The culture of Cuba, an island in the middle of the Caribbean, was influenced by the Spanish people that came to live there over the past centuries. Traditional Cuban women’s clothing is a mirror of that culture and is often flashy, frilly and ready for the dance floor.




The Cuban culture is mostly mixed from Spanish and African descent, with the native language being Spanish. Spanish culture has had a huge influence on Cuban women’s clothing. Traditional clothing, such as rumba dresses, take on the color and zest of the Spanish culture.



Since Cuba is an island in the middle of the Caribbean, where it can be extremely hot, traditional women’s clothing has always had a loose fit to help stay cool during unbearable heat in the summer time. Most clothing was made of a light cotton or linen material, and dresses would be made of satin as well. Beading and embroidering of the materials used was popular, and vibrant-colored clothes were paraded around in parties and fiestas.





The guayabera is a traditional, casual type of clothing in Cuba that is usually worn as shirts on men. On women, however, they become guayabera dresses, which button up, are made of light cotton or linen, have pockets and can be elaborately embroidered. They come in many different styles and can be very plain or quite elaborate in decoration. These are still worn today by many Cubans.


Ceremonial Dresses

Other traditional clothing for women are Spanish dresses that have a lot of ruffles around the cuffs on the sleeves and down the skirt. This style is popular for the bride in a traditional Cuban wedding and for teenage girls in quinceanera dresses. A quinceanera is a traditional celebration where a girl turns 15 and becomes a young woman in the eyes of society. These dresses can be very elaborate and cost as much as a wedding dress. Traditionally, the girls wear an elegant ball gown often accompanied by lace gloves and a parasol, though nowadays, they usually wear modern dresses. Two special symbols are worn: a tiara, symbolising her triumph over childhood and transition to adulthood, and a sceptre, symbolising her increased responsibility and authority.


Festive Dress

A rumba dress, Bata Cubana, is a traditional type of women’s clothing worn at fiestas and other types of celebrations. The colors, the ruffles and the material are a mix of African, Spanish and even French influences. In today’s Cuba, this type of dress is worn more as a costume for a performance or for salsa or rumba dancing. The head covering worn with the bata cubana is usually an African-style headdress, which has remained popular in Cuba even after the abolition of slavery in 1865. Whereas Cuban men tend to wear white shirts, women frequently use other colours.




Men who are accompanying women dressed in the bata cubana often wear tight trousers with a ruffled shirt, called a rumba shirt. However, the traditional shirt of a Cuban man, which is still worn in daily life, is called the guayabera. It is a lightweight, button-down shirt with two groups of closely spaced vertical pleats on the front and back. It typically has four large pockets on the front and an embroidered design. It has a dress-style collar and buttons, and is worn loose and long with slits a few inches up the sides. The shirt is made of cotton or linen and is often white (though many different colours are used nowadays).

Another type of shirt is the guarachera, which has wide sleeves decorated with flounces and is worn with handkerchiefs at the waist and neck. It can be wore with different types of trousers and is part of the rumba costume.

Cuban men traditionally wear a straw hat to combat the effects of the sun.




Cuba: general information