the French West Indies, there are 4 types of dresses:

The Grand ‘Robe: it is a colored or shiny fabric. It can be either printed cotton or silk. Many women wear it with a scarf, a petticoat and beautiful gold jewelry.
The Douillette: it is a floral cotton dress, checked or striped, with bright colors. It is a dress that is worn everyday in everyday life.
Titanium: it is a garment worn by courtesans. More specifically, they wore a lace shirt open on the chest, which showed their shoulders.
The Cotonnade: in calendered madras, it could be velvet or satin on holidays.


  • Gaul or golle Creole.

It is a wide white dress, in floating cotton, with long sleeves that women wear after ceremonies to receive their guests. It would thus be at the origin of the clothes worn under the First Empire at Malmaison.


  • The matadore (costume skirt shirt or bodice).

It is a costume worn by the freedmen, which is accompanied with a white petticoat and a skirt stitched at the waist. The women add with that a madras headdress and pretty jewels (necklaces, earrings and gold bracelets).


  • Headdresses or Headtie.

In the beginning, laws forbade frankers to wear hats. The Creole women adopted the madras headdress, square of brightly colored plaid fabric draped around her head. In the Creole costume, the madras headdress has a very important role. It represented the social status and circumstances of life. With his own language, we know if the woman who wears it is married, single, in love or provocative. As with the Nigerian freeze, the tip has a special meaning, depending on how the woman wears it. The men were thus able to understand the situation and the status of the woman by looking at the number of points on the headdress.


  • Creole jewelry.

Caribbean women wear their dresses or outfits with beautiful Creole jewels. These jewels have been part of the Creole heritage since the 17th century and are a mixture of African and European know-how and techniques.




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