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April 11, 2021

Las Tapadas Limenas: The Hidden Women of Lima Who Veiled Everything But One Eye in the 19th Century

Images of people in typical local costume and vocations were among the standard offerings of any 19th century photographic studio. Many such themes are found in the cartes-de-visite produced in Peru during the 1860s, but by far the most important of these types was the tapada, the veiled one. The costume and manner of the tapada were peculiar even in Peru and were associated exclusively with Lima.

These days, society, including men and women, feel restricted by the fickle trends dictated from fashion’s elite. In Lima, however, there was a time when women felt freer, one could say, thanks to fashion and their choice to cover up. These women, who came to be known as Tapadas Limeñas, were even able to prevent a ban on their garments of choice: the saya (skirt) and manto (veil or wrap). The saya was an overskirt, worn tight at the waist and raised to show off feet and ankles. The manto was a thick veil fastened to the back of the waist; from there it was brought over the shoulders and head and drawn over the face so closely that all that was left uncovered was a small triangular space sufficient for one eye to peep through.

The Tapadas Limeñas were found exotic at that time and some men were even attracted by their mysterious appearance. As a consequence, the Church and some other laws prohibited these clothes. Still, women kept on wearing these clothes till deep in the 19th century. They believed it was ethical, but mainly because they didn’t want to give up their freedom.


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