The Simple Beauty of Mexican Dresses

1970s Mexican Puebla Dress

I’ve been wanting a Mexican dress for a long time.  When I said this to a friend recently, she was shocked that I didn’t already have several!  I told her that I’ve never had a chance to buy one.  I mean, there are vendors at Fiesta in Birmingham every year that sell them but I’m so busy working the event that I don’t have time to do any shopping.  I was even in Mexico earlier this year for a wedding and thought I would have a chance to find one but there was never time with all festivities.  So, when I got an invitation to a vintage clothing sale a few months ago, I was excited to see that there would be a wide selection of these dresses available!

My cousin, Lisa Ramirez, at the Frida and Diego Exhibit at the Denver Art Museum in October 2020. She got to see Frida’s clothing exhibit!

When you think of Mexican dresses, most likely the artist Frida Kahlo comes to mind.  Her clothing was – still is – iconic and her style is constantly replicated.  I find I can never get enough of her wardrobe and hope to someday see her clothing exhibit in person.  I love that these Mexican dresses are colorful and elegant while being functional and comfortable.  The embroidery that goes into making one of these dresses is just stunning too.  Frida popularized a short blouse type garment called the “huipil” – pronounced “whip-peal” which looks like a square fabric with the neck cut out.  This doesn’t sound very flattering when you think of its shape, but Frida really made it work for herself!

I started doing a little research into Mexican dresses and wondered, what are they really called?  There is so much information online about the different types of dresses and how they differ from region to region all the way through Central America.  It can be a little confusing!  Some dresses are for everyday and others are more elaborate and for special occasions.  One thing is for sure, each is a one-of-a-kind handwoven garment with intricate embroidery.  They can take several weeks to make too.  The dresses that I find myself drawn to are the Mexican Puebla dresses.  These are made by artisans in Puebla, Mexico, and are a tunic type of dress.  I think people get confused about all the various dresses that they just opt out and call them Mexican dresses.  And listen, I am by no means an expert on Mexican dresses.  I’m still learning myself, so if you have info to share with me about these beautiful creations, please hit me up!  I’m anxious to learn more!

The day of the vintage clothing sale, my friend Denise and I went straight for the rack of Mexican dresses.  I had seen a red one in one of the photos posted about the sale.  I had my fingers crossed that it was still available and luckily…it was!  I tried it on and I loved the way it looked!  The red color is striking and the yellow accents against the red…WOW!  Then I saw a white dress with purple lining and bright orange, red and blue embroidered flowers. The fabric was a little heavier than the red dress and Denise insisted that I try it on.  I was worried because I knew I would love it too.  Sure enough, I went home with both dresses!

It’s crazy to think that I’m living in Birmingham, Alabama, and this is where I ended up buying not one, but two Mexican dresses!  Unfortunately, I haven’t had an opportunity to wear them yet.  I had planned to wear them this fall but COVID-19 pretty much took care of that.  But I’m happy to finally have two beautiful dresses to wear when the opportunity presents itself.  Meanwhile…I did a little photo shoot a few weeks ago just so I could wear the dresses.  Here are a few of those photos!

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