THE MAKING OF THE "PUEBLA" MEXICAN DRESS
There is a Mexican dress that has become tremendously popular in the world. Perhaps this is due to its cheerful design of flowers and embroidered birds, perhaps it is the combination of bright colors all put together in one piece, maybe it’s because it is extremely comfortable, or perhaps it is also because of the versatility that this dress has, to be used in any situation or setting like a formal outing, for the beach, the house or the street.
We are talking about the “Puebla” dress made in a little town called Chilac in the State of Puebla, Mexico.
We had the opportunity to document the production process of this dress, which is handcrafted from beginning to end. A variation of this dress is completely embroidered by hand and another version is embroidered on a sewing machine controlled totally by foot and human hands. We will try to explain the process in producing this dress from beginning to end, along with videos that illustrate this process and are worth more than a thousand words.
Printing of Fabric
The first step to produce these dresses, is to have a guide on which to embroider. The canvas is a large piece rustic cotton fabric in which different drawings of flowers and birds are printed. The pieces used to print the fabric are large rubber stamps that have been hand-carved. Then this stamp is stained with black ink and pressed against the fabric. Different parts of the dress have different figures that will later be embroidered. All this process is totally manual and in no time a machine is occupied. Angel, who is the owner of this workshop is the one that is in charge of doing this initial step.
Hand embroidered dresses are made by artisans who have learned the basting technique from generation to generation. Mostly women, the artisans teach their children to embroider since early ages and this way they collaborate economically to provide sustenance for their families. Magda, an artisan that works in collaboration with the shop owner Angel, embroiders in her own home being a teacher and an example to her daughter Monica.
Machine embroidery is also a very crafty process. The machine gives a constant stitch, but the craftsman must control the width or narrowness of the stitch by pressing a lever located next to his knee. The more pressure the wider the stitch, less pressure and the stitch will be narrower. All these movements must be in perfect synchrony with constantly moving the fabric to locate the stitch on the correct petal or stem, and also changing the color of the threads to create the colorful designs of these dresses. This is a process that takes hours just to complete a single dress. Daniel is a shy young man who learned to use the foot pedal sewing machine since age 13. Currently he embroiders 6 dresses a day.
Assembly of the dress
This is the final step in the creation of the Puebla dress. So far, the dress had been two pieces of embroidered cloth. At this point, manual measurements are made, and the pieces are cut to give shape to the dress. Then the pieces are sewn together and details such as the waist ties and finishing the edges by hook are added. At the very end, the label of Décor Artesanal is added.