Mexico        Rêve Mexicain en français
Popular costume in Mexico
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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Only fifty years ago, Mexico got a national costume : The charro for the men and the china poblana for the women. The charro, traditional costume of the Mexican cowboy was the formal attire of the landowners. It is composed of a tight jacket and suede, a frill shirt, a big felt sombrero, sometimes adorned with gold or silver. The youngsters like to wear it now at some popular celebrations. It is not worn any more in official receptions and it is difficult to see one outside a charro fiesta. The fact that the mariachis are wearing it could explain its drop in prestige.

A long time ago, in Puebla, the women were wearing the typical clothes of the china maid : It was composed of a red and green skirt, adorned with sequins and covering several layers of jupons and a white shirt. The top of the body is literally covered with the rebozo, kind of big scarf or shawl crossed over the chest. It is the origin of the name of these clothes : china poblana. It is not worn any more except in fancy dress balls. There is no traditional Mexican costume any more, but the extraordinary diversity of the clothes in each area, especially the Indian’s ones are compensating this lack.

folkloric dances in Puebla, with traditional costumesLeft picture : folkloric dances in Puebla, with traditional costumes

One of the attractions promised to the traveler who will try off beat trails is the view of Indians, dressed almost like their distant ancestors from Pre-Hispanic time. The tourists who can’t go inland could go to the ethnographic section of the Museum Anthropological of Mexico City to have an idea of the Indian part of Mexico. It is an excellent introduction to the diversity of the Indian Costumes from Mexico. The old Mexicans were noticeable weavers. One of the first gifts that Moctezuma gave to Cortés consisted in several bales of “white cotton and feathers fabric” from Bernard Diaz in his book « THE CONQUEST OF THE NEW SPAIN».

Nowadays, the Indian girls, especially the ones in the most remote places, stay faithful to the ancestral techniques and always reproduce drawings and designs from pre-Hispanic time. The processes of spinning and weaving hadn’t really evolved and you could see peasants spinning the cotton or the heneguen (agaves fiber) with a distaff. Kneeled down in the patio, in front of their loom or “otale”, the women weave patiently the fabrics like it was done hundred of years ago. On this primitive apparatus made of two sticks in between are starched the lice yarn, are born wonderful fabrics, often made with fibers spun there and colored with natural dye.

indian girls with traditional clothes The men’s costume got somewhat modernized. Many Indians are wearing a large manta which is woven by hand. — Most of the time rolled on the shoulder—, a white shirt and white pants with a big belt. Often, an embroidery design adorns the neck opening or the shirtfront. At the Tarahumara from the North, men are wearing shirts and a loincloth hold with a fabric belt, which covers the legs.
Indians from the southern States are wearing colorful and primitive clothes, which are among the most beautiful of Mexico. In the tribes Tzotzil in Chiapas, men are wearing a very large cloth falling to the knees and brought together to make sorts of pants, a shirt with embroidered collar and cuffs, a very colorful scarf and a palm hat with a crown adorned with a braid made with multicolor ribbons.

     Right picture : indian girls with traditional clothes

The « Dandies »

The Huicholes believe that a sumptuous suit would raise human to the rank of Gods. They bring an attentive care to their clothes : Shirts and pants are embroidered, belts and bags are weaved. It is the only tribe where the men’s suit is richer than the women’s suit. The Indian women adopted clothes that will fit her as a little girl as well as a young woman, a mother, a grandmother. And. One detail or another one will be different from one place to another one. What are the preferred clothes of these elegant women ? Huipil or quechquemitl, skirt, large belt, headgear and jewelry, flowers and ribbons in the hair. You could meet an Indian with sandals but usually they go bare foot like in the old time.
The huipil, rectangular dress with head and arms openings, is very popular in southern Mexico, from the state of Oaxaca to the boarder of Guatemala. It is made of wool or cotton, long or short, tight or more often large and covering the shoulders, made of one piece or several pieces assembled together with ornamental ribbons or braids.

The quechquemitl or poncho (form the Náhuatl quechtli, neck, and quemitl, covering) is a triangular cloth covering the top of the body. It was worn in Pre-Hispanic time when the shirts didn’t exist and the modesty required it. It is made with two rectangular pieces stitched together to attach one side to the larger part of the other, with a head opening. The points hang in front and back or to the sides, depending on the areas. Today, the quechquemitl is worn over a shirt in Northern and Central Mexico.

market by night in Oaxaca

Left picture : market by night in Oaxaca

Most of the Indian women love jewelry, especially glass beads of bright color. When they can afford it and when the custom allows them, they wear a lot. Adding to the typical Indian clothes are some European elements like shirts, pleated skirts and maybe the rebozo or stole brought by the obligation to cover your head in a church. It is an essential element of the women’s costume. It is believed that it existed in prehispanic time under another form. You could see frequently a baby (or any other package) tossed in a rebozo thrown on the shoulders of an Indian woman.


The Totonacs women from Mexican Golf, flourishing since the middle of the XIXe century because of the culture of vanilla are dressed with fine white cotton fabric. During fiestas, they adopt organdi and tulle as well as a splendid see through quechquemitl with white embroidery. In the warm area of Yucatán Peninsula, women wear over a long skirt, a white huipil with embroidered flowers all along the squared neck opening, the armholes and the bottom.

tarahumara at Creel In the state of Oaxaca, the diversity of the costumes is surprising. The women from Amusgo are famous for their white, ankle length huipils adorned with large horizontal stripes with traditional designs brocade and in particular a stylized flower. In the Southwestern part of the state, some mixteques Indian women wear only a long skirt with dark blue and red stripes, rolled like a sarong. In Yalalag, small Zapotec village, close to Oaxaca, the women dressed themselves up with a very beautiful white huipil with embroidered colorful silk designs on the front and with heavy silk acorns on the neck opening. The imposing Tehuanas are dressed with black — purple, blue or red — velvet adorned with big flowers.

The enredo (skirt) worn by the Purépechas (Michoacán) is gathered, sometimes pleated or simply rolled around the waist like a sarong, adjusted with a faja (weaved belt). The enredo is almost invisible when worn under a long huipil.

The sarape is a woolen blanket that men use in cold lands. It is a coat (because of the head opening) as well as a tent or a rug to exhibit goods for sale. It varies with shapes and colors upon the areas but it is always of good taste showing sometimes wonderful blazing designs.

     Right picture : Tarahumara at Creel



relaxation for the musicians before Saturday Night fever in Guanajuato

     Right picture : relaxation for the musicians before Saturday Night      fever in Guanajuato (El Bajio)









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