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The Andean Tunic, 400 BCE–1800 CE

March 7–October 16, 2011

Colonial Period

In the 1530s, Spanish colonial rule began in Peru with the imprisonment of the ruling Inka emperor and the incorporation of his realm into a new, European order in the Andes. The tunic continued to be made, valued, and worn, particularly by members of the Inka elite and their descendents, and it retained much the same shape, while its elaborations incorporated not only Inka symbolic motifs but also European ones. As a concession to Europeanized fashion in some examples, the tunic's sides were left open at the bottom to accommodate the wearing of trousers. Descendents of the Inka imperial family retained their noble position in society and had the right to wear such tunics on special occasions, most often for church festivals. Persons clothed in garments of a heroic pre-Hispanic time and representing Inka identities became worrisome to both church fathers and colonial administrators in the 1780s, and the wearing of such garments, particularly tunics, was prohibited.