A rebozo is a long flat garment used mostly by women in Mexico. It can be worn in various ways, usually folded or wrapped around the head and/or upper body to shade from the sun, provide warmth and as an accessory to an outfit. It is also used to carry babies and large bundles, especially among indigenous women. The origin of the garment is unclear, but most likely derived in the early colonial period, as traditional versions of the garment show indigenous, European and Asian influences. Traditional rebozos are handwoven from cotton, wool, silk and rayon in various lengths but all have some kind of pattern (usually from the ikat method of dying) and have fringe, which can be finger weaved into complicated designs. The garment is considered to be part of Mexican identity and nearly all Mexican women own at least one. It has been prominently worn by women such as Frida Kahlo, actress María Félix and former Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala and still popular in rural areas of the country. However, its use has diminished in urban areas. You can shop for more rebozos in our rebozo section.
A rebozo is a long straight piece of cloth which looks like a cross between a scarf and a shawl. Like ponchos, huipils and sarapes they are classic Mexican garments made of straight, mostly uncut cloth, but rebozos have their own characteristics. It is classically a woman’s garment, traditionally hand woven, distinguished by complicated finger woven fringes called rapacejos. The wearing of the rebozo is said to make the movement of a woman more graceful. The wearing of a rebozo by many women is a sign of Mexican heritage, and for that reason, sales of the garment can double before Mexican Independence Day on September 16. Because of the nature of the garment, especially the fringes, they should be hand washed. The dye may or may not be colorfast so mild soap should be used.
While all rebozos are rectangular woven cloth with fringes, there is significant variation within these constraints. There are three classes of rebozos. Traditional ones have a design created with the ikat dying technique and come in various set patterns. Regional rebozos are more colorful and their origins can be identified, especially those from Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero. Contemporary rebozos experiment with non-traditional fibers and designs. Sizes vary with lengths varying anywhere from 1.5 to about 3.5 meters long. Most Mexican rebozos are made from cotton, wool, silk or rayon. The type of fiber used is the main factor in determining a price of a piece which can vary from a couple hundred pesos to thousands of pesos, with fine pure silk pieces being the most expensive. The finest silk rebozos can be passed through a wedding ring.
Rebozo colors and patterns vary widely and traditional designs can usually identify where it was made. For example, a tightly woven black and indigo version is identified with the mountains areas of the state of Michoacán. Designs are generally classified as “classic” and “indigenous.” Classic rebozos come in various colors with designs based on the pre-Hispanic art of plumaría or creating images with feathers. Some of these have their fringes knotted to form images of animals and stares. However, almost all are created with the ikat technique. The most famous classic rebozo style is called “de bolitas” whose name comes from little knots of string tied onto groups of threads used in its production. Among indigenous groups designs and colors almost always indicate with group the woman belongs. While most rebozos use more than one color, monochrome versions are called “chalinas”.
Rebozos have two main functions, that of a garment and that as a carrying aid. As a garment, it can be an indispensable part of the wardrobe of many mestizo and indigenous women, especially those who live in rural areas. As a shawl, it can provide warmth (especially the thicker and wool ones), worn on the head to block the sun as well as for modesty especially in church, for city and upper-class women who use them, they can be worn inside the home but are most often used as an accessory to an outfit, especially on certain occasions. As a carrying aid, it can be tied around the head or shoulders most often to carry small children and large bundles, mostly commonly among indigenous women. The rebozo has even figured into Mexican traditional medicine. It has been used as a tourniquet, as support for a woman in later pregnancy, as an aid to a woman in labor, supporting her allowing for rhythmic movements and positioning with aim of making childbirth easier. It can also be used to alleviate headaches by tying it tightly around the head. Other uses for the rebozo have been in indigenous traditional dances and even as a shroud. One modern and innovative way to wear it has been to twist it around the upper body and fastened to make a kind of blouse or top.