Portugal: Fishwife from Nazaré

Front view

General description: Bare-footed Nazaré woman in the traditional sete saias (seven skirts) costume and a basket of fish on her head

Dimensions 20 x 11 x 9 cm on a circular wooden base (5 x 5 x 0.5 cm)

Date when acquired 1990s

Original Date 1990s

Source Present from my parents bought from somewhere on the Algarve coast, Portugal.


Side view


Plastic doll with movable eyes and arms. Her legs are rigid. Her light brown head is drawn back from a central parting and is hidden under her headscarf.


Back view


Her costume consists of a short skirt over the traditional numerous petticoats, an apron, a blouse and a scarf. Her very short (it reaches to just above her knees) pleated skirt is made of a starched cotton tartan in red, turquoise, black, yellow and white. Under her skirt are six petticoats made of white cotton with large blue dots. The edge of each petticoat is trimmed with a band of white to pinkish lace. Her underpants are of white cotton. Her festive apron covers the front and sides of her skirt. It is made of alternating panels of black and white checked weave cotton with white braid decorated with lilac and blue flowers. The sides and lower edge of the apron is trimmed with white lace. A band of white braid, decorated with red apples (?) and leaves, is sewn 0.5 cm from the edges of the apron. The apron is tied at the back with a pink ribbon.

Her loose V-necked blouse is made of a blue cotton with a design of diamonds in white and red. The sleeves go to the elbows and are finished off with 2-cm long ruffled cuffs made of white lace giving them the traditional bell shape. White lace also trims the V of the neckline. This is a special festive blouse.

Her large headscarf is made of a yellow paisley material decorated in red, pink, green, brown and white. It hangs down to below her waist at the back and its ends are tied tightly around her head.

As typical for a woman living on the coast, the doll is shoeless though usually she would have worn stockings and clog-like shoes (chinelas) to go with her festive gear.


Pendant (close up)


As usual for Portuguese ladies in general and for Nazaré ladies in particular, she is wearing gold jewellery: Around her neck is a gold pendant on a long chain so it hangs to her waist. The design on the pendent is rather weird to my eyes as I cannot make head nor tail of it. She has gold loops in her earlobes.

Bird’s eye view of the basket

Portuguese women were renowned for carrying things such as baskets, jars of wine, bundles of washing or even animal cages on their heads. With heavy loads, a coiled pad of fabric was placed between the head and the load. On this doll’s head is a large flat wicker basket. On the sides, the flat stakes are raised upwards. In the basket is a yellow cloth on which is a red fish with a black net holding it down.

1) Postcard showing a woman in full Nazaré costume including hat with pompom, two elderly ladies wearing black shawls and fishermen working on their nets and a beached boat

Background information

Nazaré is a popular seaside resort on the Costa de Prata (Silver Coast) and not the Algarve Coast where the doll was bought, which is further south. The people of this region had a lot of contact with the Scots and Britons who introduced tartan plaids to the area.

The Nazaré women’s costume is unique because of the sete saias (seven skirts). The women had a tradition of wearing seven petticoats (though as few as three could be worn). This allowed the women freedom of movement while working as fisherwomen and the short skirts meant the women did not get bogged down in the sea. This doll’s petticoats are all of the same material but originally there was a special order: the first was white, then 2-3 flannel petticoats (often plaid), then a set of pockets, then a petticoat of cashmere or lightweight wool, then another pocket and finally a very wide apron. Like in this doll, the hems of the petticoats were decorated either with pinked or scalloped edges, lace or rickrack.

Nazaré festive skirts are richly embroidered and have fine edging. The festive apron is made of black or red satin and is richly embroidered with flowers. The everyday blouse is simple white and has long sleeves. The festive blouse is made of printed cotton and has wide bell-shaped lace sleeves as worn by this doll.

2) Chinelas worn over white lacy stockings

Usually women go bare-legged with stockings being only worn for festive occasions. The women wear clog-like shoes called chinelas.

The headwear is usually black and the simplest being a black scarf, though floral scarves are also worn. The hat typical of Nazaré women is a short cylindrical brimless felt hat and a thick woollen pompom at the front. The hat is worn over the head scarf.

Nazaré women wear jewellery such as golden ear-rings and pendants as this shows their dowry. Nazaré women wear less jewellery than other Portuguese women.


Source(s) of information

Condra Jill (2013) Encyclopedia of National dress. Traditional clothing around the world. Volume 2.ISBN 978-0313-37635-8


1) Postcard showing a woman in full costume including hat with pompom, two elderly ladies wearing black shawls and fishermen working on their nets and a beached boat – https://i.pinimg.com/originals/d0/51/af/d051af5b717148297382200f147dce03.jpg

2) Chinelas worn over white lacy stockings – http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-w7wHFMGDAhY/UXnd0w4T3jI/AAAAAAAAL2w/z3UxHnStJmc/s640/3728032456_e798f99819_z.jpg


2 thoughts on “Portugal: Fishwife from Nazaré

    1. Dear David

      I apologise getting back to you so late but life got in the way of my working on my site. I see that you have sent me a quote but where is it from? Thank you for the Portuguese name of the skirts



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