Alta Moda — literally ‘High Fashion’ (or ‘Haute Couture’ in
Spanish) — is a series of portraits taken by Mario Testino showing Peruvians from the high mountains
around Cusco wearing traditional Peruvian costume. Alta Moda was first exhibited at MATE – Museo Mario Testino in April 2013.
Alta Moda by Mario Testino
Testino frequently visited Cusco between 2007-2012 after discovering an archive of costumes that had been conserved at Filigranas Peruanas, one of Cusco’s largest dance associations. Worn during festivals or traditionally when there is a death in the family, these clothes are coded visual landscapes that convey messages to those who can decipher them about the wearer’s home, his or her marital status, occupation and responsibilities, through a language of symbolic images embroidered onto the garments. The photographs in Alta Moda draw inspiration from the work of Martin Chambi, one of the first indigenous Latin American photographers. Testino worked closely with the Archivo Fotógrafico Martín Chambi in Cusco to incorporate archival backdrops into his own work.
I, Traditional women’s costume, district of Acopía, province of Acomayo, Cusco, Peru 2007 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
This costume comprises of an oval shaped montera (hat), decorated with a pleated, patterned ribbon. The long, rectangular lliklla (shawl, in Quechua) is embellished with appliqué flowers on the borders. Her pollera (skirt) is machine-embroidered, using a technique called maquinasqa (machine-embroidering). Leather ojotas (sandals) are worn on the feet.
This dress is similar to the garments worn by the women of Tinta who despite belonging to a different province, actually come from neighbouring towns.
With this costume there is a flat rectangular montera (hat) made of wool, decorated with pleated, patterned ribbon sewn at the side.
The red chaqueta (jacket), black pollera (skirt) and long blue lliklla (shawl) are made of hand-woven woollen cloth and machine-embroidered with geometric designs and flowers. In their hands, they carry t’ika warakas, which are made of coloured, woollen pompoms or flowers and used as an accessory in some dances.
A rectangular, flat montera (hat), decorated on the sides with a pleated, patterned ribbon, sewn and fastened under the chin with a kakina (chin strap), made of the same fabric. The long, embroidered lliklla (shawl) covers the head and back, reaching down to the waist. The traditional qepi, tied and worn over the lliklla, is a woven cloth used to carry small children as well as tools and other objects. She also wears a richly embroidered blue cloth jacket.
The costume includes several layers of woollen, hand-woven polleras (skirts). The outer pollera, which reaches the ankles, is usually black with various bands of floral and geometric designs that are repeated on the jacket and shawl, and embroidered using the maquinasqa (machine-embroidering) technique. Ojotas (sandals) are worn on the feet.
IV, Traditional women’s costume, rural community of Chahuaytire, district of Pisac, province of Calca, Cusco, Peru 2012 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
The costume consists of a square, black cloth montera (hat), edged with orange hand-woven cloth and fastened with a kakina (chin strap), an accessory that holds the headpiece in place and complements the rest of the costume. The kakina is made up of numerous ribbons embroidered with fine designs and small sequins. The lliklla (shawl) has geometric designs and has a machine-embroidered hem.
A chaqueta (jacket) and pollera (skirt) are richly embroidered using the maquinasqa (machine-embroidering) technique.
The black velveteen montera (hat) is decorated with embroidered gold trimmings, from which woollen ribbons hang. The jacket, lliklla (shawl) and pollera (skirt) are richly adorned with embroidered ribbon appliqué and layers of fabric embroidered with flowers using the maquinasqa technique (machine-embroidering). Ojotas (sandals) are worn on the feet.
There are some similarities between the traditional dress of women in Canas and Espinar, especially in the type of montera they wear. The provinces also have some shared cultural expressions, due to their proximity.
VI, Women’s costume for the Tupay dance, province of Espinar, Cusco, Peru 2007 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
This traditional costume can be adapted for the dance using a white handkerchief. The handkerchief covers the montera (hat) and symbolises the purity of the female virgin. She also wears two llikllas (shawls) over her shoulders. The Tupay dance represents the mating of alpacas, and summons single young people during Carnival festivities.
