Information on Incas

A brief on Ancient Inca Clothing
July 20, 2018 – 08:42 am
Inca Food

Clothing was an important aspect in Inca society. Just looking at the dress of a person, status of that person in that society can be readily perceived. Though their costume initially was typical of that of all the Andean and coastal peoples, afterward they excelled on it. Archaeologist collected full information on Inca clothing as in imperial days it was enforced on the conquered populations. Grave finds and paints especially on pottery vessels provide enormous information on Inca costume.

General Trends

Naturally more and warmer clothing was worn in the highlands than on the coast. In the earliest periods the inhabitants of the former region had only wool, the latter only had cotton, but at a very early time trade made both materials available everywhere. These textile fibers, wool from the highlands and cotton from the coast- especially the former- were practically state monopolies and were regularly distributed to the people. Clothing everywhere consisted of woven or knitted textiles, and these were always worn whole, never cut or tailored; they were held together by large metal pins. The garments of the common people were of rather coarse textiles.

Inca Emperor

Sapa Inca wore each cloth for only once. Afterwards the worn clothes were burnt. So you know, they need to supply lots of cloth for Sapa Inca. As you know "chosen women" were the ones who prepared clothes for Sapa Inca. So they had to remain busy on this purpose. Only the Inca could wear a headdress with his special fringe of gold and feathers. His headdress was of different kind: round his head was wreathed a turban of many colored folds, called the llautu, with a tasseled fringe, like that worn by the prince, but of a scarlet color, while two feathers of a rare and curious bird, called the coraquenque, placed upright in it, were the distinguishing insignia of royalty. His coat was covered with jewels and pieces of turquoise. Sapa Inca wore gold and jewelries on different parts of his body. He wore heavy gold shoulder pads and heavy gold bracelets and earrings. His earrings were so heavy that they pulled his earlobes down until they rested on his shoulder pads. His shoes were made of leather and fur. He wore a royal shield and a royal badge. The shield on his chest was engraved with a picture of the sun god and the badge was made of hummingbird feathers, framed with gold.

Inca Nobility

Inca nobles wore rich costume, but a bit sober than Emperor. His dress was of the finest wool of the vicuna, richly dyed, and ornamented with a profusion of gold and precious stones. Nobles also wore the llautu, with a tasseled fringe. The birds from which these feathers were obtained were found in a desert country among the mountains. Those birds were reserved for the exclusive purpose of supplying the royal head gear during those days.. Every succeeding monarch was provided with a new pair of these plumes, and his credulous subjects fondly believed that only two individuals of the species had ever existed to furnish the simple ornament for the diadem of the Incas.


Man usually wore a sleeveless tunic, generally made of a broad piece of cloth doubled and sewn together along the edges, the bottom being left open, was also worn. A large cloak, worn over the shoulders with two corners tied in front, completed the man's attire; sometimes this passed under one arm to leave the latter free for activity. Breech cloth, tunic, and cloak were all of cloth woven with colored ornamentation, the latter of course varying in quality according to the man's social position. Inca sandals were of untanned llama hide, but sandals of other materials such as braided fiber are known archaeologically from some regions. Every man used a small bag in which he carried his coca leave, amulets, and other such small personal effects.

Hair styles varied greatly from tribe to tribe, but Inca men cut their hair, leaving it short in front, medium long behind, and confined it with either the utilitarian sling or with a narrow ornamented woven band.


Woman wore a one-piece dress that combined skirt and blouse, reaching to the ankles and bound at the waist by a long, wide, woven, and ornamental sash. At the top, it reached to the neck, the upper edges fastened together over the shoulders by long pins and passing under the arms at the sides. Like all garments, this dress was a large rectangular piece of woven cloth, merely wound around the body. The analogue of the man's cloak was a large mantle, worn over the shoulders and fasted at the front with a large straight metal pin known astopo. These pins of copper, silver, or gold, have large heads of various types, sometimes in the form of animal or human figures, but most commonly ending in a large, thin, circular, or semicircular disk, the sharp edges of which could be used as a knife. The women wore sandals and head bands similar to the ones men used. Usually they wore a large piece of folded cloth on the head. They did not cut their hair but parted it in the middle and wore it hanging down the back; it was cut, however, as a sign of mourning.

Body Adornment

Inca used different type of paint on face and body. During war they used war paint. On each special and ceremonial occasions they used face painting. To mourn they used black paint. On ceremony and other occasion they used red and purple color. The practice was probably a universal one throughout the Andean area but specific information on this is not yet available. Records were found that tattooing was practiced on the coast it is still not known whether it was used in the highlands.

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