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  I would like to get a huipil (Mayan blouse) or a corte (Mayan skirt) that fits me, how do I figure sizes?

Answer for Huipile:   

Quick Summery ---  Huipils were traditionally made on a loom. Thus they are made of rectangular pieces and are not intended to be a fitted garment.  The width of the garment should be considerably larger (at least 25 to 33%) than the shoulders of the wearer.   Mayan women often put tucks in a huipil's shoulder then remove them as a child grows. 

Neck and head hole openings on Huipils are often small.  Note that we can not guarantee that the neck size of a Huipil fits you.  If you want to wear some huipils you may have to open the neck opening and lightly stitch it. This is especially true of Huipils that have been woven on a back-strap loom.   
Please check your neck and head measurements carefully!!!

More Information --- First a caution that I would like to make.  I am cautious and so is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) to protect children's safety.

 / ! \  Warning: Terra Experience’s used hand-woven, traditional textiles that happen to fit infants and children are sold as unique collector’s items and decorative items.  They are not sold as children’s apparel. Most are unique and older pieces of textiles.  They have not been tested for flammability, lead or any other test that might be needed if they were going to be worn by children under 14 as everyday wearing apparel. Such testing is costly and in some instances would require destruction of the unique textile itself.  In these beautiful older hand-woven textiles some of the zippers, snaps and similar items may (or may not) contain some lead.  Long belts can also pose a choking risk for risk for infants and young children.

 I am still trying to figure out if there are alternative testing options available (that will not destroy the huipiles and be less costly) and how the law applies to unique and small batch items such as hand-woven textiles. Hopefully I will be able to refine this warning in the future.     12/14/2011

Huipils (Mayan Blouses)

 What I have found works best is to take some measurements across the shoulder and then try to fit an huipil or outfit from there.  There is so much variability in US sizes that I hesitate to try to guess based on a stated US sizes.  I will occasionally mention in a write-up for a huipil if it fits me (I am usually a 14 or 16, but wear 12 to 2x depending on the style and maker).

Huipils are traditionally made on a back-strap loom. Thus they are made of rectangular pieces and are not intended to be a fitted garment (this makes it easier to find one that fits you).  Mayan women often put tucks or darts in a huipil's shoulder then remove them as a young woman grows.

Most huipils are made of a single panel, two panels or three panels.  In a few villages such as Solola the woven panels are made into a more fitting "blouse" form with sleeves (probably derived from early European influence.  In some other villages the woven  Huipil tradition has transformed into a blouse of commercially produced cloth with embroidery and other finishing that represents the village's tradition or a generic Mayan "huipil" that may be found in many transitional areas.


      Single Panel                     Two Panel                          Three Panel                             "Blouse form"

Key measurements for choosing a Huipil  to wear are shoulder width and length from shoulder to waist.  You can get the measurements directly from you (probably best)  or measure across a "T" shirt with sleeves (not dropped shoulders) that is a good fit (if its hard to get someone to measure you). 

1.        Width - Maximum width of   your shoulder:   

The huipil should go beyond the width the shoulder and hang down the arms usually somewhere between a couple inches below the shoulder and the elbows, forming the appearance of a sleeve.  There is some variability based both on village, age, personal preference…, but I usually recommend  at least 25%  larger than the maximum of the shoulder to 50% or 100% larger. 

Another way to think about it – is to figure how far down the arms you would like the huipil to cover – then hold your arms out wide and have a friend help you measure the width.


Maximum Width of your  shoulder

Suggested Width of Huipil (25% to 100% larger)

Terra Experience "Size"


10 to 12 “

Infant/ Small Girl


13 to 20 “

Infant/ Small Girl


19 to 30”

Girl/ Small Woman


20 to 32”

Girl/ Small Woman


21 to 34”



25 to 40”



31 to 50”



38 to 60”


2.  Length -  Length from your shoulder (or little bone in back of neck) to waist

Choosing the right length is a bit of personal preference.  Think about whether you want to wear out or tuck in.   A woman’s figure is not generally straight, so consider a few more inches in either length and/or width of the huipil to accommodate a fuller form.

3.  Neck Opening  -   Neck and head hole openings on traditional Huipils tend to run small. The main problem usually is getting the head hole of the huipil to fit over your head.  Note that we can not guarantee that the neck size of a Huipil fits you.  If you want to wear some huipils you may have to open the neck opening and lightly stitch it.    Please check your neck and head measurements carefully! 

