Bolivia avaCholita traditional outfit in Bolivia has come a long way from a dress worn by the poorest indigenous women to a respectable and costly status attire. The modern young girls turn to cholita costume more and more often and spend hundreds of dollars on authentic garments produced by the local artisans from local materials. And that’s a great example of the folk dress becoming fashionable and trendy clothing. Well done, Bolivia!


In Bolivia, there’s a specific term for a woman who wears the local traditional costume in daily life – she is called a “cholita”. Cholita is a fashion icon in Bolivia today because these people are actively reviving their folk clothing and traditional lifestyle as well. You can often see cholitas in the streets of Bolivia, walking with pride and “advertising” the dress.

Bolivian cholita costume usually consists of such pieces as a dress (or blouse and skirt), a shawl, a peculiar hat, and shoes. Each of the items has a specific design.

The skirts are very puffy, they have up to 6-8 petticoats. Also, they are colorful, with various prints, flounces, lace, etc. The length usually is from knee-length to mid-calf-length.

The blouses are cute and decorative but not too much because they are hidden under the ornate shawl most of the time. Still, they are embellished with lace, gems, embroidery, prints, etc.

The shawls are fringed (usually with very long fringe) and ornate. Several years ago, the folk cholita dress looked a little different. Women wore blouses and small, simpler shawls, but today, the shawls became large and ornate. In a way, they turned into the most important article in the outfit.

The hat is called “sombrero” by the locals but its shape is different from Mexican sombrero. It is a sort of a bowler top hat – round felt hat with high crown and comparatively narrow brims. The women wear these hats on the very top of their heads – sometimes, it seems like it will fall off any minute but it doesn’t. Often, the hats are embellished with ribbons, brooches, and other adornments.

The shoes are typically flat-soled. Though, modern variants can be diverse. They are also beautifully adorned – with beads, artificial flowers, feathers, and other elements.

Bolivian traditional attire worn by cholitas is authentically Bolivian – all the fabrics and decorations are local, handmade by the artisans. It takes a great amount of time, skill, and effort to produce these traditional garments. Of course, it can be hard for the local craftswomen to compete with cheap industrially-made clothing, often imported from the neighboring countries, but they manage somehow.

In the past, the cholita costume was worn by the poorest indigenous Bolivian women, but this tendency has changed dramatically these days. The full outfit of Bolivian cholita today may cost up to $2,000 – a really large amount of money for one of the poorest countries in Latin America. So, the cholita outfit is not that affordable. And that’s another reason for these women being so respectable and fashionable.

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