Folklore is the folk traditions, legends or sets of beliefs of a country or region expressed in dances, proverbs, tales, or songs. It is the set of traditions and popular manifestations that are passed on from generation to generation.

The word comes from English, where "folklore" means popular wisdom. The word means popular wisdow and refers, more specifically, to knowledge acquire by lore (wisdom or people).

In fact, folklore is the product of a country's culture, and each country has unique elements of folklore.

To ensure that all cultures are respected and safeguard, there are organizations, such as UNESCO which an international organization that tries to safeguard cultural heritage and make people aware of the importance of folkloric heritage and the need to preserve popular culture.

First of all, these dress forms are not always popular, in the sense had to be used by the lower layers of the population. It seems, by tan to, that the regional classification is the most appropriate, because it looks at the costume as one of the elements that make up a culture connected to a space, and which reflects a mentality and a tradition.

However, it should be noted that this type of clothing is used in two essential segments of life in society: daily life and special moments or days, which form part of a socially inclusive activity, and which is generally called a feast. The feast dominates, contributes, and exalts feelings of various orders that gather an entire community to express themselves in a unique and often original way. When analyzing the regional costume, it is necessary to recognize that this is a fundamental element of distinction in the set of items that make up the meaning of the feast, in order to better understand this special outfit and, later, to take into account the way of dress of daily life, free from excess and ornamental burdens.

Thus, and in order to interpret the traditional costumes, the importance of the festival as an agglutinative event in the national culture was taken into account.

There are, in Portugal, 11 exemplary costumes. Firstly, the cover of Miranda that was initially performed in a burel. This piece features clear references to the decorative motifs and stylization of the tardogotic and Renaissance foliage. The embroidery, applied on the wool itself, repeats the contours of a geometric, orderly, and rigorous bas-relief. Then, the Azorean capote and capelo constitute a 16th century Baroque representation, which can be dated from the 17th century and from the conventual era intensely lived in those Atlantic Islands. The female figure closed with certainty, including an authentic cocoon, a textile house that refers to the reminiscences of a perverted inquisitorial society. Everything is a sin, and all structures command the woman to go out and cancel herself outside, since it is a costume to wear outside doors. Thirdly, the costume of the Minho “ lavradeira” represents the popular baroque apotheosis, which refers to the polychrome splendor of the eighteenth century. Centered in the city of Viana do Castelo, this outfit constitutes the paradigm of the times when the gold of Brazil made the country prosper. The use of gold is, moreover, a Portuguese cultural phenomenon that continues to this day. Every social stratum still maintains, by tradition, this custom of becoming golden in everyday life.

Ribatejo reflects in its costumes both the customs linked to the fishing activity developed in the river Tagus, and, especially, because richer and more visible, the costumes worn by the population who worked in the area of the plains, in the rearing of livestock, in particular horses and bulls.

The Alentejo capote is the almost faithful replica of the romantic cover of the bourgeoisie. It is a typical muffin and is used today by both Portuguese and Spanish people, who buy this piece near the border, constituting for them a comfortable, warm and elegant winter coat. It is also resistant to rain, because the three trees that cover the canopy, from the height of the shoulder, protect and wrap the chest.

Thus, both the “Alentejanos “and the “Ribatejanos” wore the Amarra, which continues to be worn in winter on the common garments of men and women. The festival of Golegã and the Horse Fair in Santarém have provided a tradition in the use of the region’s clothing, of which the traditional Portuguese-style riding outfits are also examples. All the pieces that make up the interesting and very specific set of costumes, in this local cultural context, are executed for both ladies and men, and even for children, who parade in both equestrian festivities. It is noteworthy that this specific way of dressing, being already in part industrialized, is manufactured with the mastery and the technique of tailoring.

In the case of Póvoa de Varzim, we are faced with some specificities, of which the most emblematic and significant corresponds to the introduction of the «acronyms» that constitute an iconographic glossary. With small identifying signs of each fisherman and, often, of each family, the Poveiros draw graphic signs with which they also mark their clothes, as if it were a designer.

