Mayan traditional clothing then and now
explaining tzute, corte, cinta, tocoyal


The Mayans have always been impressive to anthropologists because of their advanced practices in many spheres of life. The way they built their cities with beautiful architecture, their knowledge of subjects like mathematics and astrology, their rich culture and beliefs, their games and entertainment- all of this makes them a very special ancient civilization. 

One of the fields where Mayan creativity peaked was in clothing creation. Through their colorful, unique designs used on the clothes, Mayans told a lot about themselves and their culture. A lot of those designs are created even now by the Mayans and those pieces of clothing are as impressive as they were back then. The Mayan clothing and textiles nowadays are mostly found in Guatemala, Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, and El Salvador.

Usually, Mayans reside in rural areas and the clothing creation is in the hands of the Mayan women. This was always the case- the women created the woven clothing that had special elements of the group they belonged to. Even though the clothing designs vary depending on who is wearing them, the gender, the status, the group, etc, there are basic elements that belong to all traditional Mayan clothing.

1. Production of textiles 

Archeologists have found many tools for textile production in the ruins of high and low classes of housing like looms, spindles, and others. Based on that, it’s assumed that most of the people in the society were creating textiles. The most used tool for textile production was backstrap looms which goes back for more than 1000 years. The ones they used in the past were small with one side tied to a stationary object, and the other to the weaver. Nowadays, the looms are quite larger and have a bigger production potential- floor looms. Mayan descendants are still widely using floor looms to create traditional Mayan clothing. 

 
 


2. types of Mayan clothing

Tzute

Tzute is a multipurpose cloth that can be used in many different ways. It is worn by both men and women and it can be used as scarves or shawls, or other types of garments. Depending on the length and purpose of the tzute the weaving process is different, but usually, it takes about 6 months to create one tzute with various designs. Girls from the age of 8 are starting to learn the weaving process. When they are getting married, it is a tradition that the grooms’ families ask for a tzute and the brides themselves have to create one.

Mayan traditional tzute
Source: Flickr

Women’s clothes

Huipil is the upper garment that Mayan women used to wear, and wear still nowadays. It’s a rectangular top with area cut out for the neck. Huipil means “blouse” in Spanish and it’s usually made from lightweight cotton. It is created with brocade patterns and is usually very colorful. 

A rack of Mayan traditional huipils
Source: Wikipedia

Corte is the skirt that Mayan women wear and it’s very practical since it can fit through all the stages of a woman’s life. The cortes are wrapped around the waist and are secured with a belt called faja or simply a tucking at the waist. Skirts are woven either from one piece of fabric or many smaller pieces that are put together. As head accessories, Mayan women wear a hair ribbon called cinta, and hair wraps called tocoyal.

Mayan women wearing traditional Mayan clothing

Men’s clothes

Men used to wear a breechcloth made of cotton, and palm hats that they needed against the summer heat. Today, their clothing consists of multicolored shirts and pants with knee or ankle length. Textiles are enriching with human or animal designs, and the dominating motif is a diamond that represents the Sun. Another garment that Mayan men wear are woolen overshirts which are traditional wool tunics for men.
 
Mayan man wearing traditional Mayan clothing

Nowadays, Mayans are modernized too as they are a part of the new world and their clothing is shifting towards that as well. They are not using bags-bolsas, or belts- cinturóns, anymore. Mayans use the main parts of clothing: shirts, pants, dresses, skirts. The same applies to the sandals which in the past were made of animal skin but now Mayans are purchasing available ones in stores. 

3. Conclusion 

Mayan clothing has always been very important to the people and it is still considered to be sacred. They believe that weaving is a type of spirituality and that the clothes people wear define them. That is why they are giving such great importance to their clothing and are paying so much attention to the details and designs. Every single piece of clothing is a piece of the Mayan culture itself. This attitude of Mayans has been a great inspiration for our Mayan collection of clothing. That is why we are occasionally gifting a cherished piece of the Mayan culture through the Worry dolls. These dolls are not for sale.
 


The Worry Dolls are handmade by the Mayan people from Guatemala created from recycled clothing materials. The legend behind them says that if you gift a Worry doll to somebody and they place it under their pillow, when they wake up, all of their worries will be taken away. 


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