Made in Mexico: The Rebozo in Art, Culture and Fashion

Made in Mexico, the Rebozo in Art, Culture and fashion at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London displays the traditional woven shawl or scarf of Mexico in a variety of contexts and designs. The exhibit fits well with the distinctive vibrant and colourful style of founder Zandra Rhodes and the building’s fuscia pink exterior.

I’ve always loved the textiles of Mexico and so was keen to see what this exhibition had to offer. Embedded in the humble rebozo is the rich culture of Mexico and the story of the person wearing it. It reflects the long and rich history of Mexican textiles that date back hundreds of years before the Spanish conquest, and before imported goods entered the country.

Rebozos were first woven on the simple back strap loom which is still in use today, and creates beautiful designs. Many designs are influenced by trade textiles that have been imported from the Orient. One of the most common techniques and designs seen in the rebozo is ikat, known as jaspe in Spanish, which has strong similarities to South and South East Asian ikat.

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Different regions in Mexico have different styles of rebozo and use different techniques, such as hand embroidery, ikat, the use of feathers and incorporation of heavy fringes, and different materials such as silk, wool or cotton.

Rebozos are important in many stages of life, as a practical item to carry a child in many different ways, but also as a symbolic and protective item that is passed through the generations, gifted at important stages in life such as weddings and used to wrap the deceased. When worn it can signify whether the woman is married or single, it can protect from the sun and provide modesty. A rebozo is closely attached to family history, sentiment and Mexican heritage.

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The traditional rebozo seems to hold as much significance as it did centuries ago when they were first woven, and efforts by fashion designers, artists and cooperatives are being made to preserve the legacy of the rebozo and continue production for a contemporary market. Iconic figures such as Frida Kahlo have helped to document and showcase the rebozo, wearing one in the photographed portrait by Nickolas Muray, and the singer Lila Downs modelled some rebozos for the exhibition.

The exhibition finishes on 31st August.


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