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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
|No comment has been yet posted on this page.|