I decided to update this set I did in 2012 of the Maya clothing of the Yucatan peninsula. This time my focus is on the late postclassic (it used to be the postclassic in general) and now I have more references to make it more historically accurate. Here is my new version updated.
These outfits are reconstructions of lowland Maya fashion from the Late Postclassic period (c.1250-1521). These illustrations represent outfits that were worn prior to the Europeans’ arrivals. Technically, the Maya were independent from colonial rule up until 1697 (which some consider the official end of the Postclassic period). Some of these outfits vary in accuracy, but I did my best to be as exact as possible given the limited sources I had to work with. With all that said, I’ll briefly go over each outfit and lay out a few final notes at the end along with a list of the sources I used to create these illustrations.
So what comprises of the Maya Lowlands? Mostly the Yucatán peninsula (The Mexican states of Quintana Roo, Campeche and Yucatán) and the low regions of northern Guatemala and parts of Belize. This region has been home to the Maya people for thousands of years and still is today.
1. The pic (pyq) or skirt among the Yucatecan Maya. It was a rectangular cloth which was wrapped around and tied or tucked at the waist. Other varieties such as this one were sewn-closed and held together by a sash or belt. Normally they fell to the knees or ankles. It was the most basic garment for all women. It was made of hennequen or cotton. Note the body decoration - the use of red paint which gave a sweet odor and also served as makeup, and black tattoos. Men and women did both, with women avoiding tattoos on the breasts, and men also tattooing their legs and hands.
2. The hipcloth was a cloth garment perhaps folded, wrapped around the waist, and worn over her skirt. Like other garments of this period, the hem is notched.
3,4. The headcloth was a rectangular cloth worn over the head, and served as a top covering the shoulders and upper torso. While bare breasts seem to be commonplace, this was worn when one went to the market or traveled, perhaps as protection from the sun. (4) shows a netted variety mentioned.
5. The netted top covered the front and back and appears to be like a small netted cape or quechquemitl. This was specifically worn in the town of Chunchuchu.
6. The wrap-around dress was a rectangular cloth wrapped around the body, underneath the armpits and tied or tucked. This was worn in coastal areas like Bacalar and Campeche.
7. The huipil was a short, rectangular, sleeveless blouse which was said to come to the navel.
8-10. The quechquemitl was a garment made from two pieces of rectangular cloth which were sewn together at a perpendicular angle. This was folded back and sewn at the other end creating a “v” shape in the front and back (10). This left a hole for the head and created a poncho like drape around the body. (8) Shows a rounded edged variety, while (9) is a small quechquemitl.
11. A woman carrying an infant using a cloth that went on top of the breast and under the arm. The Moon Goddess in the Dresden Codex is seen carrying bearers in this fashion.
12. Women in this time practiced dental filing.
13. A 4 or 5 year old girl. At this age girls were given clothes for the first time. They wore a red shell tied to a string over their groin as a sign of virginity.
14. As the years went by, children underweant puberty rites and began to live seperately from each other. Girls wore distinctive hairstyles in 2 or 4 braids that formed “horns”.
15. A 4 or 5 year old boy. At this age boys were given clothes for the first time. Boys tied a white bead to their hair.
16. As boys got older they wore black paint on their bodies. Both boys and girls however, could not get tattoos until after marriage.
17. Kilt/Skirt. This style of skirt is worn by Bacab deities. Because it only appears among deities and is not mentioned in other sources, it was probably only worn by deity impersonators like among the Aztecs. It is speculated this style was imported from the Toltecs.
18. Priest. Among the high priests described by Bernal Díaz del Castillo were a group described as wearing long white robes to their feet. It is unclear if this refers to a long cape or long tunic. He also describes their hair matted and soaked in blood.
19. This is a type of priest called a Chac, who participated in children’s baptism rituals and also were one of four people who held down sacrificed individuals. He wears a feathered tunic with long feathers in the back, a feathered cap, paper headband and blue paint priests wore. These priests were said to be elderly men.
20. The halach uinic. At this time, the Yucatan peninsula was composed of small city-states. The halach uninic or “true man” was the title of the ruler of one these polities. To achieve this status one needed to speak the languange of zuyua which were a series of answers to riddles.
21. The ex (esh) or loincloth among the Yucatecan Maya was the basic male garment. It was made from a long strip of rectangular cotton cloth that was wrapped between the legs and around the waist. It was tied in the back while two flaps left over hung in front and behind.
22. The wrap-around loincloth was made from a very long strip of cloth that was twisted and wrapped around the body 20-30 times until it reached just below the armpits. This works as both a loincloth and armor. The Maya wore cotton armor which was fairly effective and good for their climate.
23. The hipcloth was worn over the loincloth; much like the women’s it was worn over their skirts.
24. Ichcauhuipilli was cotton armor worn in a similar manner to other places in Mesoamerica.
25. The xicolli or jacket was a sleeveless top with ties at the front. Lengths varied only slightly.
26-29. The cape worn in its most typical fashion with ties at the front. Lengths varied from short to medium. (28) Shows a cape with a knot on the chest, but one side wraps under the arm while another goes over the opposite shoulder. This style was worn in the town of Mama. (29) is a cape worn in the town of Chunchuchu, with a tie over the left shoulder. (27) shows a cape worn in front and tied at the back.
Final notes:-Clothing was made by women on a back-strap loom. Both commoners and noblewomen wove clothes for their family or to sell at the market. Commoners also provided clothing for tribute payments. In the case of the elites, the same was true, but some were also used between gift exchanges at gatherings. These were much more elaborate.
-One interesting feature that seems unique to the region and era is the notched hem in almost all the garments.
-Maya clothing is still worn in some contemporary Maya communities (mostly by females, a few men, and daykeepers) and while it has changed over time, it is still an ongoing tradition and a sign of cultural identity.
-The Maya related their forced conversion to Christianity to their change of clothes when the Spaniards arrived. The Friars considered the indigenous clothing to be indecent so they forced them to adopt more European styles. To the Maya, Christianization was like a change of clothes because of the friars obligatory dress code that came with the new religion - according to the Books of Chilam Balam.
You may use these outfits as inspirations for your own works, but be sure to ask me first. And give credit if you do.
Check my gallery for other fashion sets --->
there's no way this was anything but one particular collection of completely unique costumes.
Any symbols in their dress meant something to each individual, and maybe their friends
they weren't universal gimmicks, or anything, so you showing me that as some era of dress is like you looking at an anime convention, grabbing forty photos and telling me that's how people dressed during our time period.
The idea behind this was to observe the weave, cut and style of the garments not the specific designs inside the clothing. The symbols, are mostly imagined based on iconography seen elsewhere in postclassic maya art, and only serve to give an idea of what they may have looked like. Since most of the garments occur in ritual contexts (codices representing deities), this was formed with the aid of ethnographic spanish accounts of the clothing. However, we know symbols and designs were mentioned in written early colonial documents, there is very few we can actually use from this time period a reference for quotidian clothing. As I also, mentioned this is only a tiny sample, since only a tiny sample is what I had to work with.