Sew your own: Mexican-style huipil

Produced as part of Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up

Ran from 16 June 2018 to 18 November 2018

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A 'huipil' is a sleeveless tunic, traditionally worn by women in many regions of Mexico and Guatemala. This Frida Huipil sewing pattern is inspired by the huipiles worn by the artist Frida Kahlo, as well as some examples in our textile collection.

Frida Kahlo in New York, by Nickolas Muray, 1939. © Nickolas Muray Photo Archives.

You can make your own Mexican-style huipil with our easy-to-use sewing pattern and step-by-step instructions, designed exclusively for us by Alice & Co Patterns. The joy of this design is that you add your embellishment whilst the fabric is still flat, making it easy to sew.

Download your chosen pattern (you can choose a square or scoop neck design), print it off at home, and follow the illustrated instructions:

We'd love to see your creations! Share your photos with us on social media using the hashtag: #InspiredbyFrida

(Left) Cotton huipil with machine-embroidered chain stitch; printed cotton skirt with embroidery and ruffle. (Right) Cotton huipil with chain stitch embroidery; cotton skirt with printed floral motifs. Museo Frida Kahlo. Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums
Detail of chain-stitched huipil worn by Frida Kahlo, photograph by Harry Cory Wright. © Harry Cory Wright

Frida Kahlo wore huipiles in a variety of lengths, fabrics and designs. Many of her huipiles are made of commercially-produced cloth, embellished with geometric designs, chain-stitched on a sewing machine, or appliquéd ribbons. Some are hand-embroidered. Our Frida Huipil instructions include tips and ideas for decorating your huipil using shop-bought ribbons, which can be stitched on to the fabric in a square border design. You can experiment with different fabrics, colours and decorative stitches.

You could even try adding an embroidered design. Our textile collection includes a rare and interesting group of embroidered huipiles made over a century ago in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. One was intricately worked with stylised bird and flower designs in red cotton. Another was made from a single width of bought cotton cloth and embroidered with red and blue cotton thread, and a minuscule amount of wool, to depict flowers, birds and a large stag.

(Left) Huipil, unknown, 1800s, Oaxaca state, Mexico. Museum no. T.75-1922. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. (Right) Huipil, unknown, 1870 – 1900, Oaxaca state, Mexico. Bequeathed by Alfred Percival Maudslay. Museum no. T.28-1931. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Our collection includes a longer style of huipil; instead of embroidery it features brocaded bands, worked with red and blue cotton, of zigzags, chevrons and lozenges. Another striking example from our collection features a woven 'double-headed eagle' motif, with brocading and cross-stitch decorations.

(Left): Huipil, unknown, 1875 – 1890, Oaxaca state, Mexico. Bequeathed by Alfred Percival Maudslay. Museum no. T.38-1931. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. (Right): Huipil, unknown, 1850 – 1907, Oaxaca state, Mexico. Bequeathed by Alfred Percival Maudslay. Museum no. T.264-1928. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Discover more Mexican embroidery and traditional Mexican dress in our collections.