Aztec clothing

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This woman is wearing a skirt, a blouse and an ear plug.
This man is wearing a cape, a loincloth and an ear plug.

Aztec clothing is the clothing that was worn by the Aztecs, as well as other pre-Columbian peoples of central Mexico who shared similar cultures. Strict sumptuary laws dictated the type of fiber, ornamentation and how clothing was worn by class. [1]

Everyday dress[edit]

Nezahualpilli, ruler of Texcoco, depicted in the Codex Ixtlilxochitl wearing xiuhtilmatli (blue cape), maxtlatl, and cactli.

The basic garment and braw[citation needed] for males was called maxtlatl[2] [ˈmaːʃt͡ɬat͡ɬ] in Nahuatl. The maxtlatl would often be worn under a cloak or cape called tilmahtli[citation needed] [tilˈmaʔt͡ɬi]; also called tilma in Spanish and English). Various styles of tilmatli existed which served to indicate the status of the wearer.[3]

Varieties of clothing worn by Aztec men, before the Spanish conquest.

a: young wearing only a maxtlatl; b: common people (Macehualtin) dress; c: noble (Pipiltin) or high ranking warrior dress; d: ruling classes and the clergy; e: less common way to wear the tilmatli; f: war dress.

Aztec women wore a blouse called huīpīlli[2] [wiːˈpiːɬːi]; also called huipil in Spanish and English) and a long skirt[3] called cuēitl [ˈkʷeːit͡ɬ] (referred to as enredo in modern times). Women kept their skirt on them with a sash[2] called a cihua necuitlalpiloni [ˈsiwa nekʷit͡ɬaɬpilˈu˕ni].[4] In the Classical Nahuatl language, the couplet cuēitl huīpīlli "skirt [and] blouse" was used metaphorically to mean "woman".[citation needed]

Basic dress of an Aztec woman before the Spanish conquest.

The Aztecs wore different clothing depending on their age.[5] Children younger than three wore no clothes.[5] From age three and up, girls wore blouses and boys wore capes.[5] From age four and up, girls additionally wore short skirts.[5] From age five and up, the girls' short skirts was replaced with a longer skirts.[5] At age 13, boys finally started wearing loin cloths.[5]

Sandals, called cactli [ˈkakt͡ɬi], were a sign of status. They were largely restricted to noble males. Those who entered temples or appeared before the emperor were required to be barefoot.


Aztec women wore hair in two braids that projected in the front like horns[2] and this hairstyle was called neaxtlāhualli [neɑʃtɬɑːˈwɑɬːi].[2] common man hairstyle are cut to the length of the neck and probably a fringe


Types of Aztec Earplugs Nacochtli [naˈku˕t͡ʃt͡ɬi][4]
E N IPA English Nahuatl Notes
gold teōcuitlatl [teu˕ːˈkʷit͡ɬat͡ɬ] golden earplugs teocuitlanacochtli especially prestigious
teōxihuitl [teu˕ːˈʃiwit͡ɬ] turquoise earplugs xiuhnacochtli especially prestigious
June Beetle mayātl [ˈmajaːt͡ɬ] green June Beetle earplugs mayananacochtli
obsidian ītztli [ˈiːt͡st͡ɬi] obsidian earplugs itznacochtli more common, less prestigious
leather cuetlaxtli [kʷeˈt͡ɬaʃt͡ɬi] leather earplugs cuetlaxnacochtli awarded to warriors of higher ranks
quetzal quetzalli [keˈt͡saɬːi] curved green ear pendants with bells quetzalcoyolnacochtli given to merchants who participated in a conquest
reed ācatl [ˈaːkat͡ɬ] reed earplugs acanacochtli
mud zoquitl [ˈsu˕kit͡ɬ] pottery earplugs zoquinacochtli
mirror tēzcatl [ˈteːskat͡ɬ] mirror-stone earplugs tezcanacochtli
workable metal tepoztli [teˈpu˕st͡ɬi] copper earplugs tepoznacochtli
crystal tehuīlōtl [teˈwiːlu˕ːt͡ɬ] crystal earplugs tehuilonacochtli
wood cuahuitl [ˈkʷawit͡ɬ] wooden earplugs cuauhnacochtli
amber apozonalli [apu˕su˕ˈnaɬːi] amber earplugs apozonalnacochtli

The Aztec (women and men) would tend to always decorate themselves with gold bangles, necklaces, chokers, etc. Such jewelry was worn to show how wealthy one was; a poor or unwealthy Aztec would tend to wear less jewelry than an Aztec of higher placing and wealth.

The jewelry worn by the Mayan, Aztec, and Inca people was rich in variety and quite beautiful.[according to whom?] Without metalworking skills, Mayans made jewelry from many other materials. Mayan men wore nose ornaments, earplugs, and lip plugs made of bone, wood, shells, and stones, including jade, topaz, and obsidian. Necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and headgear were made with jaguar and crocodile teeth, jaguar claws, and feathers. Mayan women and children wore less elaborate necklaces and earrings of similar materials.

Aztecs and Incas perfected metalworking to a great art. Gold and silver jewelry was worn alongside ornaments made of feathers, shells, leather, and stones. Among the Aztecs, laws about which ornaments could be worn were strictly enforced. Only royalty could wear headdresses with gold and quetzal (a bird with brilliant blue-green feathers that reach three feet in length) feathers, for example. The weaving tradition, so important to Incas, helped create beautiful woven headdresses. Inca emperors wore woven hats trimmed with gold and wool tassels or topped with plumes, or showy feathers. Incas also created elaborate feather decorations for men: headbands made into crowns of feathers, collars around the neck, and chest coverings. In addition, wealthy Inca men wore large gold and silver pendants hung on their chests, disks attached to their hair and shoes, and bands around their arms and wrists. Inca women adorned themselves simply with a metal fastening for their cloak called a tupu. The head of their tupu was decorated with paint or silver, gold, or copper bells.

Battle regalia[edit]

Aztec warriors and priests as depicted in the Codex Mendoza, wearing battle suits and tilmahtli tunics.

All warriors wore loincloths, and basic military armor called ichcahuipilli. When they were recognized by the state for their bravery in battle, their status increased (regardless of original class) and they were rewarded with shell and glass beaded jewelry. If the warrior was more honored or a higher rank, they would wear battle suits called Tlahuiztli; these suits were distinctively decorated for prestigious warriors and members of warrior societies. They served as a way to identify warriors according to their achievements in battle as well as rank, alliance, and social status like priesthood or nobility. Usually made to work as a single piece of clothing with an opening in the back, they covered the entire torso and most of the extremities of a warrior, and offered added protection to the wearer. The tlahuiztli was made with elements of animal hide, leather, and cotton. Warriors were also allowed to wear sandals as they progressed through the ranks.

Page from the Codex Mendoza depicting warriors wearing ichcahuipilli armor and Tlahuiztli suits.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anawalt, Patricia (1980). "Costume and Control: Aztec Sumptuary Laws". Archaeology. 33 no. 1: 33–43.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mursell, I. What did the Aztecs wear?. (n.d.). Mexicalore. Retrieved August 31, 2012, from link
  3. ^ a b Ancient Aztec clothing. (2012). Aztec-History. The Aztecs used many different types of feathers in their clothing. Retrieved August 30, 2012, from link
  4. ^ a b Nahuatl Dictionary. (1997). Wired Humanities Project. University of Oregon. Retrieved August 31, 2012, from link
  5. ^ a b c d e f Mursell, I. Aztec children's clothes. (n.d.). Mexicalore. Retrieved August 31, 2012, from link