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Part 1 of 3. Part 1 is Female Fashion in Mesoamerica.
Unfortunately since some have been stealing and even selling my work I have to watermark my images now and post in low resolution. But I will soon have these on patreon to view full size or to buy as poster prints.
On to the set. I have broken it down into basic garment types. A couple things I should mention: the examples here are used only as an example of the garment being displayed. It does not mean that the specific culture showing it here was the only one to wear it. Many of these garments have regional, ethnic and temporal varieties, however some are indeed specific to certain cultures which I will mention. I tried to show a variety of cultures and time periods simply to highlight different uses of the garments. Notable civilizations like the Mexica or Olmec for example are not shown here but that doesn't mean they didn't have skirts for example.
The first is the basic skirt. Based on a Classic period figurine of Colima (part of the West Mexican people's of Mesoamerica). She wears a wrap around skirt held by a belt or sash at the hip. The skirt was among the most basic garments for women, and worn virtually by all people's. It is worn here as the only garment as was the case in many places and time periods. But in colder climates or certain contexts it was usually worn with another garment. Skirts were made of a single rectangle of cloth. They were made with cotton, maguey or vegetal fibers and worn plain, or with designs and colors and sometimes embroidered with stones or feathers. The Chichimeca made their skirts with animal skins.
Next is a Preclassic Tlatilco woman wearing a type of skirt with grass or reed possibly. These were very short, just barely covering the groin or part of it. These are unique to the Preclassic period though not unique to Tlatilco culture in Central Mexico as it appears in El Salvador's late Preclassic Bolinas tradition. Nevertheless it does not appear to be that common even in the Preclassic.
This next one is a hypothetical Precolumbian style based on more modern ways of wearing the skirt. This way of wearing the skirt is unique to Amuzgo women. It was worn similar to a male cape only with nothing else worn. Nowadays it is worn with straps resembling a spaghetti strap dress. While no Amuzgo art shows this unique way of wearing the skirt in Precolumbian times, it is included as a possibility if it was worn in such a way.
The next examples show different ways of wearing the skirt. The first example shows a wrap around Mexica skirt held together with a white sash. Other ways of holding up the skirt included making a tie or fold in a similar way one wraps a towel around the body today. Some Mexica skirts also show something like a rope belt. The next example shows a short skirt above the knees worn by the P'urepecha. Skirts of this length are exceedingly rare outside of the P'urepecha and perhaps some Preclassic types. The next example shows a skirt sown together rather than wrapped around.
The hip cloth seen here is worn by a Maya woman in the Postclassic period seen in the Dresden codex. This garment was worn over the skirt and held by a belt. Sometimes they were folded rectangular clothes into a triangle shape and then wrapped over the body. Some versions show two, one in front and back creating an apron like look over the skirt. It was probably made of cotton or maguey fibers.
The head cloth was a rectangular fabric worn over the head and wrapped over the body. This example is a Postclassic Maya type, based on descriptions at the time from Europeans. It was usually worn when not at home, such as going into the market or traveling in place of an upper body garment. Some Classic period Maya women are seen wearing this over their hair or headdress and it is still seen worn by Mixtec women in Oaxaca's Jamiltepec District, particularly in Pinotepa Nacional. It was probably made of cotton or maguey fibers.
The origins of the Huipil are still unknown but some speculate it came from the South, perhaps South America. It is a sleeveless blouse, and worn by many people throughout Mesoamerica as an upper body garment. This first example shows a short-medium length huipil worn by a woman from Veracruz in the Classic period as seen in a mural. The unique cut on the hem however seems unique to them. Like the skirt this could be made of cotton, maguey or vegetal fiber or animals skins for the Chichimeca. And it can be plain, or with decorations and embroideries like feathers, stones or cords like this example has.
This example is a large huipil, covering most of the upper body, reaching the wrists and extending to the knees. This is worn by a Tlaxcaltec woman of the Postclassic period. Similar long huipils appear in Classic Maya art and among the Mexica and other Nahua peoples. This particular examples has a little patch that is sown at the opening, presumably to help hold the small opening in place and to prevent tearing.
Next is a huipil worn without placing the arms through the armholes, just letting the garment sit over the shoulders. This variety was also said to be worn by the Postclassic Maya similar to the headcloth. Curiously, it also appears among the Mixtec, which this example comes from based on the Codex Zouche Nuttall. Scholars debate whether some depictions labeled quechquemitl (a garment I will talk about later) are actually huipils worn in this manner. It is still worn in this way in parts of Jamiltepec.
Lastly, we see different collar openings for huipils. The Tlaxcaltec and Nahua varieties seem to favor a slit, however other types could be square or curved openings. In most places the huipil neckline was just under the clavicle. However, the Maya had a range of neckline lengths in the Classic period. Some were so low it slung slightly under the breasts. These very low necklines seem to have been favored by elite women as a fashion trend.
The quechquemitl was garment from the North, carried by the Chichimeca to Mesoamerica. It was worn particularly in Veracruz and West Mexico, with varieties worn in places like Teotihuacan during the Classic period. By the Late Postclassic it was seen in the Maya region and even as far as Nicaragua. It is a garment that garment with an opening in the center for the head, with two sides covered and two other sides exposed. They can be made of one or two pieces of fabric. Typically the covered parts where the chest and back while the arms and sides were exposed. This example is worn in the Cholulan-Puebla area based on the Codex Borgia of the Postclassic period. These were made with a variety of materials and decorated like the aforementioned garments.
