4.07.2011

Huipil Shopping - What, Why & How

What is a Huipil?
The huipil (Maya women's blouse) is the most important part of the Maya woman's costume.  She will spend sometimes months producing this work of art which is an important part of her personal and village identity.  It is usually constructed of 2 or 3 panels and nearly always handwoven on a back strap loom.  These panels are then sewn together to form a rectangle in which a head hole is cut.  The side seams are either left open or sewn up just enough to provide arm openings, resulting in a poncho-like, sleeveless blouse.


Why a Huipil?
Collect, display, wear and/or re-use. Get creative! Embrace the Maya heritage: each huipil is rich in history and tradition. Love color? Hang, drape and display huipiles...tables, walls, chairs, other furniture. The possibilities are endless! Huipiles were originally intended to be worn so sport yours: shirt, poncho, shawl....I guarantee you won't run into someone in the same outfit. Feeling artsy? Re-fashion the embroidery, brocade and/or base cloth into a pillow cover, purse, quilt, article of clothing, etc.

How to buy a Huipil?

Once you are on the hunt for a huipil to treasure, there are several factors to take into consideration when shopping. If you plan to wear your huipil be prepared to alter it yourself or have it altered.  Sorry, huipiles do not come in standard clothing sizes (that would ruin all our fun, right?). The length and width of the huipil will give you a rough idea of the size, but ask yourself (or me!) how large is the neck opening? What size are the arm openings? Are the side seams open or sewn closed? Do I want a lightweight or heavier huipil? Huipiles from villages in hot, lowland areas tend to be lighter weight while huipiles made in the mountain climates are generally heavier and warmer. Keep in mind that huipiles are designed to be worn by wrapping a corte skirt around the waist and securing it with a belt (the huipil is usually tucked in). They are not originally designed to hang over a pair of jeans (sounds cute though, right?). Many huipiles have been taken in (or it is evident that they once were) for a fitted appearance. 


If you plan to display your huipil as a piece of art, also be prepared to open seams, remove excess base cloth, or make another alteration to achieve the finished product you desire. Lastly, remember that most huipiles are essentially used clothing and some have been worn more than others (especially children's huipiles). All are completely handwoven, so rarely symmetrical. Flaws and imperfections (character, I like to call it!) are common from the weaving process and typical wear.


Huipil Care Instructions

Huipiles at Little Mango Imports are sold in the same condition they were purchased from Maya women (no altering, washing, repair, etc.). Traditionally, huipiles were washed in the river, beat on rocks, and hung to dry in the sun...makes me appreciate my machine washer!


Washing Your Huipil
machine or hand wash in cold water (mild soap) and line dry

Considerations

-
colors may bleed with washing (colors may be set with a salt/vinegar and water solution)
-loose threads can potentially snag and unravel
 
-vibrant and dark colors will fade with extensive exposure to sunlight

Shop for Huipiles: http://www.littlemangoimports.com/huipiles.html
Shop for Huipiles by Village: http://www.littlemangoimports.com/huipilesbyvillage.html
Shop for Cortes
(skirts): http://www.littlemangoimports.com/cortes.html
Shop for Cintas/Fajas (belts/sashes): http://www.littlemangoimports.com/cintasfajas.html


Guatemalan Textiles Info: http://www.littlemangoimports.com/textileinfo.html
Pronunciation of Maya Terms:
http://www.littlemangoimports.com/pronunciation.html

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