In Peru’s rural areas, the way people dress makes an important distinction, as a result of the blend of pre-Hispanic influences with the European clothing that the natives were forced to wear during the colonial era.
The traditional Inca anacu was transformed by the local women into the brightly-colored and multi-layered petticoats known as polleras. Depending on the region, a black skirt is decorated with a belt which can come in a variety of colors and is decorated with flowers in the northern Piura highlands or a brightly-hued woolen lliclla in Chiclayo, further south.
In the highlands above Lima, the skirt is decorated with red and black embroidered edging, while in Junín, as in Cajamarca and Cuzco, women no longer use black skirts. Underneath their skirts, the women use layers of petticoats made from cotton which can be embroidered with gold and silver threads, featuring superbly-crafted drawings along the edge.
The Peruvian poncho dates back to the seventeenth century and apparently is a variation on the unku used by men at the time. The heavy ponchos used in Cajamarca keep out the rain and are as long as those used in Puno, where they are died scarlet during festivals. In Cuzco, ponchos are short and feature elaborate geometric figures against a red background.
On the coast, ponchos were used by the plantation workers, and they were spun from cotton or vicuña fiber. In the jungle, both men and women from some tribes wear the cushma, a loose tunic stitched up on both sides and embellished with dyes and geometric figures typical of the region.
Traditional dress tends to be capped off by woolen or straw hats, sometimes in various colors. But in the coldest reaches of the Andes, the highlanders tend to wear the chullo, a woolen cap fitted with earflap decorated with geometric motifs.
Regional dances require different forms of dress, depending on the area. Along the coast, exponents of the marinera dance replaces cotton with silk for their embroidered skirts. In the Andes, meanwhile, the danzantes de tijeras or scissors dancers decorate their fine outfits with small mirrors and embroider an image of their guardian deity on their backs.