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Aztec Dress

Dress was an important part of Aztec religion and daily life. Weaving and spinning was practiced by all women. They weaved for their families and as payments and taxes to the nobility. The woven clothing were from cotton and maguey fibers. The leaders wore the cotton clothing and the peasants had to use the maguey fiber.

Tropical bird feathers with their bright colors and natural shine made them very desirable for trading. The birds were caught and kept for their feathers. The feathers were woven into beautiful and lavish designs for clothing or for head dresses.

The Aztec warriors wore extensive forms of armor to protect them in war. The dress of higher warriors was very elaborate. Their bodies were covered with a close vest of quilted cotton. Although impenetrable the garment was very light. The wealthier chiefs often wore a thin layer of gold or silver instead of the vests. Covering this inner layer was a coat of extravagant feathers. Helmets were often made of wood and fashioned to look like the heads of animals. They also carried shields to fend off arrows and spears. The shields were made of woven reeds with feathers lining the outside. On the cover of some shields there were figures of some animals that represented different strengths that the Aztecs believed they received from these animals. Often the warriors waved a panache of feathers dusted with stones and precious metals. They often wore collars, bracelets and earrings of the same materials. Commoners wore body paint, which was the color of the banner of the chief who they followed. They wore very little clothing other than a simple girdle around the loins. Warriors could earn the right to wear costumes of animals for the amount of prisoners they capture. The dress allowed for proper protection against the weapons of the time. Another function of the dress was to show the chief that they followed. The Aztec warriors did this by painting the color of the chief's banner on their body. For upper soldiers dress also showed role and rank. While for common soldiers, it was used for modesty.

The way that people dressed was a way to tell the difference between Aztec social classes. Within Aztec society there are four social classes: nobles, commoners, serfs, and slaves. Nobles ranked the highest and could be determined by their dress. Nobility status could be achieved by becoming a religious leader or the status could be inherited. cotton was a common material used in noble clothing. The dress consisted of symbols to show their high rank. The more decorated the clothing the higher the rank. Gold was important to a noble's dress. Another accessory was feathers on the head and on their robes. Bright colors were also a sign the individual was of high rank. The function of noble dress was adornment, modesty, and to attract attention. Another function of noble dress was to show that they were part of the government, and also showed designated religious leaders.

Commoners and serfs were not allowed to dress with extravagance. They dressed much the same with less accessories and bright colors. Sometimes the men only wore a loincloth, and women wore a simple cotton dress. Dress for these people was for modesty and to make work easier. An example would be that they dressed differently for farming than for hunting.

Slaves often wore minimal clothing. Slaves had jewels that they wore in holes in their facees and had feathered cloaks that were appreciated for their artistic workmanship. A skirt of feathers finished their dress. The main purpose of slave clothing was because of modesty and for work functions.

Aztec women wore skirts that they wore around their hips and waist. Men wore loincloths and often wore a poncho without sleeves or a cloak over the loincloth. All men had a small shoulder pouch under their cloak or poncho. They carried coca leaves to chew which were like tobacco leaves. The pouches also were used to carry good luck amulets.

2010 Aztec.com. All rights reserved. Graphics by Scott Hunter. Produced by Aztec Systems Corp.