Guadeloupe Archipelago has a multi-faceted identity which blends Caribbean, European, Indian, African, and Oriental influences. The mix of culture is noticeable in various aspects such as the food, music and dance but also our traditional costumes. Nowadays, traditional costumes are worn for special celebrations including family gatherings: wedding, christening…etc but also during general public events. The colourful and joyful costumes as well as the accessories testify that women in the archipelago have always been mindful of their appearance and clothing. The hot and sunny weather also plays a big part when it comes to creativity and inspiration. Today blog post will help you have a better understanding of the traditional costume that most women in the Archipelago are proudly wearing.
As I mentioned earlier, the Creole costume is the result of a mix of various culture. For instance, the fabric madras is from India, the lace petticoat is from Brittany and the accessories and vivid colours are from Africa. The Creole costume represents the story of the Archipelago. Let’s take a closer look to the multiple attires and accessories:
- La Gaule créole: Simple white cotton or percale gathered dress, with long or ¾ length sleeves. Generally, women were wearing this dress after ceremonies to welcome friends and family while keeping their jewelleries and madras headscarf around their waist.
- La Matadore: White off-the-shoulder Broderie Anglaise blouse for the top and for the bottom a piqué madras skirt with a white lacy petticoat underneath. This outfit comes with a shoulder-scarf and a madras coiffe*(explanation bellow)
- La Robe à Corps: This dress comes in two varieties:
– The everyday one which is made with a madras print cotton fabric
– The one for special events which is made with a velvet or satin fabric
The traditional Robe à Corps is completed with a small satin cloak on the shoulders, a petticoat and accessories.
- La robe Ti Collet: Simple floral print cotton dress with vivid colours. Women wear this dress with a headscarf around their waist but no petticoat as it is an everyday dress.
Jewellery and accessories
- Les Coiffes or Têtes are an important aspect of the traditional Creole Costume. During the Colonial period, emancipated slaves women were not allowed to have any kind of hat. This is when la Coiffe/Tête has been an alternative accessory emphasising the beauty of the Creole costume. La Coiffe/Tête is made with a starched piece of madras fabric and then, there are different ways to tie it, various styles of “Tête marrée” including: Tête casserole, Tête créole or Tête plombière. La Coiffe/Tête was also an excellent indicator about the love status of the woman who wore it. La Coiffe/Tête with one point identified a single woman, with two points a woman already in love, three points a married woman and four points an open-minded married woman.
- Jewellery is an essential part of the overall Creole Costume. In fact, it is also the result of multiple cultural influences. The jewellery engraving comes from Europe while the various gold shades are from Africa as well as the method used to work with the raw metal. In addition to that, the Fauna and Flora of Guadeloupe Archipelago are a good source of inspiration for goldsmiths. Here are few names of famous necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Necklaces: Collier chou, grain d’or, forçat/ Earrings: Zanneaux chenille, créoles, tété-négresse, pomme-cannelle/ Bracelets: Joncs, semainiers.
Today, the Creole costume is all about modernity. Although original traditional costumes are still fashionable, there are lots of variations with madras fabric matching all kind of special events for everyone from babies to adults.