The veils of Lima

Far from the debate in Europe on the ban on the Islamic veil, Peru is once again looking for the story of the ‘tapadas’, these women from Lima who wore a long skirt and a scarf that hid their faces, first as a sign of virtue and then to better free yourself from a heavy straitjacket of social strength.

The saya, long skirt and manto, veil that envelops the upper body, inspired painters and writer-travelers and was almost considered at the beginning of the 19th century as a national outfit, a characteristic sign of Limenese society.

The ancestor of the outfit arrived in Peru in the 16th century, shortly after colonization.

It was then worn by the Spanish elite. Islamic heritage of Moorish Spain, it had “a clear objective of restoration, to protect the virtue of women, to avoid temptation”, explains Alicia del Aguila, sociologist and author of a book on “Sails and skins”.

Indigenous women and the middle class gradually took over the saya and the coat, which was a way to escape the vigilance of men, to hide the face, but also the social rank or the color of his skin.

It was a style of dress “synonymous with a freedom greater than that of the ordinary woman”, summarizes del Aguila.

Numerous until the beginning of the 19th century, the tapadas of Lima intrigued observers for a long time, until they almost disappeared in the following century. But a new trend observable throughout South America is that an increasing number of natives are turning to Islam and thus regaining the upper hand on tapadas.