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Who are the mysterious Azorean women in the hooded cape?

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There is Robin Hood, Little Red Riding Hood and then there’s the Azorean Woman in the Hooded cape! The only thing they have in common is really just the hood and a sense of style.

 

The Azorean Woman in the Hood (called in Portuguese, “A Mulher do Capote e Capelo”) is a typically Azorean garment once used only by women in Faial. The cut of the cape and the hood went on to vary from island to island and it was made of strong, heavy electric-blue wool that was passed on from mothers to daughters. The arch on the hood was generally supported with whalebone and covered the face of the woman so that the woman beneath could remain unrecognized and that added to their mystique.

 

In Chapter 5 of his book Innocents Abroad (1869)*, Mark Twain made a “fashion review” of the Azorean capote:

 

Here and there in the doorways we saw women with fashionable Portuguese hoods on. This hood is of thick blue cloth, attached to a cloak of the same stuff, and is a marvel of ugliness. It stands up high, and spreads abroad, and is unfathomably deep. It fits like a circus tent, and a woman‘s head is hidden away in it like the man’s who prompts the singers from his tin shed in the stage of an opera [….] The general style of the capote is the same in all the islands, and will remain so for the next ten thousand years, but each island shapes its capotes just enough differently from the others to enable an observer to tell at a glance what particular island a lady hails from.

 

The women of the Azores didn’t wait “ten thousand years” to stop wearing the “capote e capelo”, but it was part of the past by the 1930's, but it is still a historic symbol of women of the islands.

 

*http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3176/3176-h/3176-h.htm#ch5

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