When shopping in Puerto Vallarta, one will find few garments as simple and yet elaborate as Huipil, the traditional dress worn by indigenous women of Central and South America. A Nahuatl word, pronounced weep-eel, the length of a Huipil can be everything from a short blouse to a floor length dress. Normally assembled with two pieces of fabric, joined together with decorative stitching, ribbons or lace, the basic construction is quite simple. Some are made with yokes, separate from the bodice. Originally made on a back strap loom, designs were woven into the fabric before it was pieced together. Commercially, and with their popularity, the preferred material is cotton or light poplin and the decoration is embroidery.
Huipil are everyday attire in Puerto Vallarta and all of Mexico, Central and South America. It is common to see them worn by women and children, though some designs are selected for men, as well. Flowers, birds and mythical animals are familiar patterns. Sizes can be found to fit the tiniest infant up to a wide range for adults. Huipil are not meant to be form fitting or flattering to the frame. They are intentionally loose fitting and cut to no particular shape; their comfort cannot be denied. Necklines, which can be square, oval, round or a simple slit to enable the wearer to slip it over her head, have much to do with the choice of the artist.
Symbolism in the embroidery of huipil conveys history, identity of region and culture and often personal details about the life of the wearer. Motifs can represent agriculture, the natural and the mythical world. Feathers, beads, ribbons and lace, incorporated in the fabric are very significant and often used for burials, baptisms, weddings and other ceremonies. Certain features might indicate rank and stature of a woman in the community. Some saints have their own designated patterns and are expressed as such.
As with many artisans in Mexico, the creation of huipil is often a family affair, with girls learning the craft from mothers and grandmothers. A tremendous amount of work can go into one blouse and may be the sole source of income for a household.
We recommend buying from the ladies on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, who lug heavy loads in the heat and are committed to finding the perfect fit for a customer. There are also many small shops throughout the town, as well as kiosks and carts where huipil can be purchased. When shopping for these gorgeous garments in Puerto Vallarta, remember the value of a souvenir that will last for many years to come.
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Thanks to our guest blogger Adam Garcia for this article!
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