Louwane Billebault, France
Any fashion that is lucky enough to fall under the influence of three civilizations is certain to be an extraordinary blend of style and chic. Algeria sits at the crossroads of three worlds, Arab, Mediterranean and African, and Algerian fashion has long been influenced by the fact that its unique location has been a place of historic meetings and exchanges.
Not surprisingly, Algerian designers have succeeded in combining the cultural traditions with the influence of the atmosphere of the country. These influences have found their way into the fashion industry and have foreshadowed several changes in the choice of colour, design and pattern.
Women‘s costume in particular, successfully combines flamboyance, utility and elegance. There is a strong emphasis on intricate decoration and colours. The use of colourful fabrics for clothing stands out against the predominant surrounding earth tones and the Algerian woman has kept her love for colour and brightly coloured patterns. Reds, yellows, greens and blues as well as many other colour combinations are combined and finely embroidered with gold and silver threads.
The Karakou is a typical traditional dress and incorporates a velvet jacket embroidered in gold and silver worn with the traditional saroual (Arab pants) and comes from Algiers, the capital of Algeria.
The Blousa from Oran, West Algeria is a fulllength, straight-cut dress made entirely from lace and sequined chest.
Blousa from Oran
Chedda of Tlemcen is a traditional caftan velvet and golden son, decorated with pearls, necklaces. It is considered in this region, as the most beautiful and the most expensive dress worn by the bride on her wedding day but also the other women at weddings. It is my favorite one, because it’s from my city, where my mom come from. There is a picture of me wearing it when I was younger.
Chedda of Tlemcen
The Djeba of Constantine is the traditional dress from Constantine in the eastern side of the country. This dress is always made with velvet and embroidered by gold and silver thread. The sleeves can be made of lace. In the central region of Tizi-ouzou, the dress is mainly made from cotton and is completely embroidered at the neck and bodice as well as at the wrists. However, it is at wedding and other special occasions that these traditional dresses do justice to the affair. Distinctive jewelry is also worn.
Chaoui Dress known in eastern Algeria as ‘L‘Haf Chaoui’, is a traditional dress made of black cloth embroidered with multicolored wool threads. This dress can be a one-piece or two-piece dress. Nowadays, Chaoui Dress is often worn with wide comfortable pants or with traditional pants known as ‘Serwal’.
El Hayek, the Algerian Veil, is emblematic of Algeria‘s traditional dress heritage. Typically, Algerian and closely connected to daily life in urban areas, the veil is a traditionally dress worn by women and a symbol of modesty. Algerian traditional Hayek comes mostly in white but some regions of the country offer variants in other colors as well. According to tradition, women started wearing black veils as a way of mourning the death of a beloved Dey or governor. The name for veil can also vary from one region to the next, with ‘hayek’ being typical of central Algeria.Veils come in different styles of embroidery and offerings range from plain linen, to fine wool or silk. They are worn to preserve a woman‘s modesty but also to protect her from the harsh sun typical of that region of the world. While veils are mostly intended to cover a woman‘s body, they also help her hide any precious jewelry she may be wearing under it and protect her from unwanted attention. In the traditional popular narrative, the veil was always seen as the great equalizer and a symbol of unity insofar as it helped blur regional and social differences between people.
The fact that these forms of traditional dresses are still used is a tribute to its comfort and suitability for the climate. It also points to the pride that Algerians take in the tradition of their ancestors and their identity in the modern world.