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A pollera is a Spanish term for a big one-piece skirt used mostly in traditional festivities and folklore throughout Spanish-speaking Latin America. Polleras are made from different materials, such as cotton or wool and tend to have colorful decorations. Most of the decorations are embroidered, flowers and regional animals are among the most common designs found in polleras.
Polleras are a form of Spanish colonial dress enforced sometime between the 16th and 17th centuries on indigenous populations in the Andes by hacienda owners or hacendados. Traditional polleras come from peasant dress from southern Spanish regions, like Andalucía. Today, polleras are associated with indigenous and folkloric forms of dress.
In Spain skirt worn by women almost a century ago. They are made of wool or cotton and are very colorful. The large gathered skirt is generally white with two or three ruffles which have a floral design or embroidery. The top has several ruffles as well on the shoulders and has inlaid yarn. There is a large pompom matching the yarn in the front and back of the top. The yarn also matches several large ribbons at the waist and the slippers that go with the outfit. The clothing includes a headdress called a tembleque (or tembeleque) which is made of beads attached to a spring so that they tremble when the wearer dances.
In Panama, handmade polleras are worn during festivals or celebrations. It is the National Costume of Panama. They are mainly made of cotton and wool, and you will usually see colorful flowers as designs on the pollera. Although they do have a dominant white color. Girls and women would generally own two polleras during their life: one before age 16 and one at adulthood.
A single pollera can cost from several hundred to several thousands of dollars and take up to a year to create. The gold and pearl mosquetas and tembleques that provides a pollera are generally passed down as heirlooms through generations.
Bolivia and Peru
In Bolivia and Peru the word pollera denotes a pleated skirt very much associated with the urban mestizo and the rural indigenous classes where women usually wear this garment (nowadays also instead of the woven indigenous dresses). The urban pollera typical of the Bolivian altiplano should be made of 8 meters of cloth and it is worn with 4-5 embroidered underskirts, which gives the Cholitas (mestizo women who wear the pollera) some "round" lookings.
The skirt worn under the top pollera is called the fuste, under the fuste (in the third skirt) is typically made from wool. There are still quite a lot of women around who wear this skirt which originates from the Spanish rural dresses and for the Carnaval de Oruro or Virgen de la Candelaría festival in Peru, and other festivities. During traditional festivities women who don't usually wear it put it on for the dancing.