The montera is covered by a white handkerchief from which coloured woollen ribbons called trencillas (little braids) hang.
The women wear a short jacket, llikllas and a hand-woven black woollen pollera (skirt), which is richly decorated with embroidered ribbons. The short ankle boots are made of black leather and embellished with decorative figures related to farming.
The initials of the Filigranas Peruanas association can be seen on the back of the pollera.
VII, Traditional women’s costume, province of Espinar, Cusco, Peru 2007 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
A velveteen montera (hat) with a crossed and sewn golden ribbon, decorated at the front and back with a small, red pleated fretwork, which is a detail that usually shows that the wearer is unmarried.
From the montera hang coloured woollen ribbons with small, circular mirrors embedded in cardboard stars wrapped in coloured glossy paper. When the sun’s rays are reflected in the mirrors, they are said to give out bright signals that attract men. This is known as qoylluríchiy (to decorate with stars, to shine).
The jacket, lliklla (shawl) and pollera (skirt) are profusely decorated with embroidered ribbons.
The costume consists of a flat montera from which woollen ribbons hang like thin braids and a short poncho richly decorated with pre-Columbian geometric icons, a typical pattern in these communities. White fabric, usually canvas, is worn on the arms, which represents the bird’s wings and it flies out as the dancers spin.
A richly decorated tablacasaca (long woollen coat) is worn with buttons sewn in geometrical shapes and hand woven, black woollen trousers and ojotas (sandals).
IX, Traditional women’s costume, district of Ccatcca, province of Quispicanchi, Cusco, Peru 2007 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
The dress of a Ccatcca rural woman is distinguished by between six and fifteen black polleras (skirts) of different lengths, which form tiers, and are all decorated with embroidered woollen ribbons called puytu (edging) with rhombus designs. The number of polleras is associated with the woman’s social status or wealth, as well as the occasion for which she is wearing them. More polleras are worn during festivals than in everyday life.
The montera (hat), made of black velvet and yellow woven wool, is fastened with a kakina (chin strap) made from a set of thin strips with geometric designs decorated with beads. The kakina acts as an ornament as well as holding the montera in place. Her red jacket is decorated with ribbons on the bosom and cuffs, whilst the lliklla (shawl) is woven from sheep’s wool using a traditional loom and decorated with geometric designs. Ojotas (sandals) are worn on the feet.
The flat, rectangular montera (hat) is made of wool and decorated with pleated, patterned ribbon appliqué work, sewn at the sides. The qepi (a tied shawl used for carrying objects) is worn over the lliklla (shawl) which is decorated with patterned ribbon trim; it has machine-embroidered edges (the maquinasqa technique) with flowers in the centre. It features the initials of the Filigranas Peruanas association, which can also be found on other garments in the collection.
The Q’ero are an indigenous Quechua people that live in various rural communities in the highlands of the province of Paucartambo and who due to their relatively isolated existence, have cultural expressions and appearances dating from pre-Hispanic times.
The women wear a ñañaka over their heads. This is a headdress made up of a folded cloth fastened to the hair with a tupu (metal clip), both of pre-Hispanic origin. The lliklla (shawl) is black and decorated with coloured geometric figures. The jacket is made of hand-woven red wool adorned with white buttons and coloured ribbons, and the polleras (skirts) are decorated with woollen puytus (edging) on the hem. Ojotas (sandals) are worn on the feet.
A montera (hat) decorated with ribbons is worn. The end of the kakina (chin strap hangs over the lliklla (shawl). The lliklla is bright pink and decorated with geometric figures at the edges. The jacket and pollera (skirt) are made from woollen cloth, which is richly decorated with embroidered ribbons, silks and cotton, and embroidered with floral designs.
XIII, Women´s festive dress for the Wallatas dance, rural communities of Patacancha and Willoc, district of Ollantaytambo, province of Urubamba, Cusco, Peru 2010 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
The costume consists of a montera (hat) decorated in the centre and edges with white ribbons that have small pieces of coloured ribbon sewn onto them, from which numerous red ribbons, called rayatillos, hang down. The llikllas (shawls) are richly adorned with geometric and animal symbols, in mainly in black and red tones with hints of other colours. The most elaborately decorated llikllas can be found in these communities, and they contain many of the symbols of Cusco.
