Life In Mexico

5 Things You Must Know When Buying Mexican Blouses

As experts in Mexican blouses with a specialization in blouses from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, we want to share with you some tips on things to look for or to consider when buying Mexican blouses online or in a retail shop.

  1.  Fit

Mexican blouses made in the traditional huipil way are usually made with one piece of cloth or woven telar.  Sometimes, you will find that three pieces of cloth have been woven together.  The artisans then take the piece and create the space for our head and for our arms.   This results in the blouses often not having typical sleeves and it also provides for a looser and more casual fit.  If you’re looking for a blouse to hug your curves, this style of Mexican blouse (huipil style) may not be the best choice.

How to measure:  When you are buying a blouse online, you can get the measurement of the bust of the Mexican blouse and

Machine Embroidery on a Traditional Mexican Blouse

Machine Embroidery on a Traditional Mexican Blouse

compare the measurements to a blouse you currently have. This is the easiest and most accurate way to get a good fit.  Generally, the Mexican huipil style blouses are not usually made with “Western” measurements in mind.  Furthermore, the blouses are often made with the idea that they will be worn belted as the indigenous women typically do.  But the reality is that not all modern women  wish to put a belt with it.  Overall, the blouses are very blousy, but we love to tastefully them in to a pencil skirt, black raw silk shorts, or some elegant high waisted pants.

2.    Embroidery

The beauty of Mexican blouses is often the detailed and laboriously detailed embroidery that you find on the blouse.  Much of this work is done by hand by women who have learned the craft from their mother or grandmother who also learned the craft from their mother or grandmother.  It’s a family tradition passed down generation to generation.  In the past few decades and with the growing demand for these types of creations, some artisans have streamlined their job and by learning new skills from others, have started to use sewing machine (NOT embroidery machines).  This results in some blouses you will find on the market being embroidered by machine and not by hand.  But don’t let this dissuade you from buying something that is still considered very artisanal.  Although it may be embroidered by machine, rest assured that a lot of work still went into

An example of the cardboard cutout used on the traditional Mexican blouses

An example of the cardboard cutout used on the traditional Mexican blouses

your blouse.  We have visited many villages and see the process and you can often see the results on your blouse.  The women first cut out cardboard pieces with the shape of the flower they wish to include on the blouse.  Later, they trace the shape of the flower in pen onto the fabric.  Finally, using the guide that they have drawn onto the fabric, they use their sewing machine and embroider the brightly colored flowers that you will find on your blouse.

By viewing the up-close detail of a blouse, you can determine with your naked eye if the embroidery is done by hand or by machine.

3.    Price

The amount of time an artisan spends on a blouse will dictate the price of the blouse.  The cheaper the price, the chances are the creation of the blouse has been aided by machine.  Please note that you must be careful where you buy your blouse and need to be sure it’s from a reputable seller.  As with all items which have a market, there are many styles of Mexican blouses which have been copied and had their production outsourced to China.  Seriously.  So ensure you are buying your piece from a seller who has contact with the artisans, otherwise you might get a beautifully made copy of a Mexican blouse made by Li Won in a factory on the other side of the Hong Kong Bay.

Hand embroidery on hand made fabric (Huipil from Oxchuc)

Hand embroidery on hand made fabric (Huipil from Oxchuc)

In the case of Southern Mexico, many artisans will first make their own fabric called telar on which they embroider.  This increases the price significantly as the work is not just embroidery, it is also weaving the fabric.  How many blouses at Zara can you get where the fabric is handwoven by an artisan?

4.    Material

Most Mexican blouses you find will be made of cotton.  More luxurious materials, like silk, are not common as the artisans are already (unfortunately) paid a subsistence wage for their work, so they do not have the extra funds to invest in richer materials.  It’s also what is available in the remote areas where they live.  The cotton is often a muslin because it handles the embroidery better.  When you first buy the blouse, it may have a rough or a stiff feel.  This is due to two things.  First, after the artisans make their blouse, they thoroughly wash it and bleach it, then allow it to hang dry.  This method results in a stiffer feel.  Also, the fabric itself is also a bit stiff at first.  Once you have worn the blouse and washed it a few times, from our personal experience, the fabric will soften up.

5.    Design

The fascinating thing about Mexican blouses is the designs that are put onto each blouse.  Each small symbol has a meaning in the culture of the artisan and it differs by region.  While to you it may look like a simple stripe, the artisan was actually depicting a nearby river that provides fish and water to their village.  This is something incredibly unique and special about the blouses and why we say that you are purchasing wearable art, not simply a blouse.

Another incredible thing about the design is the history behind each design.  You can visit the famous murals of Bonampak (ancient Mayan murals perfectly preserved in the jungles of Chiapas) and see the same designs on the ancient Mayans that are still used today.

Blouse from Pantelho with Mayan symbols in the handwoven fabric

Blouse from Pantelho with Mayan symbols in the handwoven fabric

We hope this guide is useful as your search for your perfect Mexican blouse.

Questions, comments, suggestions, or differing opinions?  Leave us a comment below.  Is it helpful?  Share with your friends through our sharing buttons below.

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