Tag Archives: dress

24-Hour Oaxaca Textile Web Event: Tuxtepec Huipiles Sale

Buy before 2 p.m. Central Daylight Time (tomorrow) November 4.  I will bring your purchase(s) to the U.S.A. when I travel on Thursday morning and ship from California to anywhere in the U.S.A. early next week. Shipping included in price. I’m making this unexpected trip to help care for our mom.  Must be prepaid with PayPal for me to pack and bring. I will send you an invoice. Tell me which one you want.

These are the ones you see in the Guelaguetza! All huipiles/dresses measure about 42″ long from shoulder to hem, and about 28″ wide.  They can fit size L-XXL body and drape very nicely. From my collection and purchased directly from the women who made them. New.

Two Huipiles from San Felipe Usila, Oaxaca


SFU1: San Felipe Usila Huipil

SFU1: Above. hand-woven on back strap loom in traditional red and black San Felipe Usila style with extravagant supplementary weft and hand embroidered. $295.


SFU1: Bodice detail

SFU1: Bodice detail

SFU2:  Above. hand-woven on back strap loom in traditional red and black San Felipe Usila style with supplementary weft, a simpler version of SFU1. $250.

Two Huipiles from the Island of Soyaltepec

SOY1: Soyaltepec huipil, fuchsia with black

SOY1: Soyaltepec huipil, fuchsia with black

SOY1 bodice detail

SOY1 bodice detail

SOY1: stitching detail

SOY1: stitching detail

SOY1: Hand embroidered in the village of Soyaltepec, an island in the Miguel Aleman Dam in the remote Chinantla region of Oaxaca about 8 hours from Oaxaca city. Fuchsia and black flowers and birds on finest quality, soft muslin cotton — what the locals wear. $235.

SOY2: Variegated fuchsia and green Soyaltepec huipil

SOY2: Variegated fuchsia and green Soyaltepec huipil

SOY2: embroidery detail

SOY2: embroidery detail

SOY2: Hand embroidered in the village of Soyaltepec. Variations of green and fuchsia on muslin cotton. $275.

One Huipil from Valle Nacional

VALLE1: Valle Nacional huipil

VALLE1: Valle Nacional huipil

Valle Nacional bodice detail

Valle Nacional bodice detail

VALLE1: Handwoven cotton on a back strap loom with hand embroidered cross stitch bodice from the town of Valle Nacional in the Tuxtepec region of Oaxaca. A knock-out and very comfortable. $155.

Oaxaca expoVENTA: San Felipe Usila Textiles for Muertos


Pop-Up expoVENTA coming Oct. 29-30, from the land of the Dance of the Flor de Piña (of Guelaguetza fame) and those exquisite huipiles of San Felipe Usila, a remote village high in Oaxaca’s Papaloapan region near Tuxtepec, 8 hours from Oaxaca City.


Jose Isidro and his mama, will come from their village with hand-woven textiles at various prices and sizes, from complex to simple, from daily wear (diario) to fancy, schmancy gala traje (special occasion dress). They represent the weaving of their extended family cooperative.

TuxtHectorArturoHndz-5 BeadsDress

Big thanks to Casa de las Bugambilias B&B-Adryana Zavala, and El Diablo y La Sandia Boca del MonteMaria Crespo for their generous hospitality.

FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-3 FashionShowUsila3-2 copy RibbonsDress

All sales go directly to the family weaving cooperative. Please share widely. Thank you.



Artisan Sisters Week 9: Whimsical Huipil and Coral Earrings

This week the Artisan Sisters offer a stunning indigenous huipil (dress) hand woven and embroidered from the mountains of Oaxaca, and sterling silver and coral antique earrings from Puebla.  Email me if you want to order to make sure the item is still available.  Shipping cost extra. Insurance optional.

Animals and birds and sea creatures are a whimsical addition to this made-on-a-backstrap-loom garment that measures 39″ wide (across the front) in three wefts.   All cotton, it is approximately 39″ long from the shoulders, and will fit a size Large-Xtra Large. Yours for $125.00, Item Number 08132012.1. Plus shipping.

There are small multi-colored diamond shapes woven into the body of the cloth, and the finish work is excellent.  The black hand-bound cotton trim around the neck is perfectly done and ensures there will be no unraveling!  The seams are sewn together with a zigzag red crochet stitch, and the armholes are finished with the same workmanship.    This collector’s piece is definitely a bargain!

Antique sterling silver and coral earrings from Puebla, Mexico date to the mid-1950’s.  Silver is no longer being made in Puebla and these came from an estate.  Note the Frida-style birds.  Great movement. 2-1/8″ long.  $95.  Plus shipping, depending on where you live in the U.S.A. Item #08132012.2

When Indigenous Oaxaca Dress Becomes Inspiration for High Fashion

Years ago I discovered Mexican designer Carla Fernandez and her sweet little book (out of print) that taught me the difference between indigenous and Western clothing design.  Rather than form fitting construction with darts, waistbands, zippers, buttons and collars, pre-European style clothing of the Americas is made for easy fit and comfort.  The emphasis is on the weaving techniques and designs integrated into the fabric or embroidered rather than the cut.

[Left:  Odillon, owner of Arte Amusgo, a cooperative on Calle 5 de Mayo in the historic center of Oaxaca, holds an intricately handwoven huipil. The pattern is woven, not embroidered, as part of the cloth. This one sells for about 7,000 pesos.]

Indigenous clothing is flowing, soft, loose, relaxed.  Slip-it-on-0ver-the-head and you are dressed!  The dresses, or huipiles, are made as (more or less) one size fits (almost) all!  Patterns are rectangles, triangles and squares sewn together often with an intricate crochet stitch that can be as beautiful as the cloth.