The edges of the black woollen pollera (skirt) are decorated with cloth appliqué work in diamond shapes. These rural communities are renowned for their fine textiles that are predominantly woven in red and black and which are known as hauyruros, after the black and red seed that is worn as an amulet and believed to bring good luck.
XIV, Traditional women’s dress, district of Combapata, province of Canchis, Cusco, Peru 2007 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
The flat, circular montera (hat) is decorated with ribbons and fastened under the chin with a kakina (chin strap) made of patterned ribbon, the sides of which can be seen over the lliklla (shawl). The lliklla is made of blue bayetón (industrially produced woven wool), and decorated with patterned ribbons and simple machine embroidered flower designs at the corners, using the maquinasqa technique.
The jacket is made of Castilla fabric with embroidered ribbon on the bosom, elbows and cuffs. The handwoven woollen pollera (skirt) is decorated with the same patterned ribbon used for the kakina. A ribbon, called the galón or puytu (edging) is used on the hem, which is decorated with rhombus shapes. Ojotas (sandals) are worn on the feet.
XV, Mestiza women’s traditional dress, province of Paruro, Cusco, Peru 2012 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
The tupu (metal clip) is a pre-Columbian feature that continues to be used in women’s clothing today. It is used to fasten llikllas (shawls) by holding the two edges together. It can also be used to attach the unkuña (head dress) to braided hair, and as a piece of jewellery to decorate a dress and give the woman a more elegant appearance.
The woman’s hat is made of black felt decorated with black silk ribbon on the brim and the crown. The rectangular lliklla of maroon and white stripes is finished with velvet trim on two of its sides, and decorated with white embroidery using the maquinasqa technique (machine-embroidering).
The tupu used by women from Paruro is a colonial style piece, and is an allegory of nature. At its centre is a tangled design that includes a flower surrounded by birds, crowned by a peacock with its outstretched wings, whilst the lower section is made up of seven well-defined fish. Four maroon glass beads adorn the piece, the same colour that is also used in the earrings, and on the lliklla.
Her blouse, made of patterned yellow cloth, illustrates the woman’s flirtatious beauty, expressed in the lace and ribbon appliqué on the bosom.
The clothes on the left are worn by Paruro rural women. The black cloth hat is decorated with silk ribbon. Around her shoulders is a simple lliklla (shawl) of handmade woollen cloth, decorated with yellow ribbon, and ribbons with a red flower pattern and red velveteen hemming edge the contours. Under this is a jacket decorated in details of a dark coloured cloth.
The red pollera (skirt) has a patterned hem and ribbons. The contrasting coloured stitched details at the bosom, cuffs and pockets of the chaqueta (jacket) as well as at the hem of the pollera have been machine-embroidered.
The clothes on the right are worn by the rural women in Yanaoca, in Canas province. Circular montera (hat) decorated with a patterned ribbon that at the sides, a square lliklla, an orange chaqueta, a white blouse with lace details and a black pollera. The outer garments are richly decorated. The chaqueta and lliklla are decorated in a combination of patterned ribbon and embroidery using the maquinasqa technique (machine-embroidering) while the pollera is decorated only with maquinasqa machine-embroidered work. Both women wear ojotas (sandals).
This is a dance performed by the people of Paucartambo in honour of the Virgen del Carmen and Señor de Qoyllurit’i. The dance represents the nomadic muleteers of Collao in the southern Andean highlands, who travelled through the valleys with caravans of llama exchanging livestock products from the high Andean plateaus, such as charki (dried alpaca meat) and camelid fibres for agricultural products from low lands.
It is a group dance made up of about thirty men and a female character called an imilla (a young woman in Aymara) who is nevertheless played by a man, representing a shepherdess.
