“Lupe” dress

LUPE dress worn by Genie

Genie modelling “Lupe” dress on the terrace of La Sussurrata, Paros.

LUPE dress by Muy Marcottage

On December 12, 1531, an indigenous shepherd by the name of Juan Diego saw the Virgin Mary. Not only was she dressed in indigenous attire, she spoke to Juan in his own indigenous language. She asked Juan to build a temple in her honor and, as a souvenir of their encounter, left her image imprinted on his cloak. And this was the beginning of the cult of the Virgen de Guadalupe.

Today La Virgen de Guadalupe is undoubtedly the most popular Mexican icon. Her image can be found on just about everything from T-shirts to coffee cups to hand fans to key chains, etc.

Before the Spaniards invaded Mexico, the indigenous people had other gods.  Then the Catholic Spaniards imposed their god turning faith into dogma. But when Juan saw the Catholic Mary who dressed and talked like him and was even brown skinned like him, an important change took place. Juan’s vision transformed an alien presence and made it local. Worship was once again personalized.

a souvenir T-shirt attached to a peplum

fabric print with calla lilies and indigenous people (Frida Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera, loved to paint calla lilies)…appropriation is everywhere

peplum & gussets

"Lupe" Dress by Muy Marcottage

To make it easier to get into the dress, an opening in the back.

"Lupe" Dress by Muy Marcottage

Lupe” is the diminutive of Guadalupe and a popular female name in Mexico. It’s a great dress for dancing especially to Little Latin Lupe Lu!

Moral of the story: personalize the world and make it yours!

Mal Oo

Cynthia Korzekwa  ©

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“Why Not Grow Something?” huipil

"Why Not Grow Something?" huipil & skirt

Marina van Koesveld, (artist, tarot card reader, and magical thinker) is wearing “Why Not Grow Something?”

"Why Not Grow Something" Huipil

Clothing is also about identity thus, as with all Muy Marcottage garments, a personal philosophy is expressed. The primary concern here is that for Earth, the planet we call home. Demographics and greed have put us all in danger as natural resources are being abused. The fashion industry is a major culprit. So why make more clothes when we can re-invent the clothes we already have Bricolage Style?

The top of “Why Not Grow Something?” is a patchwork of white fabric pieces that are assembled in a huipil like form then hand painted. Visible stitching underlines the fact that the fabric is an entity made from parts.

The top part of the skirt is made from a pair of wacked off pants.  The rest of the skirt is made from more fabric pieced together then hand painted with a motif that mimics the print on the pants.

Pears, grapes, pineapples—fruit right out of the Garden of Eden. Fruit that is not only beautiful to the eye but provides nourishment as well. Unfortunately, food resources are becoming more and more of a problem. The demand is surpassing the supply.

It would help a lot if those with the adequate space tried to grow at least 10% of their food. Lettuce grown on balconies, herbs on the windowsill, fruit trees in the backyard would all contribute towards de-stressing our demands. Homegrown also means safer produce, a lower food budget, and the pleasure of growing something. Thus the name of this huipil, “Why Not Grow Something?”

Details.

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“Freshness Is Not Eternal” Huipil

Freshness Is Not Eternal

One morning while sitting in the kitchen searching for meaning in life, I noticed that the oranges in the fruit bowl were getting mushy. The firm plumpness they had when I bought them had disappeared. With this realization, I had an epiphany —life is ephemeral– so I needed to get up and get with the program before it was too late.

This huipil was made from pieces of white cotton stitched together to be used as a canvas for a drawing made with water-resistant markers. Hand-painting, appliqué, and hand-stitching are used to further embellish the huipil. The back is a patchwork of colorful fabric scraps.

The model is also wearing a paper bead necklace and a bracelet made from ballpoint pen caps.

Freshness Is Not Eternal Huipil

On this model, the huipil is oversized so it falls off her shoulder when she dances!

Freshness Is Not Eternal Huipil

Note the necklace made from old T-shirts.

Details.

Freshness Is Not Eternal

Point of departure sketch. The huipil was made c. 2010.

Photographer, Chiara Pilar

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Triqui Women and their Huipiles

Clothing is also about identity.

In a mountainous region in the southwestern part of Oaxaca known as La Mixteca Baja live the Triqui. The Triqui practice bride price, that is, the exchange of women for money or commercial goods. This patriarchal treatment of women as property has been interpreted by some to be like slavery or prostitution. And the women have started to rebel.

Triqui Woman

In recent years, La Mixteca Baja has become increasing violent provoking people to leave the area and with it the indigenous Triqui language spoken only in Oaxaca.

The difficult terrain and lack of water limit agriculture. So, to boost the economy, the indigenous people have turned to crafts. They make baskets, morrales (handbags) and huipiles.

Using traditional weaving methods, the Triqui women make incredible huipiles using primarily red threads. Huipiles are made only by women and worn only by women. They are made with backstrap looms which means that the width of the fabric and three strips are sewn together to make a huipil. It takes four-six months to make a typical huipil.

Triqui Women & Red Huipiles

A huipil is full of symbolic figures such as butterflies, pines, birds, jugs, etc.  The ribbons that adorn the huipil symbolize the rainbow.

Mal Oo

Copyright © 2016 Cynthia Korzekwa. All Rights Reserved
Related: The Triqui presence in California’s San Joaquin Valley + + Triqui de San Juan Copala (Spanish) + El Huipil Triqui de Chicahuaxtla (Spanish) + Selling Brides: Native Mexican Custom or Crime? + Triqui woman finds freedom weaving huipiles

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Tejuana matrifocal society

Ixcatlan Huipil

Frida Kahlo, who knew well the mechanisms of Clothing & Identity, frequently wore the dress typical of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Because women of the area were extremely beautiful, sensual and gutsy.

In 1922, José Vasconcelos became minister of public education.  He firmly believed that, instead of looking towards Europe, Mexican artists should look towards Tehuantepec and Juchitàn for inspiration. With Vasconcelos encouragement, Diego Rivera visited the area. The artist was overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape.  And of the women.

Tejuana matrifocal society

Because the women of Tehuantepec tranquilly bathed naked in the river, foreigners who came to visit mistakenly interpreted this to mean that the women were sexual libertines thus attracting more foreigners to the area.

With its Zapotec origins, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is considered a matrifocal society mainly because it is the women who are in charge of the commercial activity. Men work in the fields whereas women sell in the market place.

 

Daily, women of the area wear full-length skirts called enaguas along with their huipiles known as huipiles de cadenilla.  In Spanish, cadenilla means “chain” as the machine embroidered gold threads in geometric shapes hope to create the illusion of the gold chains the women like to wear. For special occasions, huipiles de fiesta are worn.  They generally are embellished with hand embroidered flowers.

The special huipiles are worn to velas, highly animated fiestas which begin as candlelight vigils honoring one of the area’s various patron saints and end as night-long parties.

Tejuana matrifocal society

 

At velas, men drink beer while women dance together especially to “La Zandunga”, a Mexican waltz reflecting a mixture of musical origins (it could be a Zapotec interpretation of an Andalusian song). The song is about a Zapotec woman who cries after her mother’s death.

At velas women wear their huipiles with pride.  And only women wearing huipiles and enaguas dance.

Tejuana Matrifocal Society

More than matrifocal,  the Tehuantepec society is a maternal society. And for this reason, women are a dominating force. Because it’s the woman, and not the man, who psychologically focuses on the well being of the child.  For men, working in the fields is a way of avoiding domestic problems.

It is also matrifocal in that girls are taught to be economically independent. In part because mothers know sons are more prone towards crime and drugs than are their daughters so they will be able to depend more on daughters than on sons. Well, save for gay sons who are considered a gift.  Because a Tehuantepec woman know she can always count on a gay son to be there in need.

Because they have an important role in society, the Tehuantepec women have a strong sense of self-assurance.

Mal Oo

Copyright © 2016 Cynthia Korzekwa. All Rights Reserved

 

Bibliography:

Covarrubias, Miguel. Mexico South, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. New York. Knopf. 1946.
DeMott, Tom . Into the Hearts of the Amazons: In Search of a Modern Matriarchy. University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, WI. 2006.
Iturbide, Graciela. Juchitan de las mujeres. Edicioes Toledo. Oaxaca. 1989.
Poniatowska, Elena. Here’s to You, Jesusa! Penguin Books (reprint). London.  2002

 

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Huipiles and Me

At The Alamo Wearing My Huipil

My mom moved to San Antonio, Texas as a young woman and instantly fell in love with the city’s bi-cultural flavor. In fact, my mom wanted to be Mexican. She loved Mexican music, colors, jewelry, food and attitude. That’s why she went to Mexico as often as possible. And, like a loving mom, she would always bring back presents for me – papier-mâché dolls, hand puppets, earrings (I had pierced ears!) and Mexican blouses. That’s how I started wearing huipiles.

Juana y Pedro

But later, like most adolescents, I wanted to conform to fashion trends – bell bottoms, mini-skirts, t-shirts and jeans, etc. My tastes in clothing continued to change and huipiles were not a priority. Then I moved to Italy and, after a while, I began to feel nostalgia for my Mexican imprinting. So, luckily, my mom sent me huipiles. Now, I can’t imagine a wardrobe without them.

her huipil made her the center of the universe

The huipil, of Mayan origin, was not considered just a garment but also a representation of personal ideology. The Mayans believed that clothing could transform a person just as a person could transform clothing, the two existing in symbiosis.

Mayans gave their huipiles a cosmic significance. Having the head placed in the very centre of the fabric has specific implications. When a woman places a huipil over her head, she enters a symbolic universe. As she sticks her head through the hole, she emerges into the external world and her body becomes the axis of the universe. She is the centre of the world connecting the earth and the sky.

Drinking Tequila with Frida

Thanks to Frida Kahlo’s popularity, huipiles have acquired interest among contemporary fashion followers. But, although she wore them in grand style, it was not Frida who invented the huipil.

Lady Xoc

Huipiles were worn by the indigenous Indians of Mexico as documented by Mayan lintel carvings showing a bloodletting Lady Xoc wearing a huipil (c. AD 709). And the Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, used a native woman, La Malinche, as translator who, as seen by codices documenting events of the time, show her wearing huipiles – 500 years before Frida!

