Why Do Mexican Women Sew Their Own Dresses?

[¡Ask a Mexican!] And is it true they're uninhibited?

DEAR MEXICAN: I am an Anglo intruder in New Mexico. When I moved to Albuquerque from Virginia, I fell in love with Mexican culture. I was impressed by what I called "Southwestern hospitality." I have had so many second dinners when I go to people's homes that I gained a few pounds within the first few months. To me, the words "laidback" or "easygoing" describe perfectly the people I've met here. My question has to do with being laidback. My family (white people from the East Coast) are rather neurotic types who complain easily, and I am glad to have moved to a place where survival matters more than mere appearances. But, as I have read a little about the history of the women in this state, I have come to appreciate that they had a role, sometimes bigger than the males, in making this state what it is today. They were ranch owners, healers and keepers of the faith. They also had a lot of freedom that today's women may envy.

What I want to know is, how come Mexican women are so comfortable with their bodies? What makes white women so uptight? I think one of the reasons for New Mexican women's uninhibited nature is the fact that it was women who ran things and delivered babies, and they only had one another to talk to and seek help from. So, it translated to women who now are untrammeled by silly hang-ups, and they have more natural beauty, both inside and out, than women elsewhere. Am I reading too much into things? Am I just another gringo who said the wrong thing? What do you think?

Curious In Albuquerque


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DEAR GABACHO: You're a modern-day Charles Fletcher Lummis, you are! Short response: mujeres no son that uninhibited—check out usage rates of tampons versus maxi pads between mexicanas and gabachas. Long response: Catholicism.

DEAR MEXICAN: My wife is a gabacha, and she frequently asks me why hefty, older Mexican women seem to wear crudely sewn printed bedsheets for dresses. Having slept with a plain blanket next to my brother and visiting relatives in the living room for much of my youth, I can't really tell the difference between a print floral dress and a printed bedsheet. So is it true? Does la comadre Concha have to make a tent dress out of flower-print bedsheets bought at the 99¢ Only store because dresses from Wal-Mart will not fit her?

Mexican Dormilón

DEAR SLEEPY WAB: Tell your esposa gabacha to stop hating and save your ass some cash by making like all good Mexi women and start to coser y tejer her own dresses. While I'm glad hipster chicks have gotten into sewing, crafting and that whole Etsy chingadera over the past couple of years, it's old sombrero for Mexican mujeres, all of whom know how to sew, stitch, weave and do miracles with cloth, strings and needles. I can't tell you how many quinceañera dresses my tías made from materials bought at textile stores, or how many torn jeans my mami patched up over the years, or cuffs on khakis she created when cuffs were cool and took off when they weren't. Oh, and the dress type you're referring to is most likely the huipil, the long, flowery dress from southern Mexico. Consider it a mestizo muumuu, except much classier and not as trashy as your woman's ilk.