MEXICAN FASHION THROUGHOUT THE AGES
By Harriet Hart
The theme for the 14th annual Feria Maestros del Arte, November 13 to 15 at the Chapala Yacht Club, is Mexican Fashion. Style conscious art lovers can learn about Mexican style throughout the ages, first hand from the masters.
Allow me to introduce to you some of the talented men and women who will travel from all over Mexico to participate in this event. Our “tour” goes from head to toe, from hats to high heels.
Malena Cruz Uc learned to make Panama hats from her grandfather. Before they open, she cuts Huano, and jipipalm stalks and slices them into strips, dehydrates and bleaches them with sulfur, bunches them together and dyes them using natural dyes. During the dry season, these bunches are left at least for a day in a cave so that the humidity permits weaving without breakage. Malena is then ready to start making the hats right in the cave. First, she weaves the hats, and then places them in a hot (120 Celsius) press to achieve their final shape. Maleni, now one of the best weavers in the region, is the granddaughter of the famous master Andres UcDzul featured in Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art.
Before the Conquest, men and women in Mexico used a kind of simple shawl, called a lienza, for warmth and carrying things. These were woven on a back-strap loom from maguey or henequen fibers. Soon after the Spaniards arrived they insisted that women cover their heads when they entered a church. The Spanish verb rebozar means to cover up.
The garment quickly became multipurpose and was initially woven out of cotton. Later silk and wool were used. Mexican women of all social standings wear the resulting rebozos proudly to this day.
Camelia Ramos Zamora from the state of Mexico carries on the tradition of her father, the late award-winning Don Isaac Ramos Padilla, by creating very fine rebozos made from up to 5000 threads in intricate patterns based on ancient designs. Each piece is an original featuring special knot work that marks the fringe. Camelia is joined by artists like Cecilia Bautista from Michoacán who creates Purépecha style rebozos in black and blue stripes, with feathers and beads incorporated into the fringes.
The huipil is the most common traditional garment worn by indigenous women across Mexico and Central America. Made from cotton, wool or silk, it is a loose-fitting garment woven on a back-strap loom, and decorated with designs either woven into the fabric itself or with embroidery, ribbons or lace. The huipil varies from short-blouse length to floor length and can be an everyday garment or worn on special ceremonial occasions.
At this year’s Feria, there will be individuals and cooperatives selling huipiles in a variety of distinctive styles representative of their regions. La Flor de Xochistlahuaca, a cooperative from southern Guerrero, whose mission it is to rescue, preserve and promote ancient techniques of spinning and dyeing will attend, as will María Mendez Hernández and Matilde García Pérez, from the highlands of Chiapas, selling their cooperative’s white huipiles decorated with bright colors.
The guayabera, a men’s shirt with two vertical rows of pleats running its length front and back, has mysterious origins. Mexico claims it, as well as Cuba and the Philippines; it is worn worldwide in warm countries, often on formal occasions like weddings and funerals. Mexican businessmen can be seen heading to the office in them. Guayaberas were traditionally white, but now come in solid colors. They have a straight hem at the bottom and are never tucked in. Political leaders with ideologies as diverse as Fidel Castro and Ronald Regan have worn them, so male Feria-goers will be in good company when they buy one of these cool, smart and versatile garments.
Oliverio Gomez Perez from Chiapas insisted his mother teach him embroidery; he soon became one of the finest embroiderers in Santa Marta. Known for his steady, regular, fine stitches, Oliverio decorates linen men’s shirts from the Yucatán, which sell in many upscale shops and this year at the Feria. Oliverio also makes the guayaberas.
Alberto Martínez Toliz began a family business making leather huaraches (sandals) in 1937 in the city of Oaxaca de Juárez. Today, his grandson, José Luis Martínez González, has created shoes that have ethnic fashion, sophistication, tradition and culture in every step. José adapted contemporary trends without leaving behind the family legacy or his roots and pioneered manufacturing and designing shoes for both men and women using woven and embroidered textiles from Oaxaca. His is the only company in Oaxaca making this type of footwear.
Fashionable Feria patrons will be able to outfit themselves this year from top to bottom; confident that they achieved style by helping talented Mexican artisans carry on traditional folk arts. In addition to fashions, the Feria will showcase a full range of folk art including ceramics, masks, wood metal objects, etc.
For details visit www.mexicoartshow.com.