The 'San Antonino', as it is known, it's the traditional dress of the Zapotec women of the Central Valleys region in Oaxaca. Its name comes from the town of San Antonino Castillo Velasco, where, it is the general belief, the dress was first sewn. About a twenty-minute car-ride from there is the town of San Pedro Mártir where Señora Beatriz welcomes us in her home. She explains that the dress actually belongs to Ocotlán, the district that encompasses San Antonino, San Pedro and other neighboring towns. Her family has been making the dress for generations. Her mother, Violeta, learned the craft from Beti's grandmother when she was 12 and has been sewing and embroidering for over 40 years. Beti's husband, Constantino, also comes from a family of dressmakers that, according to Señora Violeta, has been doing it for even longer.
Flowers and leaves that represent the region's flora are the main motifs in the embroidery on the dress. These are used infinitely times on shoulders, upper chest, and underarms of the garment. The famous 'Hazme Si Puedes' stitch work, reserved for the more experienced and skilled embroiderer, depicts people holding hands. At a glance, it might not look like much, But it is the ultimate telltale an embroiderer is judged by.
"Hazme si puedes, o si no, déjame para las mujéres" Make me if you can, if not, leave it to the women
An even more difficult technique to master is the making of the Deshilado dress. Deshilado meaning 'unraveled', refers to the intricate crochet work that adorns and hold sections of fabric together. Where bordados are done over fabric, deshilados are weaved between two pieces of fabric creating patterns with the treads and gaps. Moreover, there are different types of deshilados, some of them are: Risa, Nacional, Rositas, Moñitos y Reiletes.
Also on the Deshilado dresses, the Bordado de Pensamiento is employed. The artisan, without having any preconceived design, impromptu, would draw the flowers and leaves in the directions where her thoughts guide them. The drawing gets filled with not one but several color treads adding to the complexity and dimensionality of the embroidery.
A Deshilado dress takes a little over 6 months and at least 3 different specialized artisans to complete. There are not enough words to express how special this dress is. The intention to purposely create something exceptional, the amount and attention to details, the dedication and time invested, make this dress truly remarkable.
On the flip side, for the same reasons mentioned above, to get a Deshilado dress made is highly prohibitive to average consumers in México. It is unlikely, with the present consumer culture, that someone there or anywhere else would rather choose a Deshilado over a chic brand name bag or shoes. The tradition of making Deshilado dresses has survived over 100 years despite whatever the state of economy is and it will go on in the Zapotec communities of Valles Centrales. What worries me is that the artesanos, as business entrepreneurs, would stop making the dress if it is not profitable, this in turn, would lead to less and less of these special dresses available to would-be buyers.
If you are ever in Oaxaca City. Please go see Señora Beatriz and her collective by the Santo Domingo Temple. They are mostly there on weekends. Get an authentic dress directly from their hands.
...But if you can't make it to Oaxaca, you can find her dresses at our SHOP