History of Traditional Aztec Mexican Clothes

Written by denise brandenberg
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History of Traditional Aztec Mexican Clothes
The ancient Aztecs wore many types of ceremonial clothing, especially for rituals at the pyramids. (Mexico image by apeschi from Fotolia.com)

The Aztec empire was less than 100 years old when the Spanish conquistadors invaded Mexico in 1519, according to the author of "The Mythology of Mexico and Central America." The Aztecs were actually made up of several tribes, and they had elaborate clothing styles that differentiated which tribe they were from, as well as their social status. This ancient civilisation did not wear much clothing, because of the heat in central Mexico. The common people typically wore ayate-fibre clothing, which is made from the maguey cactus.

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Men

Aztec men typically wore breechcloths, or maxtlatls. The maxtlatl was made from one rectangular piece of material placed between the man's thighs. It was usually held together with string or a belt. Its purpose was to conceal the man's genitals, but it didn't provide much protection from parasites or sun exposure. Aztec slave men would typically only wear simple maxtlatls, while commoners might have maxtlatls with embroidery or fringe. Commoners would also pair the maxtlatls with tilmas or tilmatlis, similar to capes or cloaks.

Women

Aztec women typically wore short sleeved, or sleeveless, blouses called huipillis with long skirts called cueitls. This clothing combination was tied together with a sash and referred to as "cueitl huipilli." The term was also a common reference to the word "woman." Common women's cueitl huipillis were made from ayate fibres, and they were often brightly coloured with vibrant patterns. Many of the patterns displayed the woman's village or tribe, as well as their marital statuses.

Merchants

The merchant class wore more elaborate clothing than commoners or slaves, and typically used imported cotton, rather than ayate clothing. They could afford to wear footwear as well. The most popular form of footwear was sandals, because of their good circulation. Sandals did not make the feet sweat as profusely as closed shoes in the hot climate in central Mexico. Merchants had creative freedom in their clothing choices, and many women wore dyed dresses and huipillis, while the merchant men wore brightly-decorated tilmas.

Warriors

Warriors were revered in ancient Aztec society, and they often wore elaborate maxtlatls adorned with jewellery, such as gold and turquoise. The two main military sects were the jaguar warriors and the eagle warriors, and each soldier wore clothing appropriate to their ranking and group. Warrior clothing also included headdresses and shields. The warrior's clothing showed his hierarchy in the ranks. For example, some chief warriors had clothing with layers of gold, and highly-decorated war heroes wore more jewels on their clothing than lower-level personnel.

Priests And Nobility

Priests and nobility were on the highest level of Aztec society, and their clothing reflected their positions. While they still wore maxtlatls and cueitl huipillis, they were made from the finest materials and adorned with elaborate decorations. Most of this group's clothing was more brightly coloured than the other classes. They often used gold, feathers and fur in their clothing as well. The upper classes wore sandals, as well as different types of jewellery, such as earrings, bracelets and necklaces.

Ceremonial Clothing

The ancient Aztecs had many religious ceremonies and rituals. Most participants in these ceremonies, including the priests, were required to wear solid white cotton clothing. Masks representing the different gods in the rituals were also worn.

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