Although traje (ancestral tribal dress) has nearly vanished in Mexico’s large cities, significant numbers of Mexican women make and wear it. Such traditional styles are still common in remote districts of the Puerto Vallarta region and in the states of Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Yucatán. Most favored is the huipil—a long, square-shouldered short- to mid-sleeved full dress, often hand-embroidered with animal and floral designs. Among the most treasured are huipiles from Oaxaca, especially from San Pedro de Amusgos (Amusgo tribe; white cotton, embroidered with abstract colored animal and floral motifs), San Andrés Chicahuatxtla (Trique tribe; white cotton, richly embroidered red stripes, interwoven with greens, blues, and yellows, and hung with colored ribbons), and Yalalag (Zapotec tribe; white cotton, with bright flowers embroidered along two or four vertical seams and distinctive colored tassels hanging down the back). Beyond Oaxaca, Maya huipiles are also highly desired. They are usually made of white cotton and embellished with brilliant machine-embroidered flowers around the neck and shoulders, front and back.
Shoppers sometimes can buy other less- common types of traje accessories, such as a quechquémitl (shoulder cape), often made of wool and worn as an overgarment in winter. The enredo (literally, tangled) wraparound skirt enfolds the waist and legs like a sarong. Mixtec women in Oaxaca’s warm south coastal region around Pinotepa Nacional (west of Puerto Escondido) commonly wear the enredo, known locally as the pozahuanco (poh-sah-oo-AHN-koh), below the waist and, when at home, go bare-breasted. When wearing her pozahuanco in public, a Mixtec woman usually ties a mandil, a wide calico apron, across her front. Women weave the best pozahuancos at home, using cotton thread dyed a light purple with secretions of tide pool–harvested snails, Purpura patula pansa, and silk dyed deep red with cochineal, extracted from the dried bodies of a locally cultivated scale insect, Dactylopius coccus.
Colonial Spanish styles have blended with native traje to produce a wider class of dress, known generally as ropa típica. Fetching embroidered blusas (blouses), rebozos (shawls), and vestidos (dresses) fill boutique racks and market stalls throughout the Mexican Pacific. Among the most handsome is the so-called Oaxaca wedding dress, in white cotton with a crochet- trimmed riot of diminutive flowers hand-stitched about the neck and yoke. Some of the finest examples are made in Antonino Castillo Velasco village, in the Valley of Oaxaca.
Unlike the women, only a very small population of Mexican men—members of remote groups, such as Huichol, Cora, Tepehuan, and Tarahumara in the northwest, and Maya and Lacandón in the southeast—wear traje. Nevertheless, shops offer some fine men’s ropa típica, such as serapes, decorated wool blankets with a hole or slit for the head, worn during northern or highland winters, or guayaberas, hip-length pleated tropical dress shirts.
Fine bordado (embroidery) embellishes much traditional Mexican clothing, manteles (tablecloths), and servilletas (napkins). As everywhere, women define the art of embroidery. Although some still work by hand at home, cheaper machine-made needlework is more commonly available in shops.
The Puerto Vallarta region abounds in for-sale leather goods that, if not manufactured locally, are shipped from the renowned leather centers. These include Guadalajara, Mazatlán, and Oaxaca for sandals and huaraches, and León and Guanajuato for shoes, boots, and saddles. For unique and custom-designed articles you’ll probably have to confine your shopping to the pricier stores; for more usual though still attractive leather items such as purses, wallets, belts, coats, and boots, veteran shoppers find bargains at the Municipal Crafts Market in Puerto Vallarta.