Ancient Inca Clothes

Written by deanne whitmore
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Ancient Inca Clothes
In the Incan empire, clothing was a way of distinguishing people of different social classes. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

The Incan empire existed for approximately 3,000 years and stretched over a vast area, most of which we now know as the modern state of Peru. Clothing was strictly controlled by the state and the population was only allowed to wear what was allotted to them by their social class. Usually Incans were allotted only two sets of clothing -- one for informal everyday use and one for wearing on formal occasions. Generally an Incan had to wear these sets of clothes until they were completely worn out.

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Naturally, the Incan Emperor (Sapa Inca) was dressed in the finest materials and in the most elaborate fashion. The Emperor wore a headdress wrap decorated with gold and feathers. He wore his clothing only once each time and a large group of women were employed specifically for the task of making the Emperor's clothes. He wore a coat decorated with jewellery and turquoise and on his body he wore several pieces of gold jewellery such as earrings, bracelets and gold plated shoulder pads. His shoes were specially made by the best craftsmen and usually were made of fine leathers of furs.


Most Incans wore garments made of wool in the cooler highlands or cotton in the hotter lowlands. Generally the lower down he was in social rank, the coarser the material the individual had to wear. Most woollen garments were made of alpaca or llama wool. The nobles or upper classes wore fine garments that were richly adorned with jewellery, particularly gold and precious gemstones. They wore a headdress with a tasselled fringe made with feathers of desert birds whose feathers were used exclusively for this purpose. Nobles wore sandals made from llama hide.


The common Incan man wore a sleeveless tunic made from a single piece of cloth that was un-tailored in any way and held together by pins. Over this he wore a woven cloak that was brightly dyed and fastened around the neck, sometimes leaving one arm free for ease of movement. He wore sandals made from untanned llama hide and carried a small bag for amulets, coca leaves and other small personal effects.


An Incan woman wore a dress that combined the functions of a skirt and a blouse and consisted of one piece of rectangular cloth. It reached to the ankles and was tied at the waist by an ornamental sash. The dress was tied at the shoulders by large ornately carved pins, which were also used as knives in day-to-day domestic activities. She wore sandals similar to a man's and a large piece of cloth as a headdress. Her hair was parted and braided and worn long, except when it was cut short in periods of mourning.

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