Unraveling Cuenca Fashion

Most travelers will be struck by the vibrant and ornate traditional dress of indigenous women in and around Cuenca. While most men in the region have lost the custom of wearing a poncho, many women still wear their traditional garb with pride. The women’s skirts, called polleras, fall just below the knee and have a distinctive embroidered hem that can identify which community a woman comes from. Although fine polleras can cost hundreds of dollars, no part of an indigenous woman’s wardrobe is prized more than her paño, a beautiful fringed shawl made with a complicated pre-Columbian weaving technique known as ikat. Top that off with a straw hat, clunky metal earrings called zarcillas, and a pair of long braids, and you have a look that has withstood every fashion trend the past 100 years have had to offer, including jelly bracelets, acid-washed jeans and bell-bottoms… timeless!