In the Inca Empire, clothing was very important. It told people your position in society.
SAPA INCA: For example, only the Sapa Inca could wear a special hat made of gold and feathers. He wore heavy gold jewelry and extremely heavy gold earplugs. His clothes were embroidered and covered with jewels. His slippers were made of fur or the finest cloth. The Sapa Inca only wore an outfit once. Once his clothes were removed, they were burned. The Sapa Inca kept many weavers busy making him a new outfit every day. (It's important to remember that the Sapa Inca was not just a ruler. He was believed to be a direct descendant of the sun god. That made him a god.)
ROYAL FAMILY & NOBLEMEN: The Royal family was composed of the Sapa Inca's wives and sons. The nobility was made up of relatives, by blood or by marriage, of the Sapa Inca and his wives and sons.
Like the Sapa Inca, the royals and nobles wore colorful clothing, but not as colorful as the Sapa Inca, not if they wished to live. Like the Sapa Inca, they were allowed to wear feathers on their clothing, and sometimes clothing actually made of feathers. Unlike the Sapa Inca, most wore an outfit more than once, although some did try to disguise this with changes in embroidery, feathers, hair bands, and jewelry.
COMMONERS: Rich and poor dressed in the same fashion, although not with the same fabrics. Commoners did not wear feathers. Their cloth was made of plant fibers and had a somewhat rough texture. But the style of the clothing for both rich and poor was similar.
The men wore a sleeveless tunic. When the weather was chilly, they also wore a cloak and sandals.
The women wore one piece dresses that reached to their ankles and was tied at the waist. When the weather was cold, women wore shawls held by a pin in the front.
Both men and women of all social status added colorful embroidery to their clothing. The Inca people loved to use the bright colors found in nature, on the birds and flowers around them, in their embroidered and woven designs and fabrics.
CONQUERED PEOPLE: As the Inca Empire expanded, people from conquered tribes were assigned a village or a unit. Each village was assigned unique clothing designs. These were the only designs they were allowed to use. The Incas did not allow people to move around freely. They could go to a festival, but still needed to return to their assigned village or unit. Inca inspectors used clothing designs and colors to help them be sure that people were in the right place. Punishment was swift and severe for those who did not obey this law.