Reference Entry

Mola

Linda Mowat

in Oxford Art Online


Published online January 2003 | e-ISBN: 9781884446054 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T058872

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  • Fashion, Jewellery, and Body Art
  • Latin American and Caribbean Art
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  • South and Southeast Asian Art

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Term for a colourful appliqué blouse worn by Kuna Indian women on the mainland and San Blas Islands of Panama and in the Darien region of north-western Colombia. Mola is the Kuna word for cloth, but it also applies to the woman’s blouse and the front and back panels from which it is made. Mola blouses first appeared in the second half of the 19th century. Although made from European trade cloth, they were an indigenous development, and their complex patterns relate to earlier body paint designs.

Mola panels are hand-stitched, using cutwork and appliqué techniques. Two or more layers of different-coloured fabric are used. Each layer is cut to the shape of the design and stitched to the layer beneath, so that motifs may be outlined in a number of colours. Embroidery is sometimes added to the top layer. The stitching is extremely fine, and no fabric is wasted. The front and back panels of a blouse are usually similar, but never the same. Design subjects include mythological patterns, birds, animals, plants, people and scenes from daily life. Advertisements, magazines, political posters and biblical themes often provide inspiration. The finished front and back panels are made up with a yoke and sleeves of plain or printed fabric....

Reference Entry.  337 words. 

Subjects: Fashion, Jewellery, and Body Art ; Latin American and Caribbean Art ; 19th-Century Art ; South and Southeast Asian Art

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