Usually woven on a back-strap loom, the huipil is a traditional garment, consisting of a rectangular piece of cloth that is folded and stitched at the sides.
Maya women wear huipiles, and huipiles adorn the statues of their saints in the church. The design of the huipil identifies the community to which the wearer belongs.
Elements of Precolumbian, Aztec and European styles are incorporated in garments from different regions, although the designs have been modified over time.
After centuries of Colonial rule and loss of native lands, the Maya had neither time nor money to make traditional garments. By the early 1800s, women began to wear an undecorated huipil or adopted embroidered European-style blouses. By the end of the 19th century, most Maya women had forgotten the technique of brocade weaving entirely.
Only a few women in each community have the skill, knowledge and dedication to weave batz'i luch, or "true designs" for the ceremonial huipil.
These master weavers are the esteemed servants of the saints, who care for and study the oldest huipiles and become the recognized scholars of their weaving tradition. The ceremonial huipil is only worn by the statues of saints and the wives of religious officials.