The Women of the Azores

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Flemish settlers joined up with British, Genovese, and French settlers joined Portuguese settlers in the Azores islands. Over that time, many new customs and traditions were born, including the mysterious hoods worn by women. 

The hoods were designed to only show a small portion of the woman's face at a time. Constructed of whalebone, the hoods were passed down from mother to daughter. The rest of the cape was designed to fully cover up their bodies.

The hood differed on each island but the symbolism stayed the same. The cut of the cape and the arrangement of the cowl were usually the only things that changed. It was an easy way to keep yourself private while out in public. 

To outsiders, it looked a little creepy! Hooded figures walked around the islands with their head down, which created a dystopian effect. Many people thought that they were hiding something...

In Mark Twain's 1869 book Innocents Abroad, he reviews the hoods as if he were writing for Vogue. "Here and there in the doorways we saw women with fashionable Portuguese hoods on. This hood is of thick blue cloth, attached to a cloak of the same stuff, and is a marvel of ugliness. It stands up high, and spreads abroad, and is unfathomably deep. It fits like a circus tent, and a woman‘s head is hidden away in it like the man’s who prompts the singers from his tin shed in the stage of an opera."

The hood became less popular in the 1930s and was eventually the thing of the past. The once-booming whaling industry turned into a whale-watching industry, which still generated enough revenue to keep the islands afloat financially. 

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