Traditional Costumes on Tenerife

Mon, August 1st, 2011 - By Andrea Montgomery

Until I moved to Tenerife, the extent of my experience of traditional dress was three dolls I had as a child that gathered dust on the dressing table, and if someone was to ask me what English traditional costume looked like I would probably have said pinstriped suit with bowler hat or the Beefeater look. Come to think of it, that’s probably what I would still say.

But head to the sunshine islands and it’s a very different story. You don’t have to go shopping for those little dolls to see the costumes on Tenerife, just go to any of the frequent fiestas held around the island and you’ll find the vast majority of attendees wearing their costumes with pride. It seems to me that every man, woman and child born on Tenerife owns a traditional costume which they wear at the drop of a fiesta hat.

The costumes of the Canary Islands have evolved in different ways and while some have been modified or have had additional ornamentation added, others have preserved their original designs and even their original material. If you go to an agricultural fair such as San Abad you’ll see the farmers still wearing the traditional woollen cloak which dates back to the early 19th century, complete with its rough and scratchy collar. For them, this is not fiesta dress, this is their everyday attire to keep them warm in the high hills of the municipality.

When it comes to the purists, the islands of El Hierro and La Palma are the ones that have remained most true to their original costumes, only adding some ornamentation to 200 year old designs. Tenerife, La Gomera and Lanzarote all souped-up their costumes in the 1950s to make them more wearable and washable and Fuertaventura and Gran Canaria have moved quite a way from their original dress to arrive at the costumes they wear today.

There are literally dozens of traditional costumes in the Canaries. Not only does every island have its own but even the major municipalities on Tenerife have different ones, so there are costumes for La Orotava, Tacoronte, Icod de Los Vinos, Güímar and Chasna (what is now Vilaflor). And then there are costumes for winter and for summer, for men and for women, for fiestas and for each traditional occupation – farmer, goatherd, pastor and sailor.

But if you think it’s only old men and women who wear traditional dress, showing up at fiestas in some ridiculous outfit that should be in a museum – think again.

The Tenerife traditional costume is predominantly a rich, deep scarlet which complements the olive skin of Tinerfeños beautifully. The men wear woollen breeches, scarlet waistcoat and cummerbund, leather boots and a black fedora hat. For the girls, the scarlet embroidered waistcoat is worn over a white gypsy-style blouse and teamed with a full, woven skirt in rainbow stripes, worn over white, cotton petticoats. Invariably matched with scarlet nail varnish and lipstick and a pair of Ray-Bans for added attitude, it’s a very sexy little number.

It certainly beats those dolls on my dressing table, and a pinstriped suit or a Beefeater 🙂

To see a full range of traditional costumes, head to the Anthropological Museum in Valle de Guerra (922 54 63 00; open Tues – Sun 9am-7pm, closed Mon; entrance €3, free on Sundays)

Posted : Monday, August 1st, 2011 at 11:14 am
Category : festivals & carnivals
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