Before starting this article, I just want to fancy the beauty of the cultural diversity of the fifth largest country of the lovely planet. The country that has always inspired me a lot, its phenomenal geographical distribution, astounding flora and fauna, brilliant marine life, magnificent indigenous population and obviously the influences of the aggressive Europeans over its culture during the last millennium; and ultimately these all adjectives have transformed the country into a truly rich multiethnic and multicultural society.
You’ve rightly guessed, I am talking about Brazil, which is officially known as the Federative Republic of Brazil, “Land of the Holy Cross”. It is certainly an endless discussion to define the whole country. Let’s focus upon the subject, “the traditional dress of Brazil” which is so bright and colorful in nature. But before doing it I want to narrate its prolegomenon in few lines.
Before the European arrival on this land, the country was inhabited by different tribes who had their pure wild lifestyles. Their population was scattered in the different areas of the great Amazon, along the forests of the massive coastline of the country and in the forestry hill ranges or central plateaus. The historians have strong belief that the aboriginal Brazilians used to live with naked and topless bodies or with painted body parts usually with black or blue colors. Due to harsh and humid climate of these rainforests, they only used to wear certain ornaments and headdresses prepared with feathers and remained themselves with shaved heads and eyes with plucked eye-lashes and eye-brows.
These indigenous Brazilians, who carried on their semi-nomadic lifestyle, traditionally were dependent upon hunting, fishing and migrant agriculture and so those engagements also put marks on their clothing patterns. But still the multifariousness existed in the clothing of the divergently inhabited population of these tribes in the vast lands of the country. The Amerindians, Afro-black, Asians and other mixed races had their own distinctive civvies and the dresses were evolved during the Portuguese colonization over this country that lasted for almost three centuries.
During the sixteenth century, when the Portuguese settlers stepped into Brazil, they found the indigenous populations like stone-aged people, un-civilized and unskilled in many disciplines of lives. They tried to use them as slaves but it didn’t work as they were hard to capture and soon infected by diseases brought by the Europeans against which they had no natural immunity and they began dying in great numbers. After this, they started to import African slaves in millions of numbers for manual labour. During all this period, the ethnic population was forced to adopt the clothing of European descent but there was class-discrimination clearly reflected from the clothing.
The slaves who used to serve the merchants in their houses or businesses had different garments and the laboring class had only the necessary coverings. Without going to the further details of the Brazilian history of this era, that is filled with brutality, genocide and extermination, the Indigenous population was largely killed by the Europeans, so the aborigine culture of different ethnic groups was eliminated to larger extent.
The Afro-Brazilians maintained their own clothing traditions to some extent, especially during their folk dances. The Capoiera and Bahiana performers flourished their own typical attires. Capoeria was a warrior martial art dance and the dancers used to dress up in wide and straight-leg trousers, usually having a sash or belt around. Some dancers also used to prefer wearing headbands and necklaces.
The Bahiana dress was promoted among the Brazilian women that were the combination of European and African patterns. The Bahiana dress consisted of wide, hooped cotton shirt that swayed with the hips when the women moved or danced. The shirts included the tight bodice having no sleeves or sometimes tunic skirts as well.
Traditionally these dresses were prepared with white cotton fabrics and the women also used to wear a white turban on their heads. The other accessories were several bangles, armbands and beaded necklaces etc.
The Carmen Miranda dress was also evolved afterwards that included a skirt with a long slit showing off a leg. The women also wore a turban decorated with brilliant colored feathers, artificial fruits and flowers. Today, the dress is common in Samba dancing where the performers wear high heels and big earrings and the costumes are adorned with beads, jewels, feathers and rhinestones in the carnivals.
Gaucho and Bombachas were worn by the cowboy population that dwelled in the southern interior plateau of the country. The cow-boys promoted wide riding trousers that was mainly influenced from Spanish and Portuguese people. Gaucho horse riders traditionally used large hats and “Poncho” which is a large cloak or cape cut like a blanket with a slit in the center for the head.
Today, the Brazilians are particularly known for their beauty and how they behave in their physical appearance. The Brazilians love to wear neat, clean and sophisticated clothing.
Brazilian dresses are comfortable, vividly colored, beautifully crafted and decorated with attractive accessories. The Brazilians living in the urban areas prefer the modern clothes as the men usually wear jeans and T-shirts. The women love to dress up in short skirts and jeans. The swim-suits and beach costumes are also popular as the country has colossal range of beaches.
The traditional dress of Brazil has only become the chapter of the history or can be seen in carnivals, festive occasions, dancing competitions or national events, where the Brazilians dress up in their traditional way to exhibit their glorious heritage and enormous culture.
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