The Panamanian pollera is considered one of the most beautiful traditional dresses in the world. It is synonymous with tradition, luxury and splendor. However, its origin is not well known, currently it is believed that it is an adaptation of the costumes used by Spaniards during colonial times. Panamanian Creole women adopted this fashion as their own. Originally women wore the pollera skirt for their daily work and to attend celebrations. Today it is used in celebrations, such as weddings and coming of age parties, as well as in regional festivities.
Polleras come in a wide variety, luxury ones, work polleras, specialty pollera skirts for mourning and even the curiously named “man-toppling” polleras. These works of art are handmade by Panamanian artisans, tailored for each client. This is an undying tradition, despite how laborious and expensive these skirts are to make.
The process to create a pollera is carried out by hand on a fine thread cloth which is drawn later. Stitching is made with an embroidery stitch that consists of completely of filling the silhouette of the drawing, which includes all the internal work that is part of the design of the skirt. Currently, the three main manufacturing techniques are: embroidered talcum powder (fabric on fabric), openwork left-handed work (made of thread) and marked. Making a skirt can take between a year to two years and several artisans participate in the crafting of it depending on their specialty.
The Panamanian Pollera
Although each province has its own version of the skirt, each with their unique characteristics, the basic structure is always preserved. The Panamanian pollera consists of a shirt and the pollerón, made of fine cotton or wool fabric, adorned with varied works, braids or lace. Under the pollerón lies the petticoat, made of linen or cotton, which is used as a kind of female underwear.
The traditional outfit isn’t complete without the beautiful tembleques that adorn the head, which allude to flowers, animals or other elements of nature. They are made of pearls, crystal beads, and nowadays even with Swarovski crystals. Before, they were made from natural flowers, and later on, so that they would last longer they were made with fish scales. They are also accompanied with tortoiseshell and gold combs. It is recommended not to use more than 15 tembleques.
Photo by: @rquirosfoto
As a final touch, there are the jewels that accompany the pollera. Traditionally 7 gold necklaces are used: the scapular, the rosary, the sling, the guachapalí, the flat chain, solitary chain and witch chain. The cost of just the necklaces can be over USD $ 7,000.00.
The footwear that go along with the pollera can be made of materials such as satin or velvet. The color of the shoes should be a perfect match to the mota and latticework of the skirt. Out of the whole set, you could say that the shoes are the most modest accessories.
For a Panamanian woman, there is no greater pride than to wear a pollera. Even if only once in a lifetime, there is no greater joy than to be able to wear such a beautiful outfit and rise to the rhythm of the tamborito drums with her pollera.