Rectangular monteras (hats) are worn, which are decorated with embroidery, sequins and rhinestones and images of the Virgen del Carmen and Señor de Qoyllurit’i or regional landscapes with local fauna. The men cover their heads with a wakollo, or woollen mask, and wear a white shirt, waistcoat and woollen scarf, a qepi (tied shawls used to carry objects) and a pukuchi (alpaca bag). This multiplicity of ways to carry objects is related to the fact that they are travellers. They also wear black or dark blue trousers, white woollen socks and leather shoes.
The imilla wears a white fitted blouse and a pink pollera (skirt) decorated with embroidered ribbon. The performers always carry some wool and a spindle in their hands, and make weaving gestures during the dance.
XVIII, Men’s costume for the Tupay dance, province of Espinar, Cusco, Peru 2012 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
Tupay means “meeting” in Quechua. It is a dance associated with Carnival, performed in Canas and Espinar provinces, which represents the mating of alpacas and it is thought to kindle love between the young single people who perform it. The people in these provinces, as well as in the province of Chumbivilcas, mainly work in breeding alpacas, llamas and sheep. The men usually rend their grazing animals on horseback.
The men, who symbolise the male alpaca, wear a chuku (cape), made of coloured woollen fringes that weigh around fifteen kilos and represent the animal’s fur. They also wear a montera (hat) covered in fringes and woollen tassels that falls over the chuku, completing their costume.
They wear qarawatanas (high gaiters), a leather accessory that protects the rider’s trousers, which are decorated with white leather appliqué depicting images of the festival and cattle farming.
While they dance, the men play music with a pinkuyllo, a musical instrument from the region made from a hollow cane, while the women sing songs in Quechua.
XIX, Male costume for the Carnaval de Ccatcca, district of Ccatcca, province of Quispicanchi, Cusco, Peru 2010 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
The European Carnival, a descendant of the Roman Saturnalia, was an irreverent festival that allowed the temporary breaking of social rules during a period of festivity and relaxation before Holy Week, a time for recollection. In the Andes, the Carnival fell during the rainy season, when the abundance of water led to rising levels in rivers and lakes and in which plants flowered, thus associating it with the cycle of life. The rural Carnival is therefore an invocation of fertility and a celebration of life, and a window of opportunity for young people to meet and to form partnerships.
As in other Andean Carnivals, the man represents a species of water bird. In this case it is the sargento (agelaius thilius), a bird that is associated with lakes and wetlands.
The costume consists of a montera (hat adorned with ñiwa (pampas grass) plumes from a type of cane that grows in the highlands of Cusco, worn over a multicoloured chullo (hat).
The long woollen coat, the tablacasaca, is decorated with buttons that form geometric shapes. White cloths, usually made of canvas, are worn over the arms, which symbolise the bird’s wings and flare out as the dancers spin.
A small poncho with geometric designs is worn over the shoulders, from which decorated ribbons hang, and hand-woven woollen black trousers and leather ojotas (sandals) are also worn (scroll down to see).
XX, Men’s costume for the Q’anchi de Mamuera dance, rural community of Mamuera, district of Maranganí, province of Canchis, Cusco, Peru 2010 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
The Q'anchi is a dance related to the agricultural cycle, and it pays homage to mama sara (the corn mother) and it is danced to encourage the growth of the corn crop. This ritual dance is presided over by a varayoq, the traditional elder in rural communities who uses a wooden staff decorated with metal that symbolises their authority.
The upper part of the costume consists of a long jacket of hand-woven woollen cloth decorated at the cuffs and hem, with stripes embroidered with coloured designs. The jacket is covered with two cloaks or qepi (tied shawls used to carry objects) and coloured woollen tassels called t'ika waraka (slings of flowers). They wear chuspas (small woollen bags), woven on a traditional loom and decorated with geometric designs. The black trousers are made of hand-woven woollen cloth.
The montera (hat) is worn with the brim facing upwards, decorated inside with white ribbons and on the outside with cloth stripes embroidered with coloured designs.
The model in the centre represents the varayoq and carries the staff.
The models on each side of him carry sticks, an accessory which is thrown into the air during the dance, and these sticks probably symbolise the chakitaqlla, a pre-Hispantic ploughing tool that is still in use today.
