Humble Apron Elevates to Fashion Statement and Identity in Oaxaca, Mexico

Here in the Tlacolula Valley, and most villages surrounding the city of Oaxaca, the apron is more than a utilitarian article of clothing used to protect the wearer’s garment from getting soiled. It is a statement of identity, style, and social class.

Tlacolula market scene with aprons as personal and village identity.

Tlacolula market scene with women’s aprons as personal and village identity.

Walk around the Tlacolula Market on Sunday, or any day for that matter, and you will see women, old and young, covered in aprons. You can identify their villages by apron style.

For example, women from San Miguel del Valle wear a bib apron with an attached gathered skirt that has a heavily embroidered hem. The aprons worn by women from San Marcos Tlapazola are cotton with pleated skirts often trimmed in commercial lace or bric-a-brac.

Evaluating apron style, quality and price. Do I really need a black one, too?

Evaluating apron style, quality and price. Do I really need a black one, too?

Teotitlan del Valle women prefer gingham cotton aprons with scalloped bodices and hems, trimmed in machine embroidered flowers, plants, fruits and sometimes animal figures.

There are fancy aprons, more densely embroidered for Sunday wear and special fiestas, and simple ones for everyday to cook, wash clothing and tend to babies, grandchildren and guajolotes.

He likes to cook, too. Having fun in the Tlacolula market.

He likes to cook, too. Having fun in the Tlacolula market.

The apron is worn by grandmothers and granddaughters alike. It is a uniform that conveys personal identity, social status and wealth. The heavily embroidered apron cost much more,  as much as 350 pesos compared to the everyday 150 peso variety.

Rosario wears her apron with hand embroidered bodice

Rosario wears her apron with hand embroidered bodice

You would want to wear your fanciest apron to the market to bring the oohs and aahs from contemporaries who admire your choice of color and design. Market day, a daily occurrence in Teotitlan del Valle and a regional weekly event in Tlacolula, is the social center for towns and villages. It is the time when women greet and mingle with each other, some even sneaking off together for a morning mezcal.

Apron as fashion statement! Who needs a fancy dress?

Apron as fashion statement! Who needs a fancy dress?

When you get home, you change to the daily apron for working.

Aprons are handy because they have deep pockets. Perfect for holding the coins of commerce. They are also convenient because you don’t have to wear a bra.

There are about eight different apron vendors in the concrete building of the permanent Tlacolula market. One of my favorites is along the exterior aisle closer to the bread section. They are from San Pablo Villa de Mitla and the machine embroidered aprons are filled with fanciful images of birds, fruit and flowers.

Rocio, left, demonstrates how this apron looks. She is proud of their work.

Rocio, left, demonstrates how this apron looks. She is proud of their work.

  • Tejidos y Bordados Alondra, Rocio Lopez Mendez, Proprietor, Pipila 9, Mitla, Oaxaca, abel_971@hotmail.com, cel 951-203-8333

Every apron is different. You need to try on at least several to compare size and quality. Make certain there are no stains and that the embroidery around the neck and the pocket placement is even.

One for her, one for him!

One for her, one for him!

 

 

21 Responses to Humble Apron Elevates to Fashion Statement and Identity in Oaxaca, Mexico

  1. Norma, that first photo is spectacular – it is almost like a painting one would find in a museum – the lighting is amazing.

  2. I have a couple and wear one all the time — when cooking, cleaning, gardening, you name it. 😉 They remind me of my grandmother, who used to make and wear a similar bib-style apron everyday.

  3. First thing I bought on the first morning in the Teotitlan market was an apron like Rosario’s. I use it all the time. I often keep it on when guests come as an opportunity to talk about Mexico.
    Ruth

  4. great shots Norma!

  5. Thanks for posting this Norma. I have two aprons that I bought while in Oaxaca and I absolutely love them. The utility far surpasses anything here in the states. I can see why they are so popular.

  6. I treasure my aprons from Teotitlan, especially the one I purchased from Magda at Las Granadas B and B. I wear it almost daily. I feel connected to Mexico!

  7. Thanks for the interesting post and beautiful photos. We can always trust you to come up with a unique angle on daily life in your part of the world. I loved all your photos but the one of the market scene at the top is wonderful with the smoke and the light and shadows. Congratulations on your new high tech connection. I’ve always been in awe of your output–both the quality and quantity but after reading about your previous constraints I am even more awestruck. Looking forward to your future posts.

    • Pauline, thank you for the compliments. I really appreciate your comments. I love being here and translating life through words and photos. It’s part of my creative necessity for self-expression. Even in the face of access to little or no technology! I am grateful for your readership. Norma

  8. Thanks for explaining the apron addiction. Wish I had bought a few for home!

    Sue

  9. Thanks for explaining the apron addiction. Wish I had bought a few to bring home!

    Sue

  10. Hi Norma,

    The aprons are wonderful, as are the skirts etc. that go with them. Such a special part of the art and culture. Thanks for sharing.

    Abrazos,
    Jo Ann

  11. I love the aprons!!!!! Cheerful blog….. Susanne

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