Algerian Costume

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 (Desert population).

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 street.

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.

Two Nayliyat in their amazing outfit.

Amel TAFSOUT wearing a Moroccan Caftan

Amel TAFSOUT wearing an Andalusian Moorish costume

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 dress

Miniature by Mohammed Racim of two Andalusian Moorish dancing girls

TAFSOUT wearing a Nayli costume from an Algerian Oasis
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