Description of the huipil

The huipil is a type of dress or robe that usually has white as its main color.

The word huipil comes from the Nahuatl huipilli, which means blouse or ornate dress.

In Mexico, the huipil is common in areas of the states of Yucatan, Puebla, Querétaro, and in the Huasteca region.

History of the huipil

The origin of the huipil dates back to pre-Hispanic times. It is believed that the huipil originated during the Classic period, from 292 to 900 AD. It is claimed that women of that time, from different civilizations such as the Teotihuacan or the Aztec, used the huipil. It was most common among the Mayan peoples.

In the 1500’s, the huipil was regularly used, designed according to the local culture.Feasible materials were used. At that time, the huipil was embroidered with dyed threads and various materials were used, such as animal hair and duck feathers.

By 1563 the huipil changed. The pedal loom was introduced and brocade fabric was used.   

The elaboration and use of the huipil continue to this day.

Characteristic Features

Thehuipil consists of three pieces of cotton cloth, which when joined allows for a person to pass their arms through openings and another opening for the head.

The huipil falls loose. The length is not defined. It can cover the knees, reach the height of the ankles, or worn under  a skirt as a type of blouse, or tied around the waist. 

The huipil is characterized by being white and embroidered.

In Mexico, the huipil is usually embroidered with designs of floral and geometric motifs. The motifs can be geometric, with human, animal, or plant figures. Various figures of animals, eagles, roosters or deer, and geometric figures, such as roses or stars, are used.

The design, color, and type of huipil depend on the area where they are created and the culture of the community. The embroidered motifs vary according to indigenous symbolism.  


The materials used to create a huipil have changed over time. Originally, it was common to use cotton, wool, and fiber. Fiber was obtained from the maguey (or henequen), which is a type of agave.

Later, the huipil was made with wool or silk fabrics. Currently, the use of cotton and synthetic materials is common.

For the designs, different methods have also been used. Originally, different colors were obtained through natural processes. Colors could be obtained from the ink of insects such as cochineal, or marine animals, fruit peels or trees. Dye was also obtained from coffee.

Currently, many huipiles are made with a machine-brocade technique. Embroidery by hand finishes off the neck and sleeve areas.

Elaboration of the huipil

The huipil is elaborated from handmade pieces that generally require a couple of months to complete. Two different types of looms are used for the manufacture of huipil: the waist loom or the pedal loom.

Originally, the huipil was made on a backstrap loom. Cotton and wool were usually used, and sometimes the two materials were combined.

Significance of the huipil

Huipiles are important expressions that are indigenous artisanal heritage.

Among indigenous communities in Mexico, the use of the huipil had great relevance. The use of the huipil continues as a tradition and representation of cultural identity. According to indigenous traditions, each tone represents something special. White symbolizes hope or a promise.

The types of huipil can be divided into the huipil for daily use and the huipil for special occasions. In some cultures, the huipil that a woman wears at her wedding is the same huipil she will wear in her burial, as was customary in pre-Hispanic times.

In Mexico, the huipil is differentiated according to regions. In Chiapas, the design consists of floral forms. In Nayarit, the custom of leaving some design unfinished symbolizes long life. In Oaxaca, birds with two heads are common designs.

Huipiles from the Amuzga community

Extraordinary huipiles are created by Amuzga weavers in the state of Guerrero . The Xochistlahuaca community is inhabited by the Amuzga indigenous population.

The huipil of Xochistlahuaca is an ancestral legacy that the Amuzga women have maintained.

Here, the creation of a huipil demands customary traditions. Cotton is grown, the weaving thread is handmade, and the back-strap waist loom is used. Since pre-Hispanic times, the waist loom is an instrument that has been used for the creation of clothing.

Traditional designs and brocades are created in the form of butterflies, juxtaposed geometric figures symbolizing narrow paths, and milpa flowers (as a tribute to corn). The huipil created by Amuzga weavers is made of fine gauze cotton in a loose weave. It takes months to produce. These techniques have been passed down from generation to generation. The significance of the decoration of textile works will depend on each Amuzga woman, as it will transmit her sentimental context.



Artesanas y artesanos byHernández Díaz, J. and Zafra, G. Klein, K. (1997).

El hilo continuo: La conservación de las tradiciones textiles de Oaxaca. The Getty Conservation Institute.

Symbolism of a ceremonial huipil of the Highland tzotzil maya community of Magdalenas, Chiapas by Morris, W. and Meza, M.