Dresses of Yucatán, Mexico

Two dresses from Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula

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The state of Yucatán is known as an important historical site of the Mayan civilization famous for its ruins, most notably Chichén Itzá. The state is also renowned for its beautiful beaches, charming Spanish colonial cities, popular resorts, genuinely hospitable people, and its great cleanliness. Because of this, people refer to the capitol, Merida, as the “White City.” The agave plant, henequén, is responsible for much of Yucatan’s wealth as its fibers are used around the world to make rope and twine.

The Mestiza Yucatecas, of Spanish and Mayan ancestry, embellished the everyday shifts worn by Mayan women to form their European-inspired gala dresses. The climate of the region is hot and humid, so dresses in Yucatán are traditionally light, sleeveless, and loose-fitting. The dresses are called ternos because they have three parts: a loose-fitting square yoke called a jubón; a straight-sided shift called a huipil; and a long underskirt called a fustán. All three pieces are trimmed with silk lace and are embroidered in cross stitch. Mestizas are most proud of their cross stitch work, which they make by counting stitches without using a pattern, or “hilo contado.” They often wear beautiful filigreed gold and coral rosaries as jewelry.

These outfits are part of a larger exhibition, Hilos de Tradicion: Dresses of Mexico, showcasing Mexican ensembles collected by the Brownsville Pan American Round Table beginning in the 1930s.

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Dresses of Yucatán, Mexico Artifact from Brownsville, TX
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