mainly left to those north of the equator. That doesn’t mean the vintage fashionista in New Zealand can’t indulge in a little ‘South of the Border’ styling today, either through real vintage finds or modern MexiCali inspired reproductions.
Fabrics: Look for bright, saturated colours in shades
Mexico lost none of its exotic cachet at the end of the war; the fuller post-war fashions simply gave more scope for Mexican inspired designs. Circle skirts were painted with scenes of Mexican dancers, 3) Three examples of 1940s Mexican themed novelty prints, in cotton (top) and rayon (bottom) of Mexican life proclaimed that you had holidayed in Mexico, and McCall’s 1399 allowed the home sewer to imitate the look, even if she never made it to Mexico. “Gay Old Mexico” was the perfect mental escape during the Great Depression, and World War II further increased its popularity. Mexico became a land untouched by war in the public mind, and patriotic wartime fashions mingled with Mexican motifs, with Mexican fabrics printed in shades of ‘Air-Force blue’ and ‘Legion d’Honneur red’. Cheerful frocks in Mexican inspired colours were touted as just the thing for leave-dates, and magazine ads promised that if you dressed right “when he comes back, it’s a honeymoon in Mexico.” Mexico lost none of its exotic cachet at the end of the war; the fuller post-war fashions simply gave more scope for Mexican inspired designs. Circle skirts were painted with scenes of Mexican dancers, and the less committed Mexico enthusiast could add cactus or sombrero appliqués to her apron and have a fiesta as she did the housework.
of air-force blue, teal, kelly green, marigold yellow, tomato red, and pumpkin orange, and pair them with crisp white. Prints feature typical motifs like cactus, or Aztec inspired geometrics. Less common are Mexican inspired prints in Art Deco pastels of aqua and lavender.
Shapes: For the full look, pair striped dirndl skirts with embroidered peasant blouses, or a full circle skirt with Mexican motifs and a fitted bodice. The 40s focused on wide shoulders with embroidered yokes, the 50s on full skirts with painted scenes.
Trims: Skip the cliché poodle on your circle skirt,
and applique cactus or sombrero motifs instead. Dress up any full skirt with rows of ric rack, trim and bobbles. Recycle damaged vintage Mexican-themed embroideries as trim on blouses or as appliques on circle skirts.
Accessories: Slide on chunky wooden bangles, or
silver and turquoise jewellery. Add a South of the Border costume brooch. Slip on your espadrilles or huarachas, or wear tan leather shoes. Protect your skin with a broad straw hat – striped is best, and a stiffer brim is better. Finish it all off with a tooled leather bag, and you’ll look real grand by the Rio Grande. 4) McCalls 995, circa 1939
Mexican-themed home embroideries were the most common expression of the MexiCali fashion fad in New Zealand. Scenes featuring Mexican dancers and cacti were a popular design on tea cloths, napkins and tray cloