Explore Macao while wearing its traditional costume

The costume rental shop is hidden inside a nondescript café. — Photos: FLOREY D. MIKIL/The Star

Vibrantly coloured from head to toe, traditional Portuguese costumes have a distinct look that.

Portugal boasts several iterations of its traditional costume, and the designs vary according to the region the costumes hail from. Arguably the most synonymous with the European country are the ones found in the Minho region, specifically the “trajes de Viana” (costumes of Viana) that are worn in the Viana do Castelo district.

These are the brightly-coloured clothes that will often appear online when one searches for “traditional Portuguese costumes”. The men’s version is usually simple, consisting of tailored trousers with a sash (often red), a vest, long-sleeved shirt and a hat.

The women’s version is more elaborate, typically comprising a thin blouse worn underneath an intricately embroidered bodice, paired with an equally highly-decorated apron worn over a long bouffant skirt called “saia”. A headscarf that partially covers the hair completes the look.

“I’ve always loved the beautiful traditional Portuguese costumes,” says Niki Cheong, owner of a shop in Macao’s Taipa Village that allows its guests the chance to rent traditional costumes as they explore the place.

Mannequins modelling the Trajes de Viana. — Photos: FLOREY D. MIKIL/The StarMannequins modelling the Trajes de Viana. — Photos: FLOREY D. MIKIL/The Star

Having personally visited the store, yours truly is of the opinion that if ever there were a speakeasy version of a traditional costume shop, this would be it. The store is so discreetly situated that locating it requires the know-how of someone familiar with the R. de Fernao Mendes Pinto area.

It is “hidden” within a café: Celeste Artisan. Housed in an unassuming black building, the cafe, in turn, is only identifiable by the inconspicuous “9¾ The Porte Macau” plaque right by its front door. (Yes, that is a Harry Potter reference, as confirmed by the few Hogwarts House embellishments at the entrance.)

A short walk through, then up a few steps, will lead you to a door that gives away no indication of it being a separate establishment from the cafe. That is, until you look up and notice the sign that says “Vestuario de Lisboa” – which roughly translates to “Lisbon clothing”.

Cheong will be on the other side of the door, her enthusiasm contagious as she welcomes you.

Born and raised in Macao, a unique region with a multicultural heritage, Cheong has always been surrounded by Macanese and Portuguese cultures – owing to the fact that Macao was a Portuguese colonial settlement from 1557 until 1999.

“My friends from The Macanese Association taught me how to properly wear these traditional clothes,” Cheong shares. Macanese is a multi-racial East Asian ethnic group that resulted from the Portuguese’s assimilation into the local society in the 16th century. Generally, the term “Macanese” is understood as “Eurasians of Portuguese descent”.

An adorable mini version of the Trajes de Viana sits on Cheong’s work counter.An adorable mini version of the Trajes de Viana sits on Cheong’s work counter.

As many Macanese speak Cantonese, alongside Portuguese and English, Cheong finds no difficulty in interacting and exchanging information with her friends.

Cheong, who speaks Cantonese and English (she may profusely apologise for not speaking the latter fluently, but in truth she does speak enough to adequately express herself), will first inform her guests the significance of the costumes before helping each person find his or her best fit.

“The traditional costumes are worn during festivities and celebrations. The skirt, especially, looks beautiful when you twirl around as you dance.

“My store is the first of its kind in Macao,” she adds, beaming.

Hoping to both promote and preserve the unique Macanese culture, she opened the store five years ago so that locals and tourists alike will get to experience wearing the traditional costumes.

Recounting how tourists from Portugal would visit her store as well, she is happy to be able to help even the Portuguese reconnect with their roots.

If reading about the costumes (not to mention the added adventure of locating the store) has piqued your interest in experiencing all this for yourself, simply book a session with Cheong during your next trip to Macao.

Further details, including rates and booking, can be found on the shop’s Facebook page.

Cheong is the owner of Vestuário de Lisboa, a shop in Macao where tourists can rent the Portuguese traditional costumes.Cheong is the owner of Vestuário de Lisboa, a shop in Macao where tourists can rent the Portuguese traditional costumes.

At her cosy shop, she will welcome you to peruse her collection of handmade pieces, selecting not only your size but also your preferred colour combinations – do note that the multiple layers will lead to your outfit feeling a little hefty once you’ve put everything on.

For the ladies, your footwear will usually be visible under the skirt. But whether you match it to the costume or not is not the point as what’s most important is for the shoes to be comfortable. This is because you will most likely be exploring the nearby hilly area on foot.

Carry only essentials into the fitting room, as there will be limited space to store your belongings while changing. Later, you will be allowed to leave your clothes (and bags, if necessary) in the store as you go out exploring.

Once decked in the colourful attire, you are ready to continue your day’s journey of discovery within Taipa Village.

Dubbed as the place “where heritage comes alive”, here you can visit heritage sites like the pastel-coloured Taipa Houses Museum, savour Macanese meals, shop for Made In Macao souvenirs, and experience many more activities.

All while looking radiant in your vibrant trajes.

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