Joseph Kalu

Jamaican Traditional Clothing: 10 Unique Types

Clothing, Jamaican Traditional Clothing, Traditional Clothing

Jamaican Traditional Clothing is stylish, and bright, and keeps the wearer cool all at once. Jamaican Traditional Clothing is truly unique, modest but laidback and colorful yet calm.

Jamaica was strongly influenced by Spanish culture first and then British culture as an English colony. Jamaican Traditional Clothing is a blend of native and foreign influences. Jamaican culture is rich with beauty and history.

As with all other amazing cultures, their traditional clothing is a representation of their history and influence.

Jamaican Traditional Clothing is rife with expression, full of color, vibrancy, and the diversity of influences over centuries.

The style of Jamaican Traditional Clothing has not changed tremendously over the years. Jamaican Traditional clothing creates a fashion that is vibrant, bright, organic earthy, light, and airy.

Because of the tropical locality, Jamaican clothing is focused on comfort and ease.

Men and women alike wore organic fashions, with traditional slippers made from leaves and grass.

Jamaicans would wear “rompers,” which consisted of rubber or plastic soles and rope that tied them to their feet.

Common materials used for clothing included cotton, calico, and burlap. They would wear hats or headbands to keep their hair contained and the sun out of their faces.

These headpieces were considered more than ornaments since the traditional hairstyle for men and women included dreadlocks or tight braids

Ever wonder what traditional Jamaican clothing looks like?

Many factors have influenced the Jamaican style throughout the centuries, including British rule and the Caribbean climate.

Jamaican Traditional Clothing may lack refinement, but the simplicity of Jamaican attire and their modesty have such a great impact on the eye.

They say that even a mere rag has its own story.

Well, imagine what kind of story a traditional Jamaica costume can tell us, a story with no beginning but with such a colourful, vibrant and ever-changing ending. Jamaican Traditional Clothing has a strong bond with their past.

They didn’t mind incorporating elements belonging to other cultures called fusion, an artistic style popularised by music and theatre that has also inspired fashion designers to create unique pieces.

Jamaica doesn’t only turn heads with its music, way of being, and exotic beaches. More than once, tourists have been mesmerised by Jamaicans’ taste in clothing.

Over the top of this is worn a full-skirted dress made from bandana material, a cotton mix fabric with a red white and blue tartan-inspired check pattern. Jamaican Traditional Clothing is gauzy but well-tailored.

Most of the fabrics used to create colourful outfits, such as the quadrille dress, the Kariba suit, or the so-called Yucatan shirt, allow the skin to breathe during hot weather without compromising style.

Women’s traditional Jamaican dress consists of a long dress/skirt and blouse, headband/bandana or hat, and shoes. The dress or skirt covered most of the body and was usually ankle or calf length. Sleeves could be long or short, but the collar was always modest.

Unlike men, women’s everyday clothing was bright and colorful. As a show of wealth or on special occasions, skirts could be tiered, ruffled, or made with additional fabrics.

Women’s clothing was meant to be much more comfortable than other traditional cultures that favored appearance over comfort.

Traditionally, men would wear loose pants/trousers, a short-sleeved shirt, a belt, a hat, and shoes. It is common for men to roll their pants up while working or in extreme heat.

The everyday outfit for Jamaican men was not too colorful since it was used more for comfort and function. The belt may have been leather, fabric, or even rope.

It was also common for men to wear hats that were wide-brimmed and made of straw, for protection from the sun.

The traditional pattern for Jamaican clothing was and still is considered the red/white plaid pattern that can be seen on most festive occasions.

That wasn’t the only colors they wore, however, since the colors of the fabrics became symbolic of the Jamaican spirit.

Traditional Jamaican clothing could be both colorful and bright, or light and airy. Bright reds, greens, and yellows were used to represent the spirit of the people.

Like most other tropical cultures, the climate had a significant impact on traditional Jamaican clothing.

It is consistently warm and humid there, so the general theme of the fashion was breathability and comfort. Jamaicans needed clothing that would keep them cool and comfortable, creating fashion out of lightweight, airy linens and cotton.

Jamaica’s view on the correlation between modesty and fashion can seem slightly backward, considering the main goal of traditional clothing appeared to be comfort and breathability.

But because of the strong influence of British rule, traditional Jamaican clothing sticks to an acute sense of propriety, regardless of the heat.

Most clothing may have been made of an airy material, but the island people were fairly conservative when it came to the amount of skin that should be shown. Most people were modest and did not show much skin.

Women wore long skirts, men wore long pants, and both would wear shirts long enough to roll up. The collars on women’s blouses were high cut and never showed too much skin, and the fit of the blouse was loose and relaxed.

Occasionally, men would sport white trousers and white/pale shirts during festive times, though many celebratory costumes would include red/white plaid shirts for men and dresses for women.

Men would also wear a black coat/jacket, as well as their straw hat.

While many cultures frown on hat-wearing for special occasions, the straw hat/headdress is considered obligatory. The festive dress for women, dancers, and musicians is called a “bandana skirt” or “quadrille dress.”

The skirt is long and wide, and it is accompanied by a ruffled blouse and headband.  They can be various color patterns, but the traditional plaid pattern is seen the most. This traditional Jamaican clothing is still worn today.

Traditional Jamaican clothing gives us a glimpse into the history of the Jamaican culture, the influence of their past, and the possibilities of their future.

The national costume of Jamaica consists of a long-skirted white cotton petticoat usually with a flounce or lace trim at the hem.

Over the top of this is worn a full-skirted dress made from bandana material. Jamaican Traditional dress is a cotton mix fabric with red, white and blue tartan.

The Jamaican Traditional dress usually has a fitted bodice, square neck and short puffed sleeves. The front skirt of the dress is usually held up in front of each hip with clips or ribbons exposing the petticoat underneath.

The Jamaican Traditional dress ensemble is completed with a head tie, in the same fabric as the dress with one, two or three peaks sticking up at the back.

There are different types of  Jamaican Traditional Clothing for both men, women and children

Jamaican Traditional Clothing

Missclunis, Pixabay

1. Quadrille Dress

The quadrille dress or bandana skirt, as Jamaicans like to call it, is made out of white and red cotton plaid. Another version of the bandana skirt incorporates white and maroon plaid.

The quadrille dress is a Jamaican folk costume, worn by women during celebrations, specifically when they perform the so-called quadrille dance.

Interestingly enough, Jamaica’s not the only Caribbean country where women wear quadrille dresses.

This type of women’s clothing has also been observed in Haiti, where it’s called karabela, in St. Lucia, where it’s called a Kwadril dress, and in Dominica.

During the quadrille, women typically wear this skirt with a ruffled blouse with sleeves and a head tie.

The male dancers wear shirts and white pants made from the same material as the quadrille dress.

Some versions of this folk costume include a headscarf that resembles a turban.

2. Bush Jacket

Bush Jacket can also be called a guayabera or a Yucatan Shirt, this type of summer outfit is not a Jamaican folk costume, nevertheless found its way into the people’s wardrobes.

The Bush Jacket can be described as light summer shits, typically worn outside of the pants, with two rows of vertical lines running along the front and the back of the shirt.

Guayaberas can be made from cotton, silk or linen, and can be either long or short-sleeved.  Men typically wear this type of summer shirt to formal events, like weddings or during office hours.

Although the tuxedo is worn during a typical Jamaican wedding, in some instances, the groom could appear dressed in a white bush jacket made from linen and black trousers.

The earliest versions of the Yucatan shirt also included complex embroideries, which were later removed to simplify the outfit.

3. The Kariba Suit

One of the best choices in men’s formal attire is the so-called Kariba suit, a two-piece suit adapted for Jamaica’s tropical climate.

History reveals that the design was introduced in the early 70s by fashion designers who grew weary of having to follow European standards in style suits.

Pattern-wise, the Kariba suit is considered the formal version of the bush jacket.

Jamaican men will typically wear this type of suit without any kind of accessories such as ties.

Furthermore, given the fact that the Kariba is a two-piece suit, it’s worn with no shirt.

4. For Babies And Toddlers

Having talked about traditional clothing for men and women have a look at these Jamaican-styled baby onesies for your little one or some Jamaican flag-coloured outfits for your toddler.

The red, yellow and green colours are the emblematic colours of Jamaica, and each colour represents the unique history and culture of Jamaica.

5. The Bandana

Over many years we have come to associate Madras cloth, or bandana as it is more commonly known, with Jamaican festival celebrations.

Over time, the name ‘bandana’ became transferred to the plaid patterned Madras or Pullicat handkerchief which was worn as a head wrap by working-class females of African and Indian descent.

It was known as the ‘Madras handkerchief’ from the Indian city and province in which it was made and from which it was exported.

6. Madras

The dress, or skirt and blouse combination, was originally made of cotton fabric woven in the Madras region of India and referred to as the Madras bandana.

In Jamaica, the material is simply called bandana. It’s a Sanskrit word (bandhna) that means tying, with the same meaning in Urdu.

7. Wompers

Shoes were called rompers and made of grass and leaves. They were later made of materials that washed up on the beach. This type of foot covering was worn by men and women.

8. Calico fabric

The plaid calico fabric is handmade, produced by the locals, and very often used for folk clothing.

Many different fabrics were used to make the traditional clothes, calico was the most popular cloth, but cotton, denim, drill, burlap, and chambray were also used.

9. The Hat

The hats were traditionally woven from the dried leaves of the Silver Palm top. They provided much-needed protection from the hot sun.

10. The Maroon and White Checkered Calico  Shirt

Men usually wear white slacks with a maroon and white checkered calico shirt. Variations include black slacks, a white shirt, and the traditional two-color cotton waistcoat.

To keep cool in the scorching tropical climate, the shirt is worn untucked.

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