As for the costume, its centuries-old evolution follows the Western Christian parameters since the Middle Ages. It should not be forgotten that the Fathers of the Fatherland were a Galician, D. Tareja, and a Frenchman, Count D. Henlaugh. This origin indicates, therefore, the mode of dressing corresponding to the respective Christian kingdoms that followed the patterns arising from some medieval evolution over the last Roman costumes. In each of these institutions open up fans of hierarchies to which they correspond.

Classifying costumes and insignia, appropriate to distinguish the gradations of each of the three social pyramids. While the religious orders» and Military contain their specific «kinship» of well-defined cut (from monachal to paramilitary), which will not be developed here, the «order».

It is organized in a more complex way, creating civilizational differences and cultural variants. In turn, in each culture there are groups and subgroups-with their classes of power, which dress according to their framework-urban or rural draping.

Here is a video that shows the Portuguese Costume in the Time of D. João V:

The typical clothes used in a country are a reflection of its principles, beliefs and even values. For each society, a particular way of dressing is characteristic, consequence of the geographical location, the current economy and the thought of the period. These changes influence both the silhouettes of the clothes people’s way of life. In the study of the history of the clothing, identifies each shape, color, silhouette, material, and modeling. These factors are consistent with their uses, customs, needs and desires of the belonging social class.

The study of the costumes can also be carried out through three signaling aspects: gender, age and categories (NACIF apud BURGUELIN, 2000, p. 39-40). For Oliver Burguelin (1995, p.337), clothing can be understood as a set of costumes and accessories, since it is considered, in most societies, as a sector of culture, both fundamental and well defined, characterized by techniques, rites, customs and meanings. Thus, the author considers the clothing as a cultural fact.

Clothing is defined as the art and history of the clothing. It being determined by the use of clothing in relation to times or people, can also be defined as costume, induction, induct and clothing (FERREIRA, 1993, p. 760). No nevertheless, the costume is characterized as the usual clothing or proper to a profession, being related to a function specific (FERREIRA, 1993, p.1395). Meanwhile, the clothing is described as a set of pieces of clothing that wear a individual (FERREIRA, 1993, p. 1456), differently from the which is elucidated as a garment that covers outwardly the individual and that characterizes it. This can also be understood as a dress, or clothing (FERREIRA, 1993, p. 1456). Thus, the clothing is outlined as a priestly garment in solemn ceremonies (FERREIRA, 1993, p.1456).

From these definitions, it is observed that the meaning of "clothing" is related to the study of the history of clothing and its changes between times. But the "costume" is directly connected to the usual clothing, which holds specific use and meaning in each society, exemplified by professional attire and costume for events. Meanwhile, the "clothing" corresponds to the set clothes, generating a composition, and the "dress" is defined as the piece of clothing by itself. Moreover, the "dress" is considered as the garments directed to moments specific, such as clothing for solemn ceremonies.

In Portugal’s folklore, informal and formal traditional costumes can be found. The informal were meant to be used every day, and were therefore simpler, sober and more practical, meant to be easily adaptable to the work performed by the individual using them (fisherman, peasant, etc.). These costumes were usually made from raw and cheap materials, also taking into account the climate conditions of the region. The more festive and formal costumes used to be worn only on special occasions - religious festivities and personal dates (such as birthdays, baptisms, weddings and deaths). These costumes were made to be shown off, thus being more ornamental and colourful, made from more refined materials.

In Portugal, the folk costumes' appearance and characteristics differ from region to region. Almost every one of them has its own typical clothes and features, as well as their own history and use. For example, the traditional Alentejan clothing, consisting of the green and red cap and the samarra, continues to be worn on many occasions. Alternatively, the regional costumes of the north of the country, especially in the region of Minho, are usually seen being worn during weddings and other festive occasions. The women wear very rich and colourful attire, being their dominant shades red, white or black, and wear long gold necklaces across their chests, covering their heads with a scarf. In Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, the shepherds used to wear thatched capes (croças) to protect themselves from the rain. Today, the use of black mourning clothing remains common, especially in villages in the interior of the country. The typical Madeiran attire, for example, continues to be worn by florists and in local markets.

