Mexican clothes

I love traditional Mexican embroidered shirts, skirts and dresses. I was given a white cotton dress covered with embroidered blue flowers when I was a little girl. I remember thinking it was so pretty. My mother still has it. This is a photo of me in it.

Being a Hispanic teen, living in a border town in the 80s, it was a bad thing if you wore any traditional Mexican clothing. I know because one day I wore an embroidered Puebla style shirt my freshman year. It was a pretty, off white, gauze shirt with flowers embroidered on it. It was one of the first weeks of public school. Having worn uniforms for eight years I was new to the whole you can wear anything concept. 

Rude awakening! I got stared at, laughed at to my face and I didn't understand why. My new school friend, a real sweetie, politely asked me why was I wearing a Mexican shirt when I was a Mexican-American. She explained this was clothing reserved for Anglo grandmothers and "gringo" tourists.  True, the women in my family in Mexico never wore these clothes. The men did wear guyaberas all the time. But I didn't feel these were novelty clothes reserved as souvenirs. They were pretty and skillfully done and had a history and were timeless. She said because we are already Hispanic it wasn't cool.

The whole day was truly bad, bad, bad. A few of the teachers complimented my shirt. I braved the day, I had worse, and I loved my shirt. My Grandmother ( who isn't  of Mexican decent but Native American) didn't like me wearing it.  She didn't like me wearing turquoise or moccasins either. She found those things ridiculous. So, my Grandmother took the shirt from me in a very subtle way. She took me to the mall to buy me new clothes then just asked for it when I got home. I parted with it out of guilt. She had spent so much money on my new wardrobe just to get the shirt out of my hands.

My senior year of high school I became a huge fan of vintage Mexican skirts that I would wear with black shirts, black flats and long dangling earrings. If this was a fashion faux pas at the time, I didn't know it. I was leaving town in a few months and really didn't care. It was a look I took to college.

I still love embroidered Mexican shirts and vintage Mexican skirts. but, sadly I no longer own any skirts. I wore them until they faded and fell apart or didn't fit. They are really pricey these days. Anyway I wear my Mexican shirts quite often, maybe too often. I used to purchase them in Mexico but now I get them in San Antonio. Every now and then my Mom will pick up one for me when she visits my Abuelita.

My Favorite Mexican Dress

 These clothes might punctuate, highlight and underline who I am for some people. I love my culture and I'm not embarrassed of it, but I can understand the struggles with assimilation others have had. I don't feel Mexican clothing is reserved for any one group of people but out there for anyone who finds them pretty.  I  have a real love for the work that goes into making what I feel are works of art. I hardly have the skill to embroider a shirt as detailed as the ones I own. The older I get the more drawn I am to them and the more pieces fill my closet. They have always felt very comfortable and comforting to me.  However, the big lesson in assimilation cannot be ignored. My Grandmother still hates it when I wear the turquoise and the moccasins. She shed her heritage long ago except in the stories she would tell me of growing up in Eagle Pass. I can respect her struggle with fitting in and I try not to wear them too much around her.


In my constant search for traditional Mexican shirts I came upon these cool websites: Frida's Fashions and The Mexican Indinginous Textile Project.  Anyone who likes these clothes as much as I do is an instant friend.



Blogger Pillows for the People said...

yes, such beautiful clothes...
xo p

Thursday, September 16, 2010  
Anonymous claudia said...

I loved this entry! You touched on so many interesting things. I remember wearing my hair braided down the middle & my cousin Jackie calling me "La India Maria".

I love that you love traditional Mexican clothes. You look so lovely in that blouse. I wish I had some real pieces of my own; they're truly beautiful and well made so that Frida Kahlo link & the other are a good find for me.

Friday, September 17, 2010  
Blogger Dar said...

Tera, I was so very moved by this post. When I told my great-grandmother that I was going to visit Poland in 1991, she was very much against it, asking me why I wanted to go there, & telling me that there was nobody & nothing left, & making it clear that she was happy to part from that piece of her past & be "American". She kept up her heritage through her cooking & craft, & I am so very happy to have a small part of that as my endowment, passed on through my grandmother. I guess that's part of immigrating, the assimilation vs. the holding dear.
I, personally, find the craftsmanship in Mexican clothing to be absolutely beautiful. Be proud.

Sunday, September 19, 2010  
Blogger Tera said...

Claudia: La India Maria was a character filled with mixed messages. Sometimes I'd get it other times I was so confused. I'd overthink her.

Sunday, September 19, 2010  
Blogger Tera said...

Dar: You are so fortunate to not only have a Great-Grandmother but one who shared those things with you. It is really special.

Sunday, September 19, 2010  
Anonymous Francesca said...

What an interesting post, so many complex feelings and realities in there! It's incredible how many cultural values can be embedded in simple material objects, like clothing. I love your embroidered Mexican shirts.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010  
Blogger Lecon de vetement said...

Oh man! Great finds!!

Monday, October 04, 2010  

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