I will be trying to come up with additional guidance on the neck opening, but here are some of the common neck openings you will see in Huipils.  Neck openings that are an open slit or already have a slit in them tend to be easier to modify.  A oval or circular neck that has very fine embroidery tightly around the neck opening it can be more difficult to modify size (although it is possible) .  

Worksheet to figure out Huipils (Woven Blouses) that Might work for You

(Needed For Huipil)
My Measurement Some General Tips for Fitting Huipil Approximate Huipil Measurements I am Looking For
Width across shoulders   Multiple shoulder width by  at least 1.25 to 1.5 to estimate huipil width (extra length covers upper arm).  For myself I like 2x my shoulder width.   
Length from Neck to Waist   length of huipil should be at least this amount plus an inch or more depending on how you want to wear it  (tucked in or out) and your figure (more for fuller figure).  
Widest Circumference around Head  (usually right above the eyebrows).

Tip - I use a sewing tape measure or use a string that I then measure with a yardstick or tape measure. 

  For circular head hole without slit (hardest to fit):   
  • Width of neck multiplied by 3.14  should be larger than Circumference of  your head (or you will need to add a slit). 

Other neck sizes are more easily modified

Some Huipils that Might Work for me  (place to put notes)




Mayan Corte (Skirts)

Most Mayan villages wear a wrap-around tube skirt that they step into and then wrap several times around their waist, holding the skirt up with a wrap-around belt.  The total length of the skirt material in the tube skirt can be from 4 to 5 yards (a long piece of material).  In some villages the skirt material length is less (2 to 4 yards). 

 If you are planning on wearing a Mayan skirt I suggest you also plan to use a belt (see options available from Terra Experience   http://terraexperience.com/p_faja_belts_sashes.html or use a belt you already have).  A Mayan women steps into  center of her long tube skirt, pulls it up and then makes appropriate folds and tucks in the skirt material as she wraps it around herself.  The type of folds seem to vary a bit from village to village, as well as the marital status of the woman and well as her personal preferences and form.

The Mayan women then wrap long belts around their waist often many times and then tuck the end of the belt into the wound portion of belt in a way that usually manages to hold everything up quite firmly.  It takes some skill to do so (I sometime get it right, other times....).  I've also noted a Mayan friend or two carefully adjusting her belt and skirt at times - before heading to the market, just to make sure everything holds up.   The wider belts also provide some support for a woman as she carries her kids around or a another heavy load on her back. 

Plan B (for someone who wants to wear a Mayan skirt) would be to do some sewing (or find someone that can do some sewing for you).  For the doll skirts I have someone put a simple hem in with a piece of elastic to hold the skirt up.  Its simple and it works.  If you are a skilled sewer you may want to consider something more elaborate (I stick to elastic waist bands based on my sewing capability).

Some villages such as Coban and Quetzaltenago traditionally use a hem with draw strings to hold up the skirt.  It works ok for an adult.  BUT - I DO NOT RECOMMEND DRAW STRING SKIRTS FOR CHILDREN!!!  ITS A SAFETY HAZARD FOR CHOKING!!!   I don't sell any skirts that are child sized that have draw strings, even if they are traditional for the village.   In fact when I am talking to my friends in Guatemala, I note that draw string skirts are a danger for children and suggest they replace the cord with a piece of elastic for their own children. 

Most Guatemala villages wear their skirts long, several inches above the ground.  A few villages such as Chichicastenago usually wear their skirts about knee length or slightly longer.  Personal preferences and generational styles may also affect skirt length.

Worksheet to figure out Corte (skirts) that Might work for You

My Measurement Some General Tips for Fitting Corte Approximate Corte Measurements I am Looking For
Length from waist to knee   A few villages such as Chichicastenango wear their skirts about knee length or just a bit longer  
Length from waist to floor   Most Guatemala villages wear their skirts long, several inches above the ground  
Maximum size around waist or hips (whichever is larger)   Most villages wear a tube skirt that they step into and then wrap several times around their waist, holding the skirt up with a wrap-around belt.

A few villages have draw string skirts.  These include Coban, Quezaltenango and a few others.

Some Corte that Might Work for me (place to put notes)




If you have suggestions for helping me improve this guidance - Does it help?  Is it confusing?  Did it work for your?  I really would appreciate your ideas and comments.  Thanks!  lynn@terraexperience.com  


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