Textile of the Month

Mexico, State of Mexico
Otomí, ca. 1946

From celebrities to soccer moms, ponchos are ubiquitous this fall. In some cultures, however, this style of clothing has been trendy for millennia. This poncho-like garment, called a quechquemitl, is from Mexico and has been worn by indigenous Mexican women for around two thousand years. Before the Spanish arrived in 1521, noble women and priests wore this type of garment during ceremonies, and goddesses were often depicted wearing them in statues and paintings. Today, many ordinary indigenous women in northern and central Mexico wear quechquemitl for warmth and decoration each day.

Like most quechquemitl, this one is composed of two rectangles of handwoven cloth stitched together to attach the end of each rectangle to the side of the other. This ingenious design forms a square garment that can be slipped over the head. Here, the points of the square hang in front and back, but other quechquemitl are intended to be worn with the points hanging to the sides, over the shoulders, instead.

wool and cotton; plain weave with attached fringe
60 cm x 60 cm
The Textile Museum 1980.8.88
Gift of Isabel T. Kelly


Each month we will highlight a different textile from the Museum's collection.