This summer while visiting Portugal, I had the pleasure of visiting the Museu do Traje in Viana do Castelo. Set in what is probably the capital of Portuguese folklore, the minho region is rich in this tradition and culture. As part of my ongoing portrait project Portuguese folklore groups generational project, Lacos que Unem, I wanted to delve into the details and significance of what all of these traditional costumes looked like and meant.
The Museu do Traje is located at 58 Praça da República, a quaint plaza in the heart of Viana do Castelo, a few steps away from its main train station. Spread across 4 floors, each floor is dedicated to a specific aspect of the varying costumes. The first floor takes you through the history of the embellished, fancy dress, festive costumes, or trajes domingueiros. Each is spectacular- in shades of black, red, blue, and green. The all black traje de Mordoma, usually worn by wealthier girls and women, will dazzle you. Made in more luxurious fabrics, beading and other details, they are topped with abundant, intricate gold necklaces and jewelry. Costumes throughout the exhibit are displayed alongside historical photographs with details outlining significance and use.
You can find out more on the history of the museum and its history here: Museu do Traje
My favorite floor explored the daily wear of the region. The costumes are so varied dependent on task, it was just amazing to see. From regular field work, to those collecting seaweed (sargaçeiros), to the croça, a cloak made of rushes that covers the body completely, all aspects of daily life and wear are covered. This part of the exhibit also featured an area dedicated to wool and linen. This explores the lifecycle of both fabrics and their importance in the constructing of these traditional costumes. From the growing and harvesting, through to the weaving and end product, you can also see traditional tools used.
Throughout the museum, there are video interviews of older generations from the region talking about what it was like to wear, create, and live in these garments. A side hall showcases embroidery techniques, and you can actually see some museum employees embroidering linen in the traditional way.
Ouro de Viana – Sala do Ouro
At the lower level you will find the Sala do Ouro. This area is dedicated to the importance of gold and jewelry making in this region of Portugal, O Ouro Popular. A prominent part of all of the trajes domingueiros and mordomas, gold pieces were often passed down to generations. You will see some ladies carrying pounds of layered necklaces, pendants, and broaches at popular folklore festivals. Ornate jewelry features baroque elements, heavy Portuguese filigrana, and enamel details. Crosses and the coracao de viana, or Vianese heart, feature prominently in traditional designs. The designs are a testament to the overall history and skill of the Portuguese jewelry-making trade. To get the full extent of the scale to which gold can be worn over these traditional costumes- you can see the Cortejo da Mordomia, which takes place during the Festas d’Agonia. The parades feature only women dressed in traditional costume.
To get the full effect of how important these cultural costumes and traditions are to this northern part of Portugal, I recommend attending perhaps the pinnacle of these, the Festas d’Agonia. Taking place in August, the festival features traditional artisans, livestock fairs, traditional marching bands and folkloric groups. But perhaps the most important part of this festa, is the desfiles, or parades showcasing different folkloric groups and attire.
You can find out more about my Portuguese-American Rancho cultural project at the link below.
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Sofia Ribeiro is a NJ Maternity photographer, NJ newborn photographer, and NJ family photographer, serving North and Central New Jersey and surrounding areas. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram & Facebook!