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  • Place of origin:

    Mexico (made)

  • Date:

    1870-1900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cotton in plain weave embroidered with cotton and wool

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Alfred Percival Maudslay

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

A huipil is a blouse-like garment that forms part of the traditional dress worn by Mexican women. Huipils are hand-woven by the women themselves, usually on a portable 'back-strap' or 'belt' loom, which is secured around the waist of the weaver, enabling her to continue weaving when opportunity and time permit. Huipils are very simply constructed; they consist of a woven cotton or wool rectangle with an opening left at the top for the head, much like a tunic. The weave is either plain or brocaded, which can then be embroidered or appliquéd if further decoration is desired. Patterns are often particular to the weaver's village or region and are therefore a useful clue to the huipil's origins.

Physical description

Huipil (blouse-like garment) in cotton in plain weave, embroidered with cotton and a little wool. Motifs include flowers, birds and a stag.

1931 Description: Blouse. Cotton on linen. Laid satin, stem and long-armed cross stitches.

1975 Description: Huipil from Mexico or Guatemala. Description as above except this hiupil could be Mexcian and the ground cloth is cotton not linen. Probably commercial cloth not locally woven on a backstrp loom as it only has two selvedges. The dog figure on the back of the collar is embroidered in pink and green wool.

Notes (1997)
There may be an older version of this in the Textile Museum, Washington DC.
The ground is plain weave white cotton with 48 warp threads per inch and 51 weft threads per inch. One width has been folded over the shoulders and seamed down the sides by oversewing the edges with white cotton. These stitches are not close together. A small circular opening has been cut and hemmed for the neck. There is a hem along the bottom of the garment.
The embroidery thread is red cotton (Z4S) and blue cotton (Z3S). The wing of one bird has been worked with yellow cotton (Z3S) which looks green on the back. The dog mentioned in the 1975 description also has agreen woolen mouth.The spin, ply and twist of the wool has not been ascertained.
The cotton threads have been loosely twisted and have relaxed so that they give the appearance of many parallel threads. The embroidery stops around the neck, the arm holes and the hem. The garment was seamed before being embroidered. No markings are visible and there is no indication of how the design was transferred to the fabric. The surface satin stitch creates a decorative effect on the upper surface only and there is little thread on the reverse.

Place of Origin

Mexico (made)


1870-1900 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Cotton in plain weave embroidered with cotton and wool


Length: 51.5 cm, Width: 62 cm

Object history note

Registered File no. 2743/1931.

Descriptive line

Huipil (blouse-like garment) in cotton in plain weave, embroidered, Mexico, 1870-1900.

Production Note

Thought to be Guatemalan when acquired. In 1975 the possibility that it was Mexican was raised. In April 1996 Chloe Sayer (a specialist in Mexican textiles and dress and author of several publications) suggested it was a Mazatec huilpil from Oaxaca, Mexico. Someone (unknown) suggested in 1991 that it came from Santa Maria Jesus, Guatemala; this is now considered to be incorrect.


Cotton fibre; Wool yarn


Weaving; Sewing; Embroidered

Subjects depicted

Birds; Stag; Flowers


Textiles; Clothing


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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