This is a quechquemitl worn sideways by a P'urepecha woman. One of the points on the side is folded over to one side creating a scarf-like look, also due to the quechquemitl being very short. This style of folding over to one side seems unique to the P'urepecha.
The following are types of quechquemitls and how they are worn. The first example is from Papantla, Veracruz, worn by the Nahuas in the modern day. This is a hypothetical reconstruction of how it would look in precolumbian times if it was worn in this manner. The second example shows a quechquemitl constructed from two pieces of cloth. it's sowed at a perpendicular angle and the two sides are folded back to meet on the opposite ends where they are sewn. The third example below is made from a single rectangular piece that is folded in half and the two extreme ends are sown. This method however created a little flap in the middle where the head passes, which can be tucked in or folded out. The last example we see varying lengths a quechquemitl can take, ranging from very narrow/short to covering most of the torso.
This is an type of quechquemitl which has rounded corners rather than straight ones. This example comes from Tlaxcala in the Classic period. This style gives off the impression of a more circular/curved look and is a more complex kind of weave.
The second round quechquemitl shows the same garment but worn sideways, with the points on the shoulders and arms, leaving the torso and back exposed. Similar to the P'urepecha way except it is not folded to one side only, simply shifted to the side. This style comes from the Mixtec codex Zouche Nuttall. It is also a style seen among the Mazatec of Oaxaca.
This is a type of quechquemitl that is a bit of a fusion with a cape. It can be confused with a rounded quechquemitl however due to the rounded appearance it gives if one raises their arms. It is two rectangular pieces with a hole in the middle for the head, and a large opening for the arms and torso on the bottom. In a way it can also be thought of as a huipil without sleeve holes. This style appears among the Classic Maya and was the prime garment of choice for women in Teotihuacan as this example shows. Clavijero mentions Aztecs wearing such a garment over their quechquemitl's.
A variation of this garment was worn by the Maya in the town of Chunchuchu during the Postclassic period. This style was netted, presumably tied like a net. While it is unusual in that this was made just with cords, it is not unprecedented, netted capes for instance are seen among certain Mexica men.
While capes are typically seen among male fashion, there did exist a female cape as well. This one is worn by a Maya woman of the Classic period over her huipil and skirt. This example appears to not be tied up and just 'placed over her'. However in Mixtec and Cholulan-Pueblo codices short capes are sometimes worn over quechquemitl's or as a single upper body garment. However these Postclassic capes are all short, unlike the Maya one here which covers most of the body. Could this be the 'robes' described worn by Jalisco women in the Postclassic period?
This short cape comes from the codex Laud, of Cholulan-Pueblo origin. It is a 'front cape', that is the cape covered the torso in front but left the back exposed where it was tied at the neck. Due to its short size and being worn in front it gives an 'apron' like appearance.
The wrap-around dress was a single piece of cloth wrapped around the body, under the arms, and tied or secured at the front or near the armpit. This is the shorter style, where it's used more as an upper body garment accompanied by a skirt. This style is unique to the Classic and Postclassic Maya.
This version of the wrap-around dress functions as a single garment to cover the whole body wrapped under the arms. Due to its length covering most of the body, a skirt underneath wasn't necessary to wear with this. This style is unique to the Classic Maya, and while it may have been worn in the Postclassic by them as they had the shorter variety, it is not seen in any depictions or mentioned in sources.
To conclude this part I'll mention that there are a few garments I will instead add to part 3, that would have gone here, this includes ritual attire and unique kinds of weaving.
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-Aguilar-Moreno, Manuel. 2005. Handbook To Life In The Aztec World.
-Amaroli, Paul. 2017. Arqueología de El Salvador.
-Anawalt, Patricia Rieff. 1986. Indian Clothing Before Cortes.
-Anawalt, Patricia Rieff. 2005. "Atuendos del México antiguo", Arqueología Mexicana, edición especial, núm. 19, Raíces, México, pp. 10-19.
-Benzoni, Girolamo. 2017. History of the New World, trans. Jana Byars.
-Clavijero, Francisco, Javier. Historia antigua de Mexico, 4 vol.
-Codex Zouche Nuttall
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-Lienzo de Tlaxcala
-Mural of las Higueras
-Mural of Santa Rita Corozal
-Ponce, Fray Alonso. 1873. Relación breve y verdadera de algunas cosas de las muchas que sucedieron al padre fray Alonso Ponce en las provincias de la Nueva España siendo comisario general de aquellas partes, escrita por dos religiosos sus compañeros, 2 vol. Madrid.
-Sahagún, Bernardo de. 1590. Florentine Codex, trans. Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J.O. Anderson, in 3 parts, vol 1-13.
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-Soustelle, Jacques. 1961. Daily Life of the Aztecs on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest.
-Stone, Andrea J. March, 2011. "Keeping abreast of the Maya - A study of the female body in Maya art", Ancient Mesoamerica Vol. 22, Issue 01, pp. 167 - 183.
-Stresser-Pean, Claude. 2011. Des vêtements et des hommes. Une perspective historique du vêtement indigène au Mexique. Le vêtement precortésien.
-Townsend, Richard and Anawalt, Patricia Rieff (Editor). 1998. Ancient West Mexico: Art and Archaeology of the Unknown Past
My current art focus deals with Mesoamerican themes and subjects to educate myself more on my people and spread awareness of these great cultures to others. I also like to depict nudes, animals and fantasy based artwork. Comics are my other passions among other things.
Current Residence: Bay Area, CA for now.