Hooray for Huipils!

Bulto of Mary Magdalene adorned with huipils

If you’re trying to think of the perfect sleeveless garment to make for the 2012 Handwoven Garment Challenge, consider the huipil, a traditional Mayan garment. (The entry deadline is April 12th, so weave away!)


Huipils have been worn by Mayan women for centuries, and by men in some villages. Most are simply constructed from two or three woven panels sewn together with a hole cut at the top for the head. The stunning weaving and embroidery adorning these garments make them woven works of art. 


As Linda Ligon mentions in her article, in the village of Magdalenas Aldama, even the bultos of the saints are swathed in layer after layer of elaborately brocaded huipils. According to Morris's book, A Textile Guide to the Highlands of Chiapas, the designs woven on the saints's huipils are as ancient as they are beautiful.

The brocades patterns can be traced back as far as the Maya Classic Period (200-900 AD). Morris says that, according to legend, Mary Magdalene (a huipil-dressed bulto of whom is shown above) taught the Mayan people how to weave these stunning brocaded garments at the beginning of time.  


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