KQED: Mayan Fashion a Feast for the Eyes in San Jose

Ceremonial huipil, made of cotton. Mayan Traje at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles surveys the changing language of traditional dress from the early 20th century to modern day.  (Rachael Myrow/KQED)

Ceremonial huipil, made of cotton. Mayan Traje at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles surveys the changing language of traditional dress from the early 20th century to modern day. (Rachael Myrow/KQED)

For thousands of years, Mayan women have woven their own fabrics, and embroidered on top of that to create works of art to wear on holidays and at religious ceremonies. In many ways, this dress has become iconic: what we think of when we think of modern Mayan culture.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to a growing number of Mayans from Guatemala, including local members of a group called Friends of the Ixchel Museum, which is located in Guatemala City. (Ixchel is the Mayan goddess of weaving, among other things.)

So it was they made curator Amy DiPlacido of the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles an offer she couldn't refuse: an exhibition of Mayan traje (clothing), much of it dating back to the early 20th century, from their private collections here in the United States.

It’s not often you get the chance to move in close and stare at wearable art, but you can in San Jose, where the exhibition Mayan Traje: A Tradition in Transition presents the clothing on walls and manikins out in the open, not parked behind glass.

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