Slinky & Scaly
The China Poblana is an ensemble worn today by Mexican folkloric dance troupes. Although the garments are associated with special occasions involving celebration, music, and dance, they were once commonplace. In the 19th century Mexican women donned ensembles featuring full, lavishly embellished skirts, embroidered blouses, long shawls, and ribbons braided into their hair. It was an iconic style, one that has come to be regarded as traditional Mexican costume today. When a fashion moment sweeps through a countryside, often there’s a pretty good story too: in the 17th Century, when Mexico was under Spanish colonial rule, a young girl named Mirrha was brought to New Spain by a band of pirates. Mirrha was likely from India (during this time in Mexico chino or china was used to refer to anyone of Asian descent), abducted by the Spanish, and sold to a local merchant in Puebla. While enslaved, Mirrha refused to assimilate to the styles worn by local women. And with this, we have the genesis of the China Poblana.
After her captor’s death there is some confusion as to what happened to Mirrha. Some say she married the servant of a local priest while others say she became a nun. Regardless, Mirrha, or Catarina de San Juan, was briefly anointed into sainthood prior to the Inquisition. Her tomb can be visited today in an 18th Century Jesuit church in Puebla. These two examples represent iterations of the China Poblana that were worn at different time periods, and are made from slightly different materials. Both skirts feature the Mexican coat of arms in sequins and beads on the front, and embroidered on the blouse. The blouse of the older ensemble is silk and the skirt is wool, whereas the newer ensemble features a blouse of cotton and skirt of cotton as well.