Mexican Clothes - Huipil

The following is a history about Mexican clothes published by Editorial Diamantina CONACULTA Dirección General de Publicaciones Universidad Autónoma de México; in which Otilia Sandoval an indigenous woman from Oaxaca México explains the HUIPIL.

When humans appeared in the world, they were naked, and they realized they could do something to protect themselves against harsh weather, like severe cold or heat. They found that there was a plant, cotton, whose fibers were stretchable; first they removed its seeds and opened the pod, stretching the fibers with both hands until it reached a size that could cover one´s torso. Then they made a hole in it for the neck, and made another piece to cover their hips and legs. But when they went into the woods, pieces would get caught on the branches of bushes, so the men and women had to figure out a way to make cloth that they could wear and that it would not be so easily torn. Men thus discovered the spindle, and woman began spinning the cotton. This is how the back strap loom was invented enabling them to weave their clothes. Women began adding decorative embroidery to their huipiles or tunics.

The huipil is part of our everyday clothing: women wear it since childhood. A new one is worn for special events, and when a woman dies, she is buried in her best huipil. When a weaver is teaching her daughter or someone else to use the loom, she must show them how to look after it and the trick of the trade. If the mother or teacher gets angry, she should never hit her daughter´s or student´s head -or any other part of her body- with her reed, because it could cause tumors that are difficult to cure.

The huipil is made of three pieces called lienzos or webs. The middle web always has a red or dark blue fringe on each side, the color depending on the woman´s taste or skin tone. Around the collar it bears brightly colored ribbons. Another ribbon is cut to form triangles, and ribbons of the same length as the huipil hang down its back. The webs are attached to each other with lace trimming or stitched (with a cross, pile of whipping stitch, etc).

Wearing her huipil, a woman looks like an adult butterfly displaying its beauty. The woman´s head thus becomes the center of the universe, i.e. the Sun, and the triangles made of ribbon are rays of sunlight. The ribbons hanging across the back represents rain or the rain snake, while the large brocade on the chest represents the mother butterfly or rainbow. This large brocade incorporates smaller brocades on either sides of it. A characteristic of the Triqui huipil is a white space at the bottom of the front part. This large solid band (called a gusano) signifies the end or death; two brocades represent the origin or the beginning of life or of something that someone wants to begin. The white space between the brocades is the time span between different cycles in the butterfly´s life.

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