Let’s talk about a small but beautiful island country of the West Indies. Antigua and Barbuda is a three-island nation lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. This small country has a population of around 81,000 people comprising of the people of West African, British and Madeiran descent. There are small numbers of persons of Portuguese, Lebanese, and Syrian ancestry. The country had indigenous population that was extinct after the European settlers and African slaves descended upon the islands. Antigua and Barbuda was colonized by the British in 1632 and endured slavery through the years of sugar plantations. The nation received its independence from the Great Britain in 1981.
Partly volcanic and partly coral in origin, Antigua and Barbuda has deeply indented shores lined by reefs and shoals. It has developed a magnificent and individual Creole culture. The dominant religion in the country is Christianity. Today, you’ll find the people of Antigua and Barbuda in the dresses same as people of America and England. Mostly due to warm weather, informal dress code is followed by the Antiguans and Barbudans.
Traditional dress of Antigua and Barbuda is a part of the numerous cultural festivals and carnival celebrations held in the country. After the independence, the government of Antigua and Barbuda decided to declare a particular dress having a national identity. In view of this, in 1992, several designs were collected in a competition held to celebrate the eleventh Independence Day. A design made by a native artist namely Heather Doram was selected, who was also the director of culture of the country.
The dress was later declared as the national dress of Antigua and Barbuda and the same was having versions for both men and women. The dress was made with a unique fabric known as Madras that was imported to Antigua and Barbuda from India. Madras is a lightweight cotton fabric with typically patterned texture and plaid design, used primarily for summer clothing such as pants, shorts, dresses, and jackets.
The inspiration for making the traditional dress of Antigua and Barbuda was taken from the outfits usually worn by the fruit and vegetable vendors and cake makers of the country. Now on the events held on the Independence Day and on other national celebrations, the same dress is worn by the locals with pride and honor.
These traditional outfits are becoming popular in the whole Caribbean region and are admired by the tourists especially in the Antigua’s carnival. These costumes have been featured in many International and Caribbean publications and printed on post cards as a symbol of the Antiguan heritage.
It is to be remembered that there are hundreds of beaches in Antigua and Barbuda and all are open to the public. On the beaches and resorts, the clothing culture is same as on other island countries. People enjoy wearing bikinis, shorts, swimwear and other colorful beach costumes. However, it is not acceptable to wear revealing clothing or beachwear in towns or villages. It is an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing and those found wearing any military-type clothing will be arrested.
Traditional jewelry items of Antigua and Barbuda are mainly crafted out of natural found objects such as fan coral (sea fans) and recycled leather to hand-dyed and painted silk sarongs. Some other form of traditional materials like palm bracts and date palm branches are also used in making the traditional souvenirs, gifts, wall-hangings and ornaments.
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