XXI, Traditional attire from the province of Chumbivilcas, Cusco, Peru 2010 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
The provinces of Chumbivilcas, Canas and Espinar,in the far south of Cusco region, have vast natural plains where cattle farming and subsistence farming are the main economic activity. Bullfighting and horse racing are the preferred cultural pastimes.
In this part of the country, the woollen cloth used in clothing is typically decorated with designs of corn sheaves, as can be seen on the sleeves and on part of the body of the women’s jacket and the man’s trousers.
Both the male and female costumes feature images which allude to the festive personality of the Chumbivilcanos.
The woman’s costume includes a felt hat decorated with patterned ribbon using the maquinasqa (machine-embroidering) technique. The lliklla (shawl) is tied around her back in the style of the qepi.
The design of her jacket and pollera (skirt) consists of overlapping layers in grey tones and red and black woollen cloth. The black leather boots are appliquéd with white leather.
The man’s costume includes a felt hat, a woollen shawl decorated with embroidery and a white cotton shirt. His waistcoat and trousers are made of hand-woven woollen cloth. He wears a qarawatana, which is a leather accessory used to protect the horseman’s trousers. On his upper body he wears the typical qorilazo (golden lasso), the liwi (lasso) and the red poncho.
This is a typical dance in various festivals in the districts of San Jerónimo, San Sebastián and Saylla in Cusco, and it is also part of the festival of the Virgen del Carmen, in Paucartambo. This dance pays homage to qoya, a highly respected mestizo woman, and shows her beauty and gentleness. It is one of the few Andean dances in which a woman is the main character and in which the structure of the dance is a tribute to her.
Circular montera (hat) decorated with rhinestones on its brim. The wire mesh mask is painted with the features of a beautiful woman. Fitted silk blouse and lliklla (shawl), a silk pollera (skirt) adorned with green silk ribbons with maroon edging and urban footwear.
XXIII, Majeño dance costume, Paucartambo district and province, Cusco, Peru 2010 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
The dance represents the muleteers of the Majes valley in the Arequipa region, who travelled with their mules transporting aguardiente (liquor) and other products to barter with the merchants in the other towns in Cusco. The dance portrays them as somewhat overwhelming characters, who are often a little drunk from drinking the liquor they carried. The main character in the dance, the caporal, wears the mask with the most prominent nose and is accompanied by a woman, the only female character, who represents the mestiza from Cusco.
This dance is very common in the towns and cities of Cusco, although it originated as part of the festival of the Virgen del Carmen in Paucartambo.
The male clothing is reminiscent of that of an old landowner: a straw hat, leather jacket and riding trousers worn with a belt that also supports his back during journeys on horseback or mule, and sturdy leather shoes. The woman dresses in the style of the Cusco mestizo: a silk blouse decorated with lace, a silk pollera (skirt) and a uniquely embroidered Manila shawl with long tassels. She wears leather ankle boots.
XXIV, Caporal (dance leader) of the Auqa chileno dance and his lady, province of Paucartambo, Cusco, Peru 2012 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
This dance appeared after the war between Peru and Chile (1879–1883). It is a satire of the occupation of Peru by Chile, and the oppression of its people by Chilean soldiers and officials under the leadership of a machu (old man).
“Auqa” is the Quechua word for “enemy", and thus the name of dance is “Chilean enemy". This dance takes place in Paucartambo, during the festival of the Virgen del Carmen, as well as in various other provinces of Cusco during other patron saint’s festivities.
The machu wears a black top hat and a mask with a grotesque nose, together with a black waistcoat and a coat with high relief black embroidery, black trousers and shoes. It is an outfit that is sombrely elegant.
He carries a book in his left hand — a symbol of the law — and a whip in his right hand, to punish anyone who acts against him.
A young and whimsical mestizo girl — a symbol of his dominance — accompanies him; he holds her arm to show that he owns her and to stop anyone else from courting her.