Below it’s possible to find the main components of men and women folk costumes, organised by regions, as well as illustrative pictures:


  • Huge cloak and black cloth hood;
  • Flowered fabric dress;
  • Scarf (usually black or white);
  • Black shoes.


  • Wool and linen fabrics;
  • Striped skirts, white and brown, or in different colors;
  • The cheetah polkas;
  • Linen or thick wool suit;
  • Black pants and coat with black hat;
  • Hood and boots;
  • Scarf and mantilla (particularly in the 70's).

Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro

  • Brown jacket;
  • Black apron, with colourful embroidery;
  • Scarf in light colours;
  • White large collar;
  • Black velvet ribbon, worn around the neck.

Alto Minho:

  • White blouse, with embroidered sleeves;
  • Fringe vest;
  • Red wool cloak;
  • Wool skirt;
  • Wool apron;
  • White socks.

Douro Litoral:

  • Black skirt of carved silk or wool;
  • Short jacket in carved velvet;
  • Black felt hat;
  • Embroidered tulle scarf;
  • Lace white stockings;
  • Black clogs.

Beira Alta:

  • Wool skirt with dark stripes;
  • Apron of the same fabric;
  • Blue cloth pigtails vest;
  • Cheetah scarf;
  • Burel hood;
  • Wool mittens;
  • White socks;
  • Clogs.

Beira Baixa/interior:

  • Olive-colored skirt;
  • Black embroidered apron;
  • Red vest;
  • White shirt with large lace collar;
  • Pouch;
  • Ribbon bow in the hair;
  • Bright-colored socks;
  • Shoes with ribbons.

Beira Litoral:

  • Two skirts (one plain and one squared);
  • White apron;
  • Short jacket and blouse;
  • Black felt hat with coloured feathers, placed over scarf.


  • Dark skirt;
  • Cheetah apron and blouse;
  • Brightly coloured scarf;
  • Men's black hat over light scarf;
  • White socks;
  • Black shoes.

The symbols of the costumes are also present in the weaving techniques that are used. The costumes have a vertical wire (the web) which meets the horizontal one (the weft), forming a cross. The vertical wire symbolises the masculine and the horizontal stands for the feminine; therefore, the cross is the symbol of the union between them.

In terms of the materials used, overall, there is a preference for linen and wool, which had its origin during the Neolithic. Later, also silk would enter the country and later, only in the XIX, cotton, which turned out to be very adaptable and popular and started to replace the fabric used in some of the exterior garments. Nevertheless, there are also differences that can be found between regions. The materials used can be of vegetable origin (linen, tow, cotton, straw, etc.) or of animal origin (wool, silk, sheep, goat, bovine skin, etc.). It should be added that some Portuguese regions have costumes with pieces made out of leather or straw. For example, the leather or straw capes are still used in Serra da Estrela and Alentejo, only by men. In both regions, the wool blankets remain very typical. In Serra da Estrela, they are monochromatic, but in Alentejo, and due to the Muslim influence, they became more colourful, showing decorative geometric elements, and also strips.

When analysing the various women's costumes that exist in the country, especially in the northern part, where they are more detailed and ornamented, it should be noted that even though there are differences between villages, a common pattern (both in the elements composing the costume and in the fabrics and weaving techniques used) can be identified. The costumes are generally comprised of a round skirt with an apron, a vest, and a white linen shirt. They are complemented with a patterned scarf, used by the chest, and a similar one tied to the head, both with a typical pattern, original from the 17th century. Another trend that can be identified in other folk costumes - the case of Alentejo and Algarve - is having all the women's clothes made out of pattern cotton, something that was highly influenced by the Portuguese industrial revolution by the end of the 19th century. Thirdly, some costumes (in particular, the ones from the interior-centre part of the country) were also manufactured with wool. This was often complemented by the usage of a straw (by women) or felt (by men) hat.