Indigenous Fashion Inspires Mexican Runways  Now, an Associated Press story picked up by the New York Times tells how Mexico City contempo-Mex designers like Lydia Lavin are incorporating indigenous clothing design elements into high-end fashion.  (Click on her name to see the runway models.] Price tags are upwards of $1,000USD. (One can buy a lovely Oaxaca huipil for under $100USD.  The weaver may get 40-70%.)  Of course the look is entirely different! In Lydia Lavin’s work,  you will recognize bits and pieces of indigenous textile in the couture. [Our friend Ana Paula Fuentes, director of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, adds to the story’s commentary.]

[Left:  Women at the Guelaguetza wear indigenous dress, all handwoven, from the Alta Mixteca, in Oaxaca.]




Is this an issue of Fair Trade or Fair Game?

Ultimately, it is the consumer who must decide if the indigenous artisan is being fairly compensated for her/his work or role in clothing production.   We all make choices.  I constantly struggle with the question about what is authentic, since adaptation is part of evolution and creativity.  Yet, our choices may be clearer when offered a high-fashion knock-off that incorporates synthetic fabric, is made on a commercial rather than back-strap loom, and perhaps is made in China!

[Left: Santa Fe, NM textile designer Sheri Brautigam describes huipil designs on display at Los Baules, the shop owned by Remigio Mestas on Macedonio Alcala in the Los Danzantes restaurant patio.]

Sewing Lesson: Making a Huipil From Indigenous Cloth

I’m in love with the book, Taller Flora by Carla Fernandez. In it she describes the various ways of putting webs (geometric shapes of cloth–squares, rectangles, triangles) together to create dresses, pants, skirts, blouses, shirts, sashes and jackets. Fernandez describes indigenous pre-Hispanic techniques for constructing garments, and compares this with western techniques. Westerners cut cloth to fit the body. Indigenous weavers feature the textile and, make few, if any, cuts into the cloth. huipil-mixtec-coast.jpgTheir clothing is loose fitting, comfortable, and easily adaptable to another future use. The weaving takes center stage.

Last summer, I eyed a piece of hand woven cloth tucked away on the bottom shelf case of the B&B where we were staying. It’s gloriously rich color spoke to me, and I bought it. It’s been stashed away and yesterday I decided to take it in hand and create a huipil.jalieza-backstrap-loom.jpg Imagine three long, rectangular pieces hand woven on a back-strap loom, each panel (web) 14-1/2” wide x 80” long and hand-stitched together, featuring intricate patterns of stars, birds, fish, crabs, lobster, bugs, deer, and rabbits. It is a brocaded piece from the coastal Mixtec village of Huazotitlan, Oaxaca. I don’t know for certain, but am assuming, that it is dyed with cochineal (red), indigo (blue) and caracol (purple) based on the price I paid for the cloth ($180 USD) — and that was not yet made up into anything!

Above: Example of weaving on a backstrap loom.

Lovingly, I opened the seams and took apart the hand stitching, thinking about the women who created this fabric. How many women’s hands were there? Were they mother and daughter? Dear friends or sisters?


The 4-ply cotton seam threads went on for a while, were knotted off, the trailing thread tucked neatly into the next set of stitches that continued but were different. I could tell they were made by another pair of hands by the way they entered the cloth. This was every bit as sturdy as any machine-made seam. I was deconstructing the panels because two panels would be sufficient to cover my body. I was able to create a huipil without making a single cut in the cloth. Here’s how I did it:

First using small basting stitches, I sewed two panels together at the center seam, being sure to match the direction of the pattern in the weave. I ended the seam at the opening of the neck hole, measuring how big I wanted this to be so the garment would go over my head. I made the total size of the opening 16″, and marked the cloth equally front to back with a straight pin (and tailor’s chalk) so I would know where to stop sewing. I continued to baste from the hem toward the neck on the other side closing the seam the same amount of inches front to back. Then, I held the side seams together to see how much of an armhole I wanted. I decided on a 12” opening for the armhole. So I measured 12” from the shoulder fold down the side-seam, marked it with a straight pin, and began to baste from the hem going up toward the straight pin.

Not being an accomplished Mixtec seamstress, I took the fabric to the sewing machine and used a basting stitch (#4 stitch length on my machine) to sew all the seams together. I decided not to make the machine stitches smaller (#3) because I didn’t want to pull the the brocade fabric together too tightly and I wanted the flexibility to take the garment apart later in case I wanted to do something else with the material. Then, I steamed out all the seams with my iron (gently) so they laid flat. I finished the huipil by folding the bottom over into a ½” hem and sewing the hem by hand using blind stitches. The entire project took me about 3 hours. I didn’t need to finish off the neckline or armholes because the selvages are perfectly beautiful.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out. A huipil of this quality would cost $500+ in any shop in the Santo Domingo – Alcala de Macedeonia neighborhood!

Norma Hawthorne is a North Carolina fiber and jewelry artist, and university administrator, who writes about Oaxaca and living in Teotitlan del Valle on her website www.oaxacaculture.com She is currently organizing weaving and natural dyeing workshops with Federico Chavez Sosa and Eric Chavez Santiago in Teotitlan del Valle.

ADDENDUM: June 5, 2008. I’ve had lots of requests since writing this post for where to purchase the Taller Flora by Carla Fernandez book.  I cannot find a U.S. source and intend to try to track down this down on my upcoming trip to Oaxaca.  Meanwhile, if you go to the website:  www.flora2.com/ you can download the book from a PDF file.