Wear the pollera, the traditional dress

In Panama you will find plenty of surprises around every corner. One may be witnessing a woman wearing our traditional outfit called la pollera, a fashion legacy brought by the conquistadors. This dress, accompanied by elaborate accessories, is considered one of the most finely-sewn and beautiful costumes in the world.

The origin of this female costume was a 17th century Spanish dress consisting of two separate garments, a blouse and a long skirt. It is handsewn out of fine cloth with various types of stitching and embellished with braid-work and lace details.

It can take the expert seamstresses working in certain areas of the countryside up to two years of delicate craftsmanship to make this splendid garment.

We invite you to view our quick guide to the different types of polleras in Panama.

Basquiña (household blouse)

A white blouse worn by women to do their daily housework. It is accompanied by a single necklace, the ducktail chain, and earrings.

Zurcida Calada (openwork darning)

This pollera is handsewn on white linen cloth. Seamstresses and artisans in the town of San Jose then do openwork darning, an intricate embroidery stitch to fill in the design. 

Pollera Marcada en Cruz (cross-stitch)

This is one of the most sought-after polleras because of the delicacy of craftsmanship required to sew it. Indeed, it is the most difficult to create, since the darning and shading work are designed directly on the fabric.

Pollera Sombreada (shaded)

The Shaded Pollera, also known as Powder in Shadow, is hand-made in linen cloth, and embroidery or openwork is then done by our seamstresses in San Jose. The technique is to place two layers of fabric on top of each other, usually of a single color, to be then darned (Pollera Sombreada Calada) or embroidered (Pollera Sombreada Bordada). 

Pollera Montuna Santeña (originally from countryside in Los Santos)

The shirt may come with cross-stitching, darning, or shading in a color that matches the skirt, made out of chintz fabric.

Pollera Blanca de Lujo (elegant white dress)

This gorgeous white pollera is commonly used for traditional weddings. If you wish, they can come shaded or darned. The white one is a bit more affordable than those that come in colors.

Regional Polleras

La Pollera de Cinta o Cañita (ribboned)

This pollera is identified by the colorful ribbons that cross it horizontally, although it also has lace decorations like the rest of the elegant polleras. Although one of the most economical, it is just as beautiful of a pollera.

La Pollera de Coquito (floral Dutch Coco)

Our peasants of yesteryear used a type of cloth from Holland to make their dresses. La Pollera de Coquito tries to replicate that style by stitching or embroidering small flowers of one or various colors across the dress, both on the blouse and skirt.

Accessories

The elaborate hair adornments come in a range of styles, colors and materials, whether colored pearls, satin fabric, or fish scales. No hat is worn, only ornamental hair combs are placed on either side and in the back of the head. 

In conclusion, our national costume combines elements of dresses from different regions of Spain, that have been adapted to the climate of Panama and gradually evolved from the colonial era to today.