Genue Inc.
May 27, 2015

A Look at Traditional Huipil Pattern in Fashion

Have you heard of huipil? A huipil (pronounced “wipil”) is a traditional blouse worn by many indigenous Mayan women in Mexico and Central America. And it’s absolutely beautiful. Typically woven on a large back strap loom, the patterned garment is made from a folded rectangle of fabric stitched along the edges to create openings for the wearer’s head and arms. This gives the huipil its recognizable, rectangular shape, which is loose fitting and comfortable to wear. While the shape of each huipil remains relatively standard, each garment is adorned with beautiful, ornate embroidery designs that give the piece a unique flair.

These colorful patterns, which often take several months to create, feature elements such as flowers, birds, or geometric designs. A huipil often has impressive embroidery work on all four sides, known for being bright, vibrant, and colorful.

In addition to being incredibly beautiful, these patterns also held tremendous significance for women in Mayan cultures. The patterns range in intricacy from simple and modest to incredibly ornate. The simpler huipils are worn on a daily basis, whereas the more complex designs are typically reserved for ceremonial purposes such as weddings, funerals, or religious services.

Something really interesting is that the style of a huipiel could also communicate a tremendous amount of information about the woman wearing it.

As different regions have distinctive methods for creating their huipiles, the look of the blouse could often distinguish the wearer’s region of origin, and could also indicate social class, marital status, or personal beliefs. Additionally, the huipil held spiritual significance in Mayan cultures, which believed that designs on clothing could act as protection from supernatural forces.

When flat, the head opening of a huipil is surrounded by the four panels of embroidery on the front, back, and shoulders of the blouse, which represent north, south, east and west. Thus, the wearer’s head becomes the sun, placing her at the center of the solar system.

In addition to its cultural and mystical importance, the huipil was a tremendous fashion statement.

In fact, the huipil still remains popular in the regions from which it originated, as many women in Mexico and Central America continue to wear the traditional tunic. However, though it was originally worn with a matching skirt, many contemporary women now opt to modernize their look by pairing the blouse with jeans or shorts.

Though the huipil’s influence is deeply rooted in Mayan regions, elements of the blouse now inspire fashion trends across the globe. From runway shows to sale racks, it’s easy to spot the huipil’s distinctive patterns and rectangular shape.

In fact, designer Mara Hoffman created an entire collection based off of the huipil’s vibrant embroidery designs, giving a modern twist to the traditional patterns. Similarly, labels such as Free People and Anthropologie also offer garments heavily reminiscent of the traditional tunic, featuring loose fitting shapes and bright, intricate patterns. These designs are not only prominent in clothing design, but can also be found in shoes, handbags, and home decorations.

Our loom weaving skills are a bit rusty, So we played around on Genue creating a huipil inspired patterned. What do you think?


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