Mérida  is known as the Ciudad Blanca, or the “White City,” in part because of the all-white outfits men and women commonly wore in the colonial era, and well into the 20th century. Even today, Meridianos tend toward traditional cuts and styles, even as the fabrics and designs have become more colorful. Two articles of clothing in particular — the huipil for women and the guayabera for men — come from previous eras but are still in wide use today.
A huipil is a beautiful type of dress first worn by Maya women at the insistence of hacienda patrones. The squared neck and hem are edged with brightly colored embroidery, and a lace-finished petticoat peeks out at the bottom. The similar, long terno is more elaborate than the huipil and is worn at parties and celebrations. Both are practical and cool and are now used by Yucatecan women of all classes. Prices vary considerably (US$10–550) depending upon the type of fabric (cotton, linen, or synthetic) and whether they have been hand-embroidered or machine-made.
Guayaberas — button-down shirts with piping and hip pockets — are traditionally white, cotton, and short-sleeved, but you now find them in pastel tones, in linen, polyester, or silk, and sometimes even long-sleeved. They are a staple of menswear in the Yucatán, and harken back to the time — not so long ago, really — when a combination of poor roads and frequent boat traffic meant Mérida had closer ties with Cuba and even Europe than it did with the rest of Mexico.
There are many shops in Mérida  to buy huipiles and guayaberas.
If you’re on the search for the perfect huipil or terno (traditional women’s dresses), try the following: Casa de las Artesanías del Estado de Yucatán, Masud (Parque Hidalgo, Calle 60 between Calles 59 and 61, tel. 999/923-8132, 9 a.m.–noon, 5–8:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri., and 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat.), and Camisería Canul (Calle 62 between Calles 57 and 59, tel. 999/923-0158, guayaber [at] sureste [dot] com, 8:30 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Sun.).
If a fine guayabera (traditional men’s shirt) is what you’re looking for, head to: Fábrica Jack (Calle 59 between Calles 60 and 62, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Sun.) and Canul Jr. (Calle 59 between Calles 60 and 62, tel. 999/923-1811, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Sun.). If you want a custom-made guayabera (who doesn’t want a red silk shirt with lightning bolts stitched in?), one can be made in about a week for off-the-rack prices. Ask a salesperson for details at any of the shops listed above.
Traditional panama or jipi (HE-pee) hats—ones that can be folded and stuffed in a pocket without harming it—also can be found at Fábrica Jack or Casa de las Artesanías del Estado de Yucatán. Not cheap, finos (the most supple) can run as high as US$80.