Algerian costume has been influenced by the Mediterranean Sea,
the Atlantic Ocean and also the Sahara Desert. The costume is
classified as follows:
- Draped costumes such as the Fouta (long striped loin cloth);
the peplos with fibula's (a kind of long robe folded on the
top and looking like a Roman toga) and the city veil.
- Sewn and closed costumes, such as shirts and tunics.
- Sewn and open costumes, such as various jackets
- Sheath costumes, such as the seroual (a kind trousers closed
in the middle but open on the side) for inside the house and
the seroual for outside.
The population of Algeria has various races: The Imazighan (a
Berber expression meaning "Free Peoples"), the Arabs, then the
Moors, the Turks, The Kouloughlis, the Jews and the Sahraouis
Berber costume consists of the glorious thebiximin, worn on
a woman's forehead. It is a round plaque decorated with pendants,
which denotes that the person wearing it, is the mother of a
boy. The dress has fringed edges and is covered with enamelled
jewels and brightly coloured patterned drapes.
In Southern Algeria women still wear a robe like a palla with
fibulas, called melehfa.
Algerian women use these costumes according to their social
status, their age, the season and also the moment of the day.
Three different slips were worn by city dwellers:
- The first one is light and supple, worn very often at night
but also used during the day during domestic work, often a long
shirt worn with a fouta, a seroual and a peplos.
- The second one, more elaborated, is worn in the afternoon
and/or in the evening (shirt, seroual, fouta and the shirt)
- The third one is covered, and used in order to go out (Shirt,
seroual for going out, jacket and veil).
Beside this classification, it is also important to mention
costumes worn by women for specific ceremonies, such as weddings,
festivals. The difference to the other costumes is related very
often to a more luxurious fabric, as well as clothes with shawls,
embroidered caps, worn by women of Algiers in order to dry their
hair in the hamman (Turkish bath). All these accessories are
not used by poor women whose costume does not consist of a seroual,
a jacket, or a veil but of only a shirt, a fouta and a woollen
cover pinned by fibulas.
Among the accessories, the head-dresses and their symbolic meaning
consist of scarves, folded in a triangle and put asymmetrically
and pieces of fabric, ribbons and various jewellery pieces.
The head-dress is the part of the costumes that reveals mostly
the social status, the personality and the imagination of the
woman wearing it. It is the head-dress that can determine the
falling of the veil and the figure of the women walking on the
However Algerian costumes found in museums date rarely earlier
than the 17th century. In the case of the city of Algiers it
is due to the events of the 19th century, after the conquest
of Algiers by French troupes in 1830 when the majority of rich
families (specially prominent citizen and merchants) left Algeria
in order to live in exile (a third of the population) which
meant that thousands of trunks full of costumes that could have
been a precious evidence, left the country, explains Leyla Belkaid.
A few costumes belonging to somebody's collection were found.
Only costumes made in strong fabrics such as velvet, brocade,
embroidered caps or shawls survived.
Aures (North East Algerian Mountains) Costume, called melehfa,
worn by a Chawiyya woman.
A Kabyle woman wearing the woollen peplum called akhella
Dress called djebba or gandoura with sleeves called kmem and
a woollen belt, hzam/mahazma, worn by a woman from Constantine.
The Tambourine girl from Algiers
A Nayliya woman from the Djebel Amour, Sahara Desert, in her
majestic outfit and head dress, with her breathtaking jewellery,
such as the mdeouar, mchraref, the famous tiara, called 'assaba
or jbin and the chentouf long necklace.
A Nayliya woman from the Saharan Atlas with her majestic head
Miniature by Mohammed Racim of two Andalusian Moorish dancing
TAFSOUT wearing a Nayli costume from an Algerian Oasis