The Caribbean, a collection of Islands also called the West Indies, has a varied culture with traditional and modern clothing to match. The islands’ indigenous populations gradually mixed with European colonists and slaves imported from Africa to work the sugar plantations. The resulting culture is a unique mix that shows both continuity and diversity across the region. The islands were colonized by Spain, England, Holland and France, and these influences still to some extent impact the culture and dress.
Traditional Caribbean clothing is mostly Creole style, relying heavily on white and bright-colored cotton fabrics and madras, a bright cotton plaid. Women wore long, full skirts and blouses, sometimes with ruffles, ribbon and lace, often worn over a white cotton chemise or petticoat.
A white or colored scarf was folded around the head, sometimes in intricate wraps. Men wore pants of madras, white or solid colors and a white or madras shirt or Guayabera, the pleated shirt seen throughout the Caribbean, Latin America and the Philippines.The fedora-style hat was commonly worn by men, especially in Cuba. Traditional Caribbean wedding dress was not specific; brides and grooms wore their best clothing.
Modern Caribbean Clothing, today, traditional clothing is worn at times as fancy dress or for festival and other ceremonial purposes. Most current residents of the Caribbean wear similar clothes to those worn in the United States and throughout the world, with adaptations for the tropical weather. Local designers are influenced by the climate, the sea, theabundant flora and the relaxed culture for which the region is known.
Jamaica hosts an annual Fashion Week where designers show a wide range of styles, including Caribbean fancy dress and resort wear. Jamaica, influenced by Rasta and Reggae, has developed its own style of T-shirts in black with designsin colors of the Jamaican flag. Rasta knit caps are also popular and these styles have expanded throughout the region and the world.
Tourism makes up the largest portion of the economy throughout the Caribbean region. Beautiful beaches, tropical climate, welcoming populations and lively culture attract millions of visitors annually. The region is also a top destination for multiple cruise lines. This has generated a branch of Caribbean clothing that is beach and resort-oriented. The wildly successful film franchise "Pirates of the Caribbean" has had an influence on Caribbean resort wear, making pirate costume and pirate-themed clothing popular in the region and beyond.
The rise in popularity of destination weddings has been a boon to the region, both on cruise-ships and island resorts. Cruise lines sometimes offer wedding packages. For example, Royal Caribbean wedding cruises are specially planned packages called "Romance at Sea" that include a wedding planner, ceremony, venue, flowers, photographer, food and more.
Wedding dresses and Caribbean fancy dress often reflect the warm climate and beach-oriented resort style, using lightweight fabrics, loose and casual styles and light or bright colors. Since the ceremony is typically outdoors, sometimes on a beach, dresses are often shorter than traditional gowns, with little or no train. A popular trend is a shorter dress with a long veil that can billow out attractively in the warm, island breezes. It is best to choose a lightweight fabric that is breathable.
Another factor to consider in choosing a tropical wedding dress is ease in transporting it to the destination. Flowers and low heeled, flat shoes, or even flip-flops or bare feet are appropriate accessories for Caribbean wedding dresses. Grooms may opt for white tuxedos or tropical-weight, light colored suits.
Of course, it is possible to spend a small fortune on any kind of wedding apparel, but for those seeking a cheap wedding dress, whether traveling or not, a tropical wedding dress may be just the thing, since they tend to be more casual and made of light weight fabrics. Some bridal designers carry a special "destination wedding" line. There is even an affordable line of wedding dresses that carry the Sandals resort license. Some designers adapt sarongs or pareos, popular beach wraps of colorful prints to make cheap wedding dresses for the bride and wedding party. Wedding warehouses or second hand stores can also be good sources for cheap wedding dresses.
The Caribbean region, with its azure sea, soft sandy beaches, waving palm trees and colorful flowers has created its own image of warmth, luxury and relaxation that influences clothing styles and wedding wear locally and worldwide.
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