Volver the Cat watching the makings of a Muy Marcottage huipil style top
Why not use old soda cans to make sequins? It’s quite easy to do with a hole puncher but they are then too tiny for me to work with. So I just cut up a can into little squares then rounded the edges with scissors. The aluminum can be pierced easily by a needle when sewing them onto a piece of fabric.
This “huipil” was made from a discarded black top. The ruffles are from a Valentino dress given to me by my friend Franky! And visible stitching (white on black!) was used to hem the edges.
Even clothes have to have names if you want to be friends with them so “soda can sequins” was embroideried on with yellow thread given to me by my mom years ago.
Actress, singer, and comedian, Lyn Shakespeare is A One Woman Show! Entertaining, enthusiastic, and full of good vibrations, it’s impossible not to enjoy her company. And when Lyn told me she’d done stand-up comedy in Australia for several years, I was impressed. Because anyone who can make you laugh is magical. And powerful!
Laughter is good for your health, both mental and physical. Laughter helps release endorphins that transform a bad mood into a good one. Laughter also decreases stress hormones, lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity, and decreases pain. A comedian is almost like a doctor!
But whereas laughing can loosen you up, trying to make others laugh can make you tight. Because making people laugh is not always easy. Which is why Lyn is so amazing.
Petite and impish, Lyn reminds me of a young Judy Garland making me even more curious about her as a comedian. So I bombarded her with questions:
Q: When you did stand-up, what were your jokes based on? Did you make fun of yourself or, like Joan Rivers, make fun of others? How did you come up with your material?
Lyn: I wrote a routine about growing up with the name Shakespeare. And over the years, this became a big part of my routine. I would steal jokes and rewrite them to make them mine. A lot of my humour definitely belongs in the “gay” arena, which is where I have had my most successful and happiest of gigs. And where I can be totally outrageous .
I don’t like cruel comedy e.g. Joan Rivers, although she is as cruel about herself as she is on the public! I do remember a few times in the past “outing” people and thinking later on that I could have done better !! And not have been sooooooo mean !! ( although they probably deserved it !! )
Observation of life is a great way to come up with comedy. People that you meet along the way, who definitely need to be sent up !!!
Q: What was the most difficult thing about doing stand-up?
Lyn: After performing much cabaret and always with piano player, I realized that stand-up is a lonely beast!! Although when it was a brilliant night and you and the audience were “one”, it was the best of nights. I remember one of my first gigs was when I was dressed as Jessica Rabbit ( god knows why !! ) and it was just the worst gig and as I walked off stage, my microphone was still on and I said to the stage manager “The audience hates me !! “ and then I heard the audience roar with laughter. They had all heard my comment. Accidental humour !!
Q: Give a brief description of going to the Oscars.
Lyn: My dear friend, Mr. Cha Cha, choreographer for the films Moulin Rouge, Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet, and many others, had been asked to choreograph two numbers from the film Enchanted which he had choreographed as well. He had 2 tickets for the Oscars so I told him I was going with him!!! And, hoping to use the experience for a future skit, I wrote about our L.A. journey: Getting Ready for the Oscars, Walking the Red Carpet, Watching The Oscars, The Governor’s Ball. The Mayhem, The Madness, The Glamour, The Scary Faces, The Amazing Night of Nights!
Q : Why do you like wearing Muy Marcottage?
Lyn: The easiest of all questions. I love them. They are so theatrical. They are all individual pieces. They are born from recycled fabrics. They are so much fun. They are created with LOVE.
Cynthia Korzekwa © & Chiara Pilar ©
Marina van Koesveld, (artist, tarot card reader, and magical thinker) is wearing “Why Not Grow Something?”
Clothing is also about identity thus, as with all Muy Marcottage garments, a personal philosophy is expressed. The primary concern here is that for Earth, the planet we call home. Demographics and greed have put us all in danger as natural resources are being abused. The fashion industry is a major culprit. So why make more clothes when we can re-invent the clothes we already have Bricolage Style?
The top of “Why Not Grow Something?” is a patchwork of white fabric pieces that are assembled in a huipil like form then hand painted. Visible stitching underlines the fact that the fabric is an entity made from parts.
The top part of the skirt is made from a pair of wacked off pants. The rest of the skirt is made from more fabric pieced together then hand painted with a motif that mimics the print on the pants.
Pears, grapes, pineapples—fruit right out of the Garden of Eden. Fruit that is not only beautiful to the eye but provides nourishment as well. Unfortunately, food resources are becoming more and more of a problem. The demand is surpassing the supply.
It would help a lot if those with the adequate space tried to grow at least 10% of their food. Lettuce grown on balconies, herbs on the windowsill, fruit trees in the backyard would all contribute towards de-stressing our demands. Homegrown also means safer produce, a lower food budget, and the pleasure of growing something. Thus the name of this huipil, “Why Not Grow Something?”
One morning while sitting in the kitchen searching for meaning in life, I noticed that the oranges in the fruit bowl were getting mushy. The firm plumpness they had when I bought them had disappeared. With this realization, I had an epiphany —life is ephemeral– so I needed to get up and get with the program before it was too late.
This huipil was made from pieces of white cotton stitched together to be used as a canvas for a drawing made with water-resistant markers. Hand-painting, appliqué, and hand-stitching are used to further embellish the huipil. The back is a patchwork of colorful fabric scraps.
The model is also wearing a paper bead necklace and a bracelet made from ballpoint pen caps.
On this model, the huipil is oversized so it falls off her shoulder when she dances!
Note the necklace made from old T-shirts.
Point of departure sketch. The huipil was made c. 2010.
Photographer, Chiara Pilar
Clothing is also about identity.
In a mountainous region in the southwestern part of Oaxaca known as La Mixteca Baja live the Triqui. The Triqui practice bride price, that is, the exchange of women for money or commercial goods. This patriarchal treatment of women as property has been interpreted by some to be like slavery or prostitution. And the women have started to rebel.
In recent years, La Mixteca Baja has become increasing violent provoking people to leave the area and with it the indigenous Triqui language spoken only in Oaxaca.
The difficult terrain and lack of water limit agriculture. So, to boost the economy, the indigenous people have turned to crafts. They make baskets, morrales (handbags) and huipiles.
Using traditional weaving methods, the Triqui women make incredible huipiles using primarily red threads. Huipiles are made only by women and worn only by women. They are made with backstrap looms which means that the width of the fabric and three strips are sewn together to make a huipil. It takes four-six months to make a typical huipil.
A huipil is full of symbolic figures such as butterflies, pines, birds, jugs, etc. The ribbons that adorn the huipil symbolize the rainbow.
Copyright © 2016 Cynthia Korzekwa. All Rights Reserved
Related: The Triqui presence in California’s San Joaquin Valley + + Triqui de San Juan Copala (Spanish) + El Huipil Triqui de Chicahuaxtla (Spanish) + Selling Brides: Native Mexican Custom or Crime? + Triqui woman finds freedom weaving huipiles
Frida Kahlo, who knew well the mechanisms of Clothing & Identity, frequently wore the dress typical of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Because women of the area were extremely beautiful, sensual and gutsy.
In 1922, José Vasconcelos became minister of public education. He firmly believed that, instead of looking towards Europe, Mexican artists should look towards Tehuantepec and Juchitàn for inspiration. With Vasconcelos encouragement, Diego Rivera visited the area. The artist was overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape. And of the women.
Because the women of Tehuantepec tranquilly bathed naked in the river, foreigners who came to visit mistakenly interpreted this to mean that the women were sexual libertines thus attracting more foreigners to the area.
With its Zapotec origins, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is considered a matrifocal society mainly because it is the women who are in charge of the commercial activity. Men work in the fields whereas women sell in the market place.
Daily, women of the area wear full-length skirts called enaguas along with their huipiles known as huipiles de cadenilla. In Spanish, cadenilla means “chain” as the machine embroidered gold threads in geometric shapes hope to create the illusion of the gold chains the women like to wear. For special occasions, huipiles de fiesta are worn. They generally are embellished with hand embroidered flowers.
The special huipiles are worn to velas, highly animated fiestas which begin as candlelight vigils honoring one of the area’s various patron saints and end as night-long parties.
At velas, men drink beer while women dance together especially to “La Zandunga”, a Mexican waltz reflecting a mixture of musical origins (it could be a Zapotec interpretation of an Andalusian song). The song is about a Zapotec woman who cries after her mother’s death.
At velas women wear their huipiles with pride. And only women wearing huipiles and enaguas dance.
More than matrifocal, the Tehuantepec society is a maternal society. And for this reason, women are a dominating force. Because it’s the woman, and not the man, who psychologically focuses on the well being of the child. For men, working in the fields is a way of avoiding domestic problems.
It is also matrifocal in that girls are taught to be economically independent. In part because mothers know sons are more prone towards crime and drugs than are their daughters so they will be able to depend more on daughters than on sons. Well, save for gay sons who are considered a gift. Because a Tehuantepec woman know she can always count on a gay son to be there in need.
Because they have an important role in society, the Tehuantepec women have a strong sense of self-assurance.
Copyright © 2016 Cynthia Korzekwa. All Rights Reserved
Covarrubias, Miguel. Mexico South, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. New York. Knopf. 1946.
DeMott, Tom . Into the Hearts of the Amazons: In Search of a Modern Matriarchy. University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, WI. 2006.
Iturbide, Graciela. Juchitan de las mujeres. Edicioes Toledo. Oaxaca. 1989.
Poniatowska, Elena. Here’s to You, Jesusa! Penguin Books (reprint). London. 2002
My mom moved to San Antonio, Texas as a young woman and instantly fell in love with the city’s bi-cultural flavor. In fact, my mom wanted to be Mexican. She loved Mexican music, colors, jewelry, food and attitude. That’s why she went to Mexico as often as possible. And, like a loving mom, she would always bring back presents for me – papier-mâché dolls, hand puppets, earrings (I had pierced ears!) and Mexican blouses. That’s how I started wearing huipiles.
But later, like most adolescents, I wanted to conform to fashion trends – bell bottoms, mini-skirts, t-shirts and jeans, etc. My tastes in clothing continued to change and huipiles were not a priority. Then I moved to Italy and, after a while, I began to feel nostalgia for my Mexican imprinting. So, luckily, my mom sent me huipiles. Now, I can’t imagine a wardrobe without them.
The huipil, of Mayan origin, was not considered just a garment but also a representation of personal ideology. The Mayans believed that clothing could transform a person just as a person could transform clothing, the two existing in symbiosis.
Mayans gave their huipiles a cosmic significance. Having the head placed in the very centre of the fabric has specific implications. When a woman places a huipil over her head, she enters a symbolic universe. As she sticks her head through the hole, she emerges into the external world and her body becomes the axis of the universe. She is the centre of the world connecting the earth and the sky.
Thanks to Frida Kahlo’s popularity, huipiles have acquired interest among contemporary fashion followers. But, although she wore them in grand style, it was not Frida who invented the huipil.
Huipiles were worn by the indigenous Indians of Mexico as documented by Mayan lintel carvings showing a bloodletting Lady Xoc wearing a huipil (c. AD 709). And the Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, used a native woman, La Malinche, as translator who, as seen by codices documenting events of the time, show her wearing huipiles – 500 years before Frida!
Traditional huipiles are beautiful. So if you are lucky enough to be in Mexico or Guatemala, be sure to shop for at least one huipil. The simplicity of their design makes them adaptable for any body type.
Appropriation vs. Inspiration.
Please note than even though I often refer to my blouses as “huipiles”, in no way do I claim them to be authentic huipiles. A true huipil is made by the indigenous women of Mesoamerica and represent centuries of tradition—motifs and techniques past down from one generation to another. The style of an authentic huipil represents the ethnicity and community of the women who make and wear them. Thus a huipil is an extension of a woman’s sense of identity and of belonging.
My “huipiles” are thus named because they, too, are simple geometric shapes and handmade. And, because clothing is a form of identity, my huipiles also encourage women to be the axis of their universe.