The girl is dressed as a typical mestiza from Cusco, wearing a straw hat painted white with a green ribbon, a white fitted blouse, and a pleated silk skirt decorated with yellow ribbons edged with green velvet. A Manila shawl over her shoulders, and leather ankle boots with white appliqué (scroll down to see).
XXV, Qhapaq negro dance (powerful black, in Quechua), province of Paucartambo, Cusco, Peru 2010 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
This dance is a testimony from the perspective of the Andean man of suffering of the black slaves who worked in the haciendas (ranches) in the Paucartambo jungle during the colonial Viceroyship and the Republican period until 1854. According to the collective memory of the dancers, a group of slaves escaped from the hacienda to pay homage to the Virgen del Carmen during her festival; their punishment for this was to be chained to the platform of the Virgin.
The dance conveys this legend and it also fulfils a contemporary social and aesthetic function, as it is one of the most eloquent expressions of devotion to the Virgen del Carmen and the cultural identity of the people of Paucartambo.
The guiador, a character who represents the foreman and leads the dance, wears a red silk robe and hat with gold details, reminiscent of a nightgown that was stolen from the landowner to be worn to the festival. He carries a rattle in his hands, with which it is said that he set the peace of work, and which now accompanies the rhythm of the dance.
He is surrounded by mayorales — lead partners — who wear white silk shirts, wide trousers — which would have been worn by the slaves in the legend, over which they wear silk Manila shawls. They wear a maiki (hand, in Quechua) tied around the waist, and carry a carved wooden truncheon that symbolises their rebellious spirit to servitude, which they brandish to the rhythm of the music.
The masks express the hardship of a long day working in the open air, and the chain that hangs from waist to ankle represents their slavery The chest panel allows them to wear an image of the Virgin close to their heart, and it is for this reason that it is one of the items of the costume that is most highly valued by the Qhapaq negro.
XXVI, Female character China saqra of the Saqra (devil, in Quechua) dance, province of Paucartambo, Cusco, Peru 2010 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
The saqras represent devils and during the processions in the Virgen del Carmen festival, effigies of saqras are placed on balconies and rooftops to tempt the Virgin as she passes, in a kind of popular staging of the tension between good and evil. The dance is composed of men, with only one female character who is the china saqra.
The female character is dressed in a silk costume that is similar to the Cusco mestiza. It consists of a full skirt and very colourful silk blouse decorated with rhinestones and embroidered with spiders.
She covers her face with a papier-mâché mask, and wears filigree earrings and a colourful, dishevelled wig with horns.
Her gloves have long nails, and in her right hand she carries a well-known object, a garabato, which she uses as a part of the dance.
XXVII, A group from the Mestiza Qoyacha dance, San Jerónimo, San Sebastián and Saylla districts, province of Cusco, Cusco, Peru 2010 (Apr-13) by Mario TestinoMATE — Museo Mario Testino
The machu (old man) is a satirical depiction of a character from the dominant elite, and accompanies the other male characters in the dance. The machu is also present in other dances from Cusco such as the Contradanza and the Anqa chileno.
The clothing of the machu shows the late colonial origin of the dance by the use of various garments from the fashion of the eighteenth century. The character dresses in livery — a long jacket made of blue velvet with floral decorations in raised embroidery — which princes and masters gave to their servants. The maroon velvet trousers are also embroidered. His shoes are decorated with silk roses with bells at their centre. Under his hat, which is is finely decorated with rhinestones and small masks, he has a braid of grey hair, made of cabuya or maguey (agave plants).
The mask, made of plaster and glue, with its bulging and grotesque nose, gives character to the machu.
The clothing worn by the characters that surround the machu is simpler than his although it is also in the fashion of the eighteenth century. His wire mesh mask is painted to resemble a Spaniard.
MATE — Museo Mario Testino
MATE – Museo Mario Testino is a not-for-profit centre established to contribute to Peru through the cultivation and promotion of culture and heritage. Founded by Mario Testino in 2012, MATE (pronounced mAH-teh) aims to bring Peruvian artists and culture to worldwide attention, while offering the best of international contemporary art and photography to audiences in Lima.
Photography © Mario Testino.
Texts by Soledad Mujica and Fedora Martinez.
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