Attire of a warrior painted on a Moche ceramic bottle (AD 400 – 600), Peruvian central coast.

Attire of a llama herdsman modeled on a Recuay ceramic bottle (AD 200 – 600), Central Perú. MCHAP 0283.

Attire of a personage painted on a Nasca ceramic vessel (100 BP – AD 700), Peruvian sooth coast. MCHAP 0285

The importance of clothing in the Andes

Clothing was the most appreciated and prestigious object in the Andean region. No one, not even the gods, could exist without their wardrobe; an essential identity was established between a person and his attire. Men generally wore a large breechcloth and a tunic with openings at the sides for the arms and another at the center for the head. Women’s dress, however, was larger and longer than that of men. They covered their body with a large rectangular piece of cloth, which was tied at the shoulders and tightened at the waist with a belt. A woman’s outfit also included a shawl worn over the shoulders and attached at the front with a clasp.

All of the important moments in the life of a citizen were marked by the practice of giving or exchanging textiles. It was a way to designate and confirm the new status that an individual acquired, for example, on becoming an adult, marrying or dying. Clothing was also given to defeated enemies to initiate a more peaceful relationship or to seal a new political alliance. Finally, great quantities of textiles were burned or buried periodically as sacrificial offerings to the gods.

One of the basic functions of an outfit was to serve as a visual emblem or insignia, marking the wearer’s membership in a certain group. Brilliant, colorful and highly significant designs gave the observer an immediate idea as to the ethnic identity and other social and political information about the wearer.