There is nothing quite like the promise of a new exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. Walking up to the architectural grandeur of the museum with the anticipation of viewing ¡Viva México! Clothing & Culture, an exhibit designed to celebrate the ROM’s Mexican textile and costume collection, I couldn’t have been more excited. On display in the beautiful Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume, the exhibit features 150 pieces created in Mexico between the 19th and 21st centuries. Vibrancy, intricacy and incredibly ornate designs transported guests back to the Mexico of many years ago when these elaborate ensembles were the only #OOTDs that mattered.
The exhibit was beautifully curated and featured the finest Mexican shawls, samplers, sashes, tunics, dresses and sarapes. Each piece in the gallery acted as a puzzle piece to a greater understanding of Mexican history, culture and fashion. In pre-Conquest times, the brilliant ensembles of the elite acted as symbols of wealth, power and prosperity and when the Spanish conquistadores arrived in 1519, the splendid Mexican style of dress was impossible not to fall in love with. The Spanish were immensely impressed by the decadence and skill of the weavers, feather workers, spinner, dyers and beaders who crafted clothing for heir people. It was not long before European elements of design (raw materials, motifs, silhouette) were incorporated into the Mexican design aesthetic. It is incredible to think that despite 60 different languages being spoken by descendants of the Maya, the Aztec and other ancient cultures the communicative abilities of textiles and design were never lost and still continue to prosper in modern day Mexican design.
A symbol for cultural heritage as well as a key to the history of Mexico, the textiles in the ROM’s ¡Viva México! exhibit are awe-inspiring. Guest curator, Chloë Sayer, did a wonderful job of creating an exhibit that combined elements of past and present Mexico. Not only will this exhibit leave you craving a plate of tacos on a hot sunny day, it will also leave you curious about Mexico’s clothing and culture in ways you never thought imaginable.