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The seven skirts of Nazaré

In the old days (but not that long ago), the women of Nazaré would sit on the beach in cold, wet and windy conditions and wait for their husbands or sons to return home after a long day at sea. To keep warm while waiting, they would wear seven petticoats to protect their legs from cold.

It is said that the petticoats represent the seven colours in the rainbow, the seven virtues, the seven waves of the sea, the seven days of the week… and many other legends associated with the number seven. Some women here still wear colourful layers of skirts.

Zezé, my lovely new friend in Nazaré, introduced me to her 69-year old mother, Julia, because I wanted to learn more about this tradition.

Julia, who is a real Nazarena, kindly invited me to her quaint little house where she’s been living for the past 20 years.

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She laid all her clothes out on the bed for me: there were aprons, skirts and scarves in many patterns and colors. Some of them she’s had for many many years but they are all in perfect condition.

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I learnt that younger women don’t wear traditional clothes any more because they cannot afford them. Surprisingly, some skirts can cost up to 200 euros.

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Zezé (her daughter) made this beautiful green shirt for her.

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Julia is a perfect model. She is incredibly charismatic, friendly and kind. Zezé told me that she continues to clean the apartments in summer in order to earn some extra money.

 

This is where Julia keeps her “lucky clothes” – in the sofa! She only wears these skirts for special occasions i.e. for Christmas, Easter or some other special days.

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Everything was so perfectly organized on the shelves that I didn’t dare ask her if she wanted me to help her put all the clothes back in the cupboards.

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Julia even sang and danced for me. She played Hortense, her favorite Fado singer from Nazaré. I suddenly forgot her age. She is an extraordinary dancer and when she invited me to dance with her, I realized that I just couldn’t follow her.

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Thank you so much Zezé. And obrigada Julia! You are one of the most wonderful and amazing women I have ever met.

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8 Comments »

  1. This was so special. I called my daughter over to show it to her. Such lovely needlework. The laundry photo was also a joy. Please send my admiration and regards to lovely Julia. THANK YOU!

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  2. Hi there! Thank you so much for you lovely comment! Julia is simply amazing! She is full of life! You should have seen her dancing and singing. I wish I could publish that video too but it would eat up all my space on WordPress. I’m really happy to hear that you liked the article. Such people are my real heroes! Best always, Nataly

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  3. Thanks so much for sharing your photos and story! That is some of the most beautiful embroidery I’ve ever seen. I know that you mentioned that some of the embroidered skirts can run up to 200 Euros, and I was wondering (since (I’ll be visiting Portugal for the first time next winter)… Are there shops that sell these skirts in Nazaré? Do you need to know a local? Can you find some simpler designs that are lower, say 100 Euros?

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    • Dear Susan! Yes, there are shops but I can put you in contact with Zezé, Julia’s daughter and she can show you around. She is lovely. She works in a hotel here in Nazaré. Just let me know. Best, Nataly

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