                                  La Malinche

Traditional huipiles are beautiful. So if you are lucky enough to be in Mexico or Guatemala, be sure to shop for at least one huipil. The simplicity of their design makes them adaptable for any body type.

Why Not Wear A Huipil?

Appropriation vs. Inspiration.

Please note than even though I often refer to my blouses as “huipiles”, in no way do I claim them to be authentic huipiles. A true huipil is made by the indigenous women of Mesoamerica and represent centuries of tradition—motifs and techniques past down from one generation to another. The style of an authentic huipil represents the ethnicity and community of the women who make and wear them. Thus a huipil is an extension of a woman’s sense of identity and of belonging.

My “huipiles” are thus named because they, too, are simple geometric shapes and handmade. And, because clothing is a form of identity, my huipiles also encourage women to be the axis of their universe.

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“Feminist” huipil

Here’s my friend, Marina, modelling for me once again. She’s wearing a huipil I made from an old pair of sweat pants and lace remnants my mom gave me. The red stitching running across the front reads “feminist“.

Not long ago, while discussing animatedly, a male friend of mine called me a feminist as if being a feminist was something bad. But a feminist is simply a woman who tries to protect her rights and the rights of other women. So why do so many men have a problem with this?

We live in a world excessively masculinized were women are treated as inferiors. It was not always this way. Once, when life was considered sacred, women were revered for their major contribution to the life cycle.

The concept of democracy has been around for c 2,500 years but women have been voting only for the past 100. This means that for 2,400 years society has evolved dominated by male and not female values.  And we see where that has taken us!

Make A Button Jar

Once upon a time, the many cultures of this world were all part of the gynocratic age. Paternity had not yet been discovered, and it was thought … that women bore fruit like trees—when they were ripe. Childbirth was mysterious. It was vital. And it was envied. Women were worshipped because of it, were considered superior because of it…. Men were on the periphery—an interchangeable body of workers for, and worshippers of, the female center, the principle of life.

The discovery of paternity, of sexual cause and childbirth effect, was as cataclysmic for society as, say, the discovery of fire or the shattering of the atom. Gradually, the idea of male ownership of children took hold….

Gynocracy also suffered from the periodic invasions of nomadic tribes…. The conflict between the hunters and the growers was really the conflict between male-dominated and female-dominated cultures.

… women gradually lost their freedom, mystery, and superior position. For five thousand years or more, the gynocratic age had flowered in peace and productivity. Slowly, in varying stages and in different parts of the world, the social order was painfully reversed. Women became the underclass, marked by their visible differences.

from Gloria Steinem’s “Wonder Woman

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Marina Making Ripples

One Drop Makes Many Ripples

Marina van Koesveld is a magical thinker. With her thoughts she’s able to create new realities.  When Marina was younger, she’d dress as Frida (long before the craze) maybe because the two had much in common. Both  are painters.  And both are sensual with long dark hair and eyes that can perforate you like laser beams.

Here she is wearing the huipil dress One Drop Makes Many Ripples.  The dress is made from a second hand cloth that, maybe, was used as a towel.

“Flowing” in and out of the dress is a strand of pieced cloth. The fabric design reminded me of drops of water so I embroidered the phrase One Drop Makes Many Ripples around the collar.

one-drop9-b

The motion of everyday life creates ripples—one action produces other actions. Thus ripples connect us one to the other.  That’s why it’s important to be aware that our actions—be they physical or psychological—affect the lives of those around us.

Ripples are everywhere.

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The Quiddity Dress

Quiddity Muy Marcottage Dress

All of the dresses I make have a name. Because they are not anonymous. Because instead of looking at a dress as a thing, I try to create a relationship with it. For example, the Muy Marcottage dress “Quiddity”.

Quiddity, in philosophy, is the whatness of an object, its inherent nature or essence. Otherwise, quiddity refers to a distinct feature or a quirk, an idiosyncrasy.

A dress is a category but my dresses are specifics. They help to define me. They are an extension of my personal quiddity because I interrelate with myself when I chose the clothes I wear.

The body and its clothing live in symbiosis.  At least temporarily.  There is an intimacy we have with our clothes that we have with nothing or no one else. Because our clothes cling to us and touch our skin.  They are there omnipresent and participate in our every move. Our clothes know our secrets. Our clothes are well aware of our quiddity.

                                                  Quiddity Muy Marcottage DressQuiddity Muy Marcottage Dress

The dress “Quiddity” represents, in terms of Muy Marcottage, a union between past and present. The top half was made during my early experimental attempts at remaking secondhand clothes. I was dissecting all the old clothes I could find and sewing parts together almost as if I were making a collage.  Not happy with the results, I cut the top off from whatever it was attached to at the time and abandoned it.  Then this summer my friend Lyn gave me a dress made from a stretchy ethnic looking fabric and, anxious to play, I got out my chopped up fabric stash and came across the abandoned top. Seemingly incongruent, the two mated perfectly.

Melding is magic.

 

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