Textile Society of America



Elena Phipps

Date of this Version



Textiles as Cultural Expressions: Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–27, 2008, Honolulu, Hawaii


Copyright 2008 by the author.



Garments used throughout the Southern Andes from the early Pre-Columbian era to at least the time of the Spanish arrival in the sixteenth century, traditionally were constructed of single or multiple webs of rectangular four-selvaged cloth sometimes folded and seamed, but rarely cut to shape. As a result, the drape and style of most garments retained the rigid outlines of their originally constructed rectangular format.

Sometime after the eighth century A.D., along the far south coast of Peru and northern Chile, a different garment style developed. This featured a tunic with wide, curving shoulder, tapered sides, and sometimes bulging lower edges that was woven to shape by utilizing unusual technical features. Found in the region between the southern Peruvian valley of Moquegua and down through Arica and Pica, in northern Chile, these garments are associated with the emergence of the Tiahuanaco culture from highland Bolivia that establishes a presence in the region (900 to 1100 AD). There remain many questions as to the origins of this garment type, and the relationship of these shaped tunics to Tiahuanaco culture. They are ubiquitous yet unique to the region and the Metropolitan Museum has an unusual example of the type. This article focuses on the Museum’s tunic detailing the special technical features and complex method used for it’s construction, while underscoring the extraordinary weaving traditions of the Andes (Fig. 1).