Lila Downs’ Costumes – Performer and Fashionista Mexicana

I became a Lila Downs fan when she performed in Santa Fe, NM perhaps over 12 years ago. At that time her fashion sense was pretty much ‘Dead Head’ exotic-hippie-Mexicana. I loved her long ribbon braids and pieces of traditional  heavily embroidered Tehuana skirt fabric that she somehow managed to keep on her hips during her dynamic songs. Well, things have changed, baby – and now she has a designer  (Mane’ Alta Costura of Oaxaca) making her still-indigenous based costumes, to my great joy, from traditional traje /regional clothing and textiles of Mexico.  Since I’m a collector/documenter of Mexican traditional textiles, I certainly recognize the original pieces. But how they’ve been transformed!  All I can say is , WOW! ! !.  I’ve been collecting images of some of her most original uses of these beautifully woven or embroidered textiles and the creative ways they’ve been reconstructed into lavish and sometimes ‘over the top’ creations.

I hope you enjoy this slide show (many of the images are from past performances featured on Lila’s FB pages) and for those interested in “Living Textiles of Mexico”, I’ve identified the original village or region, where her textiles are from. After all, Lila’s mother is from Tlaxiaco in the Mixteca area of Oaxaca and Lila spent part of her childhood there, and currently spends part of the year in Oaxaca, living, performing and doing philanthropic work by supporting education for young rural indigenous girls. She knows  the traditional origins of her clothing, most are from Oaxaca her home, and she’s proud of it!  They are the very best of the best Oaxacan traje ! 

VIVA LILA – Fashionista Mexicana!  VIVA the traditional trajes of Oaxaca!

Here’s a YouTube vido I just made for this post – and my favorite song – ‘La Cumbia del Mole’

http://youtu.be/4bDmM8rN4n4

upcycled Tijaltepec  Blouse Oax - Lila's FBZapotec apron - Lila's FB

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Huipil of Oaxaca -Tehuantepec/Juchitan – Hand/Eye e-zine article

So many ‘things happening’ before I left Mexico mid-May. First a ‘charla’ (chat) on quechquemitls at the Museo Textile de Oaxaca coinciding with their spectacular Quechquemitles Exhibit that month. Then the publications of the Arte de Mexico: Textiles Mazahuas article on the traje de Santa Rosa de Lima and the revival work of the Flores Silvestres. After that onto San Miguel Allende where I gave another talk on my Oaxacan and  Chiapas textile adventures at Patrice Wynn’s Abrazos store. Whew! I almost forgot that Hand/Eye e-zine decided to publish my article on ‘Huipil of Oaxaca’ – the costume Frida Kahlo wore and made famous, the outfit of Tehuantepec/Juchitan. The most extravagant and dazzling traje of Oaxaca and possibly Mexico.

So if you happened to have missed that article I’m putting in a link here with a few more photos to fill out the story: http://handeyemagazine.com/content/huipiles-oaxaca

I’ve always been fascinated and awed by the elaborate Tehuana costumes as I frequently see them on the streets of Oaxaca in Calendas/ processions around the Santa Domingo church. Women in full regalia and sometimes men in traditional costumes parade elegantly down Alacala street often with a band. I think they are social groups originally from the Tehuantepec/Juchitan area but I haven’t really found out the real story. They love to dress up to say the least.

I had the honor of being invited to a wedding earlier this year and the brides family was from Juchitan. It was a huge affair held in the groom’s village of Santa Ana near Tlacolula in the Valle Central of Oaxaca. The wedding parties sat in their assigned sides of the huge airplane hanger-like event room. 700 people had shown up! But the groom’s side was all navy blue, beige and black while the brides side was a riot of color. It was like the documentary film on the Juchitan culture…”Blossoms on Fire”, a perfect description. Afterwards my friend said – “Oh those Juchitana’s are such SHOW-OFFS!” Well it was worth sitting through many wedding games and rituals just to get up-close and personal (BEST in the bathroom) with so many sumptuous textiles.

If you want to know a little more of the history of these elaborate outfits and the many embroidery techniques developed over the the years read the Hand/Eye article. Oaxaca’s Istmus of Tehuantepec was a transportation route for moving exotic goods from the Phiippines to Spain, so there were many outside influences on the women’s clothing in this area. Hand-Eye is a wonderful e-journal of world hand arts that publishes weekly stories on traditional artisan crafts and contemporary artists etc. Don’t miss it! You can subscribe, I think, for free. I’ll be writing more articles in the future

http://handeyemagazine.com/content/huipiles-oaxaca

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