Frightening hoods: why the women of the Azores hid their faces

The women of the Azores are known to have worn long cloaks with very huge and deep hoods in the past, a habit that has since been abandoned but serves as a striking illustration of a unique clothing custom. Additionally, they were passed down from mother to daughter from generation to generation.

This unusual practice has been passed down the generations in the Azores since some time around the 17th century. However, historians have not been able to determine where exactly this type of clothing originated; according to one account, the capes were brought there from Flanders, and another one claims that they were brought there from Portugal. Women only wore them, but ladies of all ages wore them, from young girls to older women, considered respectable. The owner’s profile was covered inside a big, deep hood known in Portuguese as “Capote e Capelo,” and the floor-length cloak hid everything else from other people’s eyes.

The sole evidence of the presence of this strange fashion trend in the Azores today is the leftover information of tourists and a few old photographs; they stopped wearing such capes in the 1930s. The surviving photos can potentially deceive viewers, as it may appear that the women wore dark robes. In truth, they had a variety of blues ranging from a rich deep blue to a brighter blue known as electric blue.

Frightening hoods: why the women of the Azores hid their faces

A different narrative concerned the shapes and dimensions of the hoods. Because the Azores are made up of a chain of islands, there is a degree of separation between the various regions. As a result, the tradition of wearing raincoats was practised worldwide, although the garments themselves appeared differently. On one island, for instance, the hoods were fashioned like wedges; on other islands, the edges of the hoods poked up on the shoulders; and on still other islands, the hoods were wrapped around the head in the shape of a circle or an oval. However, during those times, ladies carefully preserved the tradition. Since it was considered proper and respectable to wear the traditional Azorean hood, women gave their daughters their robes so they might wear them.

Frightening hoods: why the women of the Azores hid their faces

It is not fully known for what purpose these huge cloaks with deep hoods were worn is the thing that stands out the most to me. There are a few different versions available. The most widely held belief is that they permitted the extremely devout women of the Azores to maintain a respectful distance from the men they encountered in public. This is because, when the girls left the house, they were not allowed to even look at the men; instead, they were required to lower their gaze or look at the wall. It was also thought that wearing the hood would protect one from the many kinds of diseases that are common on the islands. This is a more exotic interpretation of the story. However, it is pretty likely that we are discussing the interaction of many elements in this instance, and women remained to dress in these strange robes for many centuries.

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