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What Are Ponchos?

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    Origins

    • Ponchos originated with the indigenous people of South America and Central America. Traditionally, they were woven from wool, a very warm and insulating fiber. Ponchos were worn by men, women and children. The colors and designs of one's poncho often indicated social status, prestige and wealth. Ponchos were an essential and practical garment because they were easy to make and provided warmth and protection.

    Mainstream Fashion

    • In the late 19th century and early 20th century, ponchos became part of mainstream Western culture and fashion. They were slightly modified and commonly resembled cloaks and capes. The length varied from ankle length to elbow length.

    Contemporary Fashion

    • Plastic ponchos with a hood have been used for decades as substitutes for a raincoat. A rise in interest in crocheting, knitting and weaving has brought the poncho back into fashion focus in recent years. Contemporary ponchos can be made of wool, cashmere, cotton or linen and formal or casual in style. They may be knitted of several lovely colors of yarn or sewn from soft fabric and adorned with a hood or embroidery.

    Modifications

    • Over the course of fashion history, many modifications have been made to the original poncho design. The shape of a poncho can range from the traditional rectangle or square to round, diamond or zigzag. Some ponchos cinch at the waist with a belt or drawstring, giving them a more shapely look. Many ponchos now have two pockets at the side or one large pocket in the front. Once used for only practical purposes, contemporary ponchos make bold fashion statements.

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