Traditional Maya Clothing

In the Guatemalan Highlands, traditional clothing is still weared quite often. Especially for ceremonials days. First time I came a cross the design of a traditional blouse, I remembered asking my mom, who know everything about clothes, how was it worn. It intrigued me. During my stay in Guatemala, I started photographing of these clothes and did some researches. It actually was a fun side project. This is the answer to my question, and much more.

Garments are traditionally made from cotton. It come in different natural colors from white to moka, but it is mostly colored with natural dyes. The indigo color for example, is extracted  from the leaves of the Anil, and the red come from a small bug. Every city  have there own color pattern.This was introduced by the Spaniards, to tell apart peoples from different regions. Most of the pictures used in this article were taken in Chichicastenango where purple is prominent. The other images are from Antigua, where women from different places come in with their richly colored blouses.

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In the picture you can see a woman dressed up for church. She is wearing a Huipil (blouse) and a Corte (skirt), hold together with a Faja (belt) just above the hips. In her head she wears a Cinta (headdress). Often a Rebonzo (shawl) is carried as well.

This is an example of a traditional Huipil. Fabrics are hand-woven by women. Figures and patterns are included during, or after the weaving. There are 7 embroidery techniques used in Guatemala. The designs depends of the region. It ranges from flowers to geometric patterns, to abstract birds, etc. When the textile is done, it is folded in two. Both lateral  sides are stitched together leaving some space for the arms.

The material of el Corte is usually a men job. they area made using an European loom. The fabric is wrapped around the hips to make the skirt. The number of layers depends of the climate, it can measure up to 7 meters! Two pieces of cloths are embroidered together by hand to make the skirt longer.

The blouse goes in the skirt and the are bind with a Faja (belt). It help to suit the clothes in an quite elegant way around the body. Rebonzo (shawl), is used for all kind of duties ,from carrying babies or goods, or simply warming.

The finishing touch would be the headdress, Cinta. Someone told me it represents a snake, turned around the head. It symbolize the femininity and also protect from the sun. There are a lots of variations; simply a piece of cloth folded in four and placed on the head, a ribbon braided in the hair, or a 15m long ribbon turned around the head.

Men also have traditional clothes, but out of ceremonial days, they are hard to find. In the villages around Lake Atitlan it is possible to spot traditionally dressed old men.

Although the clothes cut is really old, traditional clothing have been adapted to modern times. Sometimes its just an adaption of the blouses made out of industrialized materials. The youngster like to wear the skirt shorter creating a elegant mix of tradition an glamour.

Guatemala is a colorful country with many different clothing trends. The tradition has remained alive and evaluated over a long time. But will it survive the industrial clothes coming from North America?

 

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