The traje (traditional dress) of the Mayan woman is a statement of her cultural identity and is the thread that ties her to her ancestors. Most women in the rural highlands still wear the traditional dress which includes a huipil (pronounced wee-peel), corte, faja, and the delantal.
The huipil, a woman’s blouse, is a very unique piece of the Mayan woman’s dress – carefully woven with pride and style on a backstrap loom (lienso). They are very distinct, like a piece of artwork, with intricate weaving and embroidery. Few women have more than one huipil due to the cost, but if they are able to afford a second one it would be for fiestas and other special occasions such as marriages. Today many women wear their hand-woven huipil on special occasions and wear a store bought blouse everyday because it is cheaper to purchase a simple blouse than purchase the yarn to weave a huipil.
The corte, a woman’s skirt, is woven usually on a larger foot pedal type loom. The large pieces of cloth are then sewed together to make a sort of large tube. The woman steps into the circular skirt tube and wraps the cloth around her, using a hand-woven faja (belt) to secure the skirt in place. These wrap around skirts are long – nearly to the ankles.
The faja, belt, is also woven on the backstrap loom which makes the belt base very durable. Next the woman does intricate embroidery on the belt. It may take a month to do all the work on a special faja – one for a wedding or other special occasion.
Over the corte skirt a Mayan woman always wears her delantal, her apron, partly to protect her corte during daily work but also to be used in a variety of ways during the day. She can use it to carry groceries or goods home from the market or carry things around the house.
The final important part of the traje, traditional dress, is the rebozo, or shawl. Many times the shawl is used to carry babies on their back or to cover and keep them warm on chilly highland mornings.
In the more urban areas fewer women are seen in the traditional dress but in the highlands most women still wear it. Like traditional styles of dress in many cultures it signifies pride and heritage to the women.