When it comes to the fabrics used in the costumes, one can highlight five different types: monochromatic, stripped, checkered, carved and patterned textiles. If before the 19th century the used fabrics were wool, linen, silk and cotton; now they are mainly produced synthetically. Also here some differences can be spotted between the regions of Portugal - generally speaking, the country could be divided into two large regions: the littoral and the mountain/interior area. If in the interior of the country the monochromatic fabric stands out, in the littoral it’s more common to see the patterned costumes. Moreover, the stripped textiles are mostly used in the blankets and skirts in the northern, madeira regions, as well as in the area of Ribatejo. In the north, however, we can also highlight the prevalence of carved and embroidered fabrics, which turn the costumes into highly ornamental and ostentatious pieces.

The costumes from littoral regions usually are more colourful (Viana do Castelo costumes are a paradigmatic example). The variations are also reflected in the accessories that are worn. In the interior zones of the North and Center of the country, women use a head scarf that covers their forehead - which is also cultural, pointing to the inferior role that women used to have in their communities; in the littoral, even though the scarf is used in very different ways, it doesn’t cover the forehead. Madeira’s costume exhibits a very distinct detail - both men and women use a hood which stands vertically, pointing to the sky. If in the north the most typical items are patterned scarfs (following a 17th-century inspiration), and white linen shirts, other parts of the country exhibit different traditions. In Alto Alentejo and in the interior we can find embroidered skirts, and as we go south, and look closely at Alentejo and Algarve costumes, we see the cheetah pattern, which could be applied both on skirts and on shirts. The littoral costumes, as aforementioned, are colourful, and they have a fluvial touch, being very common the round skirts and the scarfs with romantic features. Other popular patterns are the chess one, similar to the Scottish tartan, and, even more so, the embroidered fabrics, primarily used for aprons and skirts.

Regarding the colours, they vary, as referred, not only from region to region, but they also have suffered changes over time. The oldest tend to be darker and monochromatic, as they used to be made with natural sheep wool.

Hats are also very frequent in different folk costumes all over the country, even if all of them have their own specificities. In the interior and centre regions of the country, straw and felt hats predominated, and in the littoral (and, in particular, in Nazaré), pompom hats can be found. Berets are also common in some areas of the country, especially in towns and regions with a strong connection with fishing.

When considering the cut of the folk costumes, some peculiarities can be pointed out. The “cloak of honors”, a typical piece from Miranda do Douro, is totally closed, being the only opening the space for the head. Its cut is rigid and geometric, and the cape is designed following the structure of gothic and renaissance buildings, such as Miranda’s Cathedral. However, the hood reflects the shape of an open warhead and forms an arcade of triumph. All elements of the cloak draw people’s attention to the face of the individual wearing the costume, which is the centre of everything. 

On the other hand, the Viana do Castelo skirt, for example, is wide and its length runs up to the ankles. The upper part of the costume contrasts with it, being tight and complemented with a scarf with the same pattern as the skirt.

The Ribatejo costume reflects the fishing activities, very common in that area, as well as the characteristics of the working force - in that sense, men’s costumes varied between shorts or pants, complemented with a vest, tight and short.

As mentioned, in the North of Portugal, the costumes are complemented with excessive use of gold jewellery, namely the earrings, which follow a baroque inspiration. Usually, they come in the format of the Coração de Jesus (Jesus Heart), and they are used in earrings or in necklaces. It should also be noticed that the image of Nossa Senhora da Conceição also figures in medals, medallions and popular root pins. Moreover, in addition to the gold threads, cords, shackles and chains, one should refer to the beads necklaces. the rings and earrings.

The origin of dance was still in primitive civilizations. We can consider that sign language was an early form of communication between humans, appearing even before speech.

Before Christianity configured itself as the greatest power in the Western world and condemned dance as profane, this expression was, on the contrary, regarded as sacred by the peoples of antiquity.

The Middle Ages was a period when the Catholic Church dictated the rules of society. There was a strong moralizing sense and the dance, by using the body, was seen as an unholy manifestation, related to pagan and heretic culture.

Meanwhile, peasants continued to dance at popular festivals, usually in groups. Even in castles dance was practiced in celebrations, which would later give rise to court dances.

It was in the Renaissance period that the dance began to have more artistic prominence. This language, once rejected and seen as a heretic, gains space among the nobility and begins to configure itself as a symbol of social status.

Thus, dance professionals emerge and a greater systematization of this expression, with groups of scholars who are dedicated to creating gestures and standardized movements. It is at this moment that the ballet emerges.

The period of Romanticism, which emerged at the end of the 18th century, was very fertile for classical dance in Europe, more precisely for ballet. It is when this type of dance consolidates and becomes one of the most representative artistic expressions of the period, transmitting all the sentimentality, idealization and tendency to "run away from reality", typical of romantics.

One of the shows that stood out at the time was Giselle (or Les Willis), first performed in 1840 by the Paris National Opera.

Here is a video of Giselle’s ballet:

In the first half of the 20th century, when modern art emerges, bringing a new look at artistic creation in general, modern dance also appears in the USA and Europe.

Thus, we can call modern dance a set of expressions that sought to break with the rigidity of classical dance. For this, several techniques were elaborated in order to bring more fluidity and freedom to the gesture, investigating in depth the restlessness and human emotions.

An intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is a practice, representation, expression, knowledge, or skill considered by UNESCO as part of the cultural heritage of a place. Buildings, historical sites, monuments, and artifacts are intellectual physical riches. Intangible heritage consists also f nonphysical intellectual wealth, such as folklore, customs, beliefs, traditions, knowledge and language. Intangible cultural heritage is considered by UNESCO member states in relation to intangible cultural heritage World Heritage with a focus on immaterial aspects of culture. In 2001, UNESCO did a survey between States and NGOs to try to reach agreement on a definition, and the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was drafted in 2003 for its protection and promotion.

UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage lists also include a variety of dance genres, often associated with singing, music, and celebrations, from around the world.

Other forms of dance, however, even if officially recognized as a heritage of their country of origin, are practiced and appreciated around the world. For example, flamenco from Spain and tango, from Argentina and Uruguay, have a very international dimension. Dance is a very complex phenomenon, which involves culture, traditions, the use of human bodies, artifacts (such as costumes and props), as well as a specific use of music, space and sometimes light. As a result, many tangible and intangible elements are combined within the dance, making it a challenging but extremely interesting heritage to protect.

The UNESCO Centre for Dance has as its main objectives the dissemination of this ancient artistic form, the formation of a conscious public of the various forms of dance, the transformation of mentalities and the approximation of the Portuguese panorama, about dance, the realities of other European countries. We also intend to create a framework of inclusive openness to all forms of dance without sectarianism or distinctions, so that there is a space for multidisciplinary dialogue regarding dance and that allows the realization of inclusive common events and aggregators of different forms of artistic expression.

In Portugal the teaching of dance usually occurs in amateur academies. These traditional dances are of simple learning, of inclusive character, giving response to the need integration contemporary in character practices.

These practices offer experiences that go beyond the revivalist questions: facilitate social interaction, promote sense of belonging to a group, satisfy the cravings for personal creativity and basically offer entertainment (Livingston 2015). Its character often participatory, based on nonverbal communication (music, dance and others), makes the senses and emotions the main vehicle.

Folk dances are popularized in various festivals and celebrations in smaller towns and cities of Portugal.

The traditional dance is mainly publicized by small performances at local parties and the presence in festive as is the case of Umundu Lx or Moreira FolkFest.

  1. Folclore.pt. (s.d.). Trajes. Obtido de Folclore.pt: https://folclore.pt/trajes/
  2. NCultura. (2017). Trajes Tradicionais Portugueses. Obtido de NCultura: https://ncultura.pt/trajes-tradicionais-portugueses/ 
  3. Ribeiro, A. (2014). Obtido de Trajes Típicos de Portugal: https://prezi.com/vqmiamoiq4ya/trajes-tipicos-de-portugal/
  4. Teixeira, M. B. (2008). O traje tradicional português e o Folclore. Em M. F. Lages, & A. T. Matos, Portugal: percursos de interculturalidade. Volume I - Raízes e Estruturas (pp. 354-406). Portugal: Alto Comissariado para a Imigração e Minorias Étnicas (ACIME).
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