Traditional Caribbean Clothing | Caribbean and French West Indies Clothing

costumes traditionnelles des caraïbes et des antilles
Traditional Caribbean Clothing | Caribbean and French West Indies Clothing

Traditional clothing are garments representative of a region, city or country. They have their own specificities and colors. They have played an important social role since the beginning of colonization.
Within the framework of the triangular trade, the ships of the Compagnie des Indes carried embroideries, lace, silk, cotton and madras.
With the Black Code, in 1685, the slaves have the right to obtain cloth clothes or 7.52 m of fabrics. Many people of color become couturiers or tailors and invent the Creole fashion, which is the fusion between the Caribbean and European culture.
What is the Caribbean costume?

  • Coiffes or Têtes (Headdress) 

In the Creole costume, Coiffe in madras (headdress) has a very important role. It represented the social status and the circumstances of life. With arbitrary laws which forbade freedmen to wear hats. The women are full of ingenuity and create original headdresses with fabric madras, to face this frustration. Unfortunately, hats were reserved for Caucasian women.
Coiffe (Headdress) is a square of brightly colored plaid fabric that is wrapped around the head. As with the Nigerian frost, the tip has a very special meaning, depending on how the woman wears it. Men were thus able to understand the status and status of women by looking at the number of spikes on the headdress.

  • Gaule or golle creole

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

  • The matadore (Shirt or corsage skirt suit)

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

  • Different types of dresses.

In the Antilles, there are 4 types of dresses:
The Grand’ Robe : it is a colored or glossy fabric. It can be either printed cotton or silk. Many women wear it with a scarf, petticoat and magnificent gold jewelry.
The Douillette : it is a floral cotton dress, plaid or striped, with bright colors. It is a dress, which is worn daily, in the life of every day.
The Titane : It is a garment worn by the courtesans. More precisely, they wore a lace shirt open to the chest, which showed their shoulders.
The Cotonnade : in madras calendered, it could be velvet or satin on holidays.

Read also Caribbean Wedding Dresses 

  • Creole jewelry

Caribbean women wear their dresses or outfits with magnificent Creole jewels. These jewels have been part of the Creole heritage since the 17th century and are the blend of African and European know-how and techniques. 
Madras: flagship of Caribbean and French West Indies clothing.
As you will see below, the madras is a very popular material in the traditional costumes of the Caribbean and the Caribbean. Whether you are from Saint Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Dominican Republic or other corners of the Caribbean, Madras is the flagship of these different places of dreams.
But, what is madras?
Madras is a fabric originating from a famous city of India, also called Madras. Today, the name of this city is Chennai. Nowadays, the Madras is made of cotton with bright colors, while before they were created with banana fibers. So the Madras is a colorful fabric with tiles and stripes with a very simple texture. This fabric is used extensively in hats, ties, shawls, belts and bundles, but also different home materials.
Guadeloupe / Martinique

Traditional Creole patterns on display in the annual Creole Dress parade, on Creole Day, friday October 31st, 2008. photo William Farrington

Dominican Republic.

West Indies


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