Traje or Traditional Mayan Dress

san-jorge-pelo.jpgThe 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. huipil 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.corte

            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. 

            traditional delantalOver 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.

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15 Responses to “Traje or Traditional Mayan Dress”

  1. Susan Says:

    Karen,

    I like this article. May I have your permission to copy it and possibly use it later for a blog or maybe just to share with people?

  2. mario Says:

    The huipil is a woman’s blouse
    and The corte is a woman’s skirt

  3. Karen Lohn Says:

    Dear Karen,
    Your “Education and More” website is wonderful! I am writing a book entitled Peace Fibres: Stitching a Soulful World in which I enlist fibre work as a vehicle for deepening relationships on a personal and global level. The theme of my book meshes well with your website focus.
    I am wondering if I might have permission to use the photograph of the Mayan woman’s lovely braids in a chapter that focuses on identity through fibres and also the one of the loom at the bottom of that page.
    I would, of course, credit your website and the photographer in the book.

    May I use this image? If so, what, if any, fees might be involved?
    Thank you for your consideration of my request. I look forward to your response.

    Sincerely,
    Karen Lohn

  4. Karen Lohn Says:

    Dear Anne,
    Thank you so much for your generous sharing of your images! I am so excited as they will complement my text well.
    I think that we share a common purpose, building awareness and harmony.
    Much appreciation and warm wishes,
    Karen

  5. educationandmore Says:

    Best wishes with your book! Be sure to let us know when it is published — I would love to see it!

  6. Susie Says:

    I’m writing an essay on the importance of cloth and clothing in both politcal and personal spheres and I have found your blog very useful, I would like to reference some of what you have said in my essay. What should I reference it to? If possible I’d love to know the name of whoever wrote it and perhaps the year, although this is less important.

    Thank you very much.

    • educationandmore Says:

      Thanks Susie for your interest in our blog! Education And More– http://www.educationandmore.org —is a nonprofit charitable organization helping the women and children in Guatemala. This article on Mayan dress was written in January 2008 and you can reference Education And More. We do have more information on the women artisans we work with at our website.
      Thanks again for your interest,
      Karen

  7. Julie Says:

    Karen,
    I am on my way to San Juan Comalapa tomorrow morning. My husband and I were there in December building a completely sustainable home with Long Way Home, ngo in Comalapa and Earthship Biotech, out of Taos, NM. I was so taken with the women there. Have been empowering women most of my life. Returning to see how I can help them achieve their vision of self sustaining lives. Are you anywhere near the area of Comalapa, Antigua, Lake Atitlan?

    Julie Wiley

  8. Julie Says:

    PS You can contact me through my blog or hjwiley@gmail.com

  9. millesantab146 Says:

    Very nice article about Mayan Dress..I like it..Thanks for sharing!

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