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Catalog Data

Published by:
Unidentified  Search this
Photograph by:
Unidentified  Search this
Subject of:
Unidentified Woman or Women  Search this
silver and photographic gelatin on photographic paper with ink
H x W: 3 1/2 × 5 5/16 in. (8.9 × 13.5 cm)
Place captured:
Martinique, Caribbean, Latin America, North and Central America
Cultural Place:
France, Europe
Madras, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, Asia
West Africa, Africa
July 8, 1967
The women in this image wear ensembles that depict a mixture of traditional French Caribbean fashions. Prior to Emancipation, dress codes required enslaved women to wear a chemise jupe, an informal bodice and skirt ensemble, evocative of the white blouses tucked into the plaid madras skirts featured in this postcard image. The other traditional outfit seen in this image is the five-piece French Caribbean formal ensemble called a douillette, which is derived from the grand robe worn by early French settlers and prior to Emancipation, mulattas and free black women. Following Emancipation, black women resisted the chemise jupe fashions forced upon them through the old dress codes and they dawned elaborate douillettes that were previously forbidden. The traditional douillette dress is made of colored or shiny fabric and is worn over a petticoat and accessorized with a satin foulard shawl over the shoulders. This image depicts more modern interpretations of these traditional garments. Three of the women hold up the skirts of their garments, revealing their petticoats. This deliberate pose may be related to a West African custom of lifting the skirt and flinging it over one arm, which similarly allowed for a partial view of the underskirt while protecting the jupe.
All except one woman wear ornately tied madras head scarves. Originally produced in the Chennai region of southeast India, madras cloth became popular amongst Creole women in the 18th century and replaced the white cotton head kerchief which was associated with the dress codes of enslavement. In the early twentieth century, Guadeloupian and Martiniquan women reclaimed this head adornment as their own and many wore madras head scarves with their douillette and chemise jupes. The square or rectangular piece of madras cloth was worn over the forehead and folded to display varying numbers of peaks. The head scarf can be tied in a ceremonial fashion or can be worn to show the availability of the woman in courtship, depending on the number of peaks tied into it.
The French creole outfits are finished gold jewelry, typical accessories for the douillette and chemise jupe fashions. In particular, the women in this image wear the gros sirop chain-link and twisted-chain necklaces.
Photograph of four women dressed in traditional Creole ensembles, chemise jupes and douillettes. Three women are standing and the woman at the left center is seated. The two women on the ends are wearing traditional chemise jupes with long white chemises with skirts or jupes tied at their waists. They are wearing madras headscarves, holding white fans, and their right arms are crooked at their hips. The seated woman is wearing a long-sleeved patterned douillette ensemble with a dark-colored foulard shawl tucked at the waist and wrapped around her shoulders. She wears a madras headscarf. She has one arm resting in her lap and the other crooked at the hip. The woman standing at center right is wearing a shiny sleeveless dress and a pill box hat. The photograph has a white border and rough edges. The back of the photograph has writing in pen and graphite. In the left top corner, [Souvenir / du Carnaval / G 7 / le 7/8/67] is written in blue ink. The women are identified as [marie-Ane / Tantine / Maman / et moi] across the middle. In graphite on the top is written, [2807] and [Martinique].
African American  Search this
African diaspora  Search this
Clothing and dress  Search this
Colonialism  Search this
Fashion  Search this
Freedom  Search this
French colonialism  Search this
Gender  Search this
Identity  Search this
Photography  Search this
Travel  Search this
Women  Search this
Credit Line:
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Unknown - Restrictions Possible
Rights assessment and proper usage is the responsibility of the user.
See more items in:
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Media Arts-Photography
Memorabilia and Ephemera
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture