The latest fashion trends in Bolivia show that the folk outfits are gaining popularity in this country. For years, the traditional costumes of the indigenous Aymara people were something that marked them out as second-class citizens. But today, Bolivians wear these folk dresses (and modern outfits stylized under Aymara clothes) with style and pride. By the way, this is a worldwide tendency – old folk clothing traditions are back in fashion.
Cholitas on the catwalk. It's a fashion statement and a political statement in one. By taking the clothes of her ancestors and turning them into high-fashion, Bolivian designer Glenda Yanez is changing preconceptions about the traditional dress of indigenous Aymara women.
“For me, it's been very important to see the change in Bolivia. Indigenous people now feel supported and we’re able to show who we are and who we've always been”, says Glenda Yanez, fashion designer.
The chola wardrobe is a fashion distinctive to South America's second largest indigenous group – the Aymara people. The change started to happen when Bolivia's first indigenous Aymara president Evo Morales took office more than a decade ago.
For years, the traditional dress of Aymara women marked them out for treatment as second-class citizens. Now designers are taking pride in this unique form of dress and turning it into high fashion, fit for the catwalk.
Glenda Yanez says, attitudes have changed but the outfit has not. Most important is the multilayered skirt or “pollera”, with 5 petticoats.
Then, comes the shawl and the bowler hat (known here as a “borsalino”), which is several times too small.
With the newfound spending power, cholitas are importing tailor-made textiles from China.
“Now the indigenous women are going to China, and it hasn't been too difficult. They know what kinds of fabrics they need and what color combinations to buy. These connections mean they can find the kinds of fabrics and designs they need for this style of clothing”, explains Glenda Yanez.
On top of her Fashion House and workshop, Glenda Yanez has a modeling school exclusively for cholitas. For these women, their form of dress is an expression of who they are.