Indian Clothing Before Cortés: Mesoamerican Costumes from the Codices

by Patricia Rieff Anawalt

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In her book, Patricia Anawalt describes through text and more than 350 illustrations and charts what the Indians of Middle America were wearing when Cortés and his conquistadors arrived in the New World in 1519. The costumes reveal a great deal about those who wore them. To the peoples of Middle America, dress was identity; even a god had to don his proper attire. To the Aztecs and their neighbors, for example, the wearing of appropriate clothing was strictly controlled by both custom and law. An individual’s attire immediately identified not only culture affiliation but rank and status as well. Since each group dressed in a distinctive and characteristic manner, a great deal of ethnographic and historical information can be gleaned from a study of what those groups wore.

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