Anyone who has been to a romería on Tenerife will have marvelled at the traditional costumes that seem to be owned by just about every man, woman and child living on the island.
Being a woman, dress naturally attracts me. I enjoy browsing in the gift shop in Guia de Isora where you can buy traditional Canarian clothing handmade by skilled artisans or in many of the villages just a short distance from the coast you will find shops specialising in the cheaper mass-produced costumes to suit all pockets and worn by everyone from grandma to tiny tot. So I have been thinking about writing something on the traditional dress for quite a while and I therefore assumed that with so many costumes around it would be easy to find out exactly what each piece represented and how it evolved.
However wanting to write about it is one thing, finding information has not been as straightforward as I thought. Much to my disappointment, I have been unable to find anything specific to Tenerife despite numerous searches on Google. I do now know that each Canary island has its own traditional costume and while all are similar, there are variations and small peculiarities that make them to the well trained eye specific to their island. So while I cannot find out the history to each item of Tenerife clothing, in general terms the following are included in all the costumes on all of the islands:
White leggings (el calzónes) slightly reminiscent of underwear and white voluminous petticoats (el zagaljo) worn to the ankles.
For the girls, a jerkin or waistcoat made of wool or brocade and embroidery on the back with flower motifs is worn over the top of a blouse (la camisa) which is usually white and could be short sleeved, similar to gipsy style and trimmed with red ribbons on neck and sleeves or long sleeved.
The skirt (la falda) is made of wool rainbow stripes and worn over the top of the petticoat and leggings. It is trimmed with ribbons and drawn up at the side by coloured balls to revealing the petticoat. All the women wear aprons (el delantal) which are white with red ribbons and exquisitely embroidered and finished with lace.
A shawl often covers the shoulders this can range from a beautiful blanket to a humble scarf. The hat (el pañuelo) can be made of palm leaves or straw and worn with or without a headscarf they can also be black felt and when you get to the footwear these are either canvas shoes or black short boots with a medium heel.
The clothes tell a lot about a person, for example depending on the colour of the skirt, style of blouse or hat you would know just by looking if a woman was single or married (Well I wouldn´t but some people would!) and as you can see I have only looked at what the women wear. Men can be summed up quickly, white or black clothes and a battered old hat!
Whether it is a traditional outfit or teaching the young people how to play the timple, take part in “lucha canaria”, the traditional form of Canarian wrestling, or mastering the techniques of “Juego de Palo,” the sport of stick fighting, it is fortunate that people are busy keeping up and handing down the old crafts of the islands for future generations. Even today, after quite a while living here there are still so many strange and wonderful traditions to explore, I just hope next time finding the information is easier.