Cinco De Mayo is a huge holiday for not only people in Mexico, but in America as well. Many Americans, however, do not even understand the concept of what the holiday is about. They just want to dress fashionably and go drink tequila (which by all means, you can do on any day!). The first step to not culturally appropriating your outfit while celebrating is to learn about the holiday and the fashions that inspired Mexican fashion for centuries.
Cinco De Mayo in Mexico is a celebration of the defeat over the French army at the Battle of Puebla. The battle took place on May 5, 1862. The victory symbolized pride and unity for the Mexican people, as they weren’t expected to win the battle. It is not Mexican Independence Day (That is September 16).
In America, the holiday has become a celebration of Mexican-American culture in general. People of all backgrounds celebrate the holiday. In order to prepare, though, I want to educate you all on the history of Mexican fashion so that you all can celebrate in a style that is related to the country we are celebrating.
A lot of Mexico’s clothing stems from the native roots of the Aztecs, who lived from the 14th to the 16th centuries. This clothing was very colorful – partially because of their trading network. Women learned to weave clothing starting in their teens. In these times, clothing was very important and valuable, especially in the trading industry.
Many times the Aztec men would wear very little clothing as an effort to stay cool, however even when wearing very little, their clothes were brightly colored and they added additional garments to it to show social status.
Photo by Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile from Santiago, Chile (Inauguran el el “Museo Artesanía Chilena”) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
An iconic piece of clothing is the poncho. Ponchos were designed to keep warm and to keep dry during the rainy times.
The tilma was also very popular. Very similar to a cloak, it could be worn in many ways – draped across the shoulders or in the front. Juan Diego wore one of the most famous tilmas – one which is now on display at the Basilica of Guadalupe.
Photo by No machine-readable author provided. Lyricmac assumed (based on copyright claims). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The most common piece of clothing that women wore were huipil. A huipil is a tunic-like garment that was generally white, but accented with colorful additions.
Photo by Lorenzo Itzá (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
After European colonization – which does overlap with the years of the Aztec – clothing changed a little bit. Fashion began to grow and expand, combining Mexico’s native roots with the fashions of Europe at the time.
One of the most common clothing pieces of this time is called the china poblana. This garment was sometimes ridiculed as being too provocative for its time. This look contained many components. It was made up of a colorful skirt, a top, and a shawl to go over it all.
Photo by Karen Apricot (originally posted to Flickr as china poblana) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The sombrero also appeared around these times. A traditional Mexican hat, it was used to shade ones face. It was then adopted in the United States by ranchmen and eventually inspired the modern cowboy hat.
Modern Mexican fashions are like many other typical fashions around the world today, but you can still see the roots from where they came from – especially in embroidery and color. There are a few fashion pieces in particular, however, that didn’t exist until modern times.
The baja jacket are basically hoodies with large pockets in the front. They were brought to the US by some surfers who were coming back from Mexico and are now very popular in both Mexico and the US.
Another modern fashion, and personally one of my favorites, is the Mexican pointy boot. These boots originated around 2009 and are a fashionable boot that are worn out dancing. Karl Pilkington is seen trying them out in a wonderful episode of The Moaning of Life (if you haven’t seen this show, go watch it!). They are made to be ironic and comedic (much like how I perceive a fanny pack).
This is just a small highlight of the enormous amount of fashion-related history and fashion statements of Mexico. I highly encourage you to research some more to learn how traditional and native fashions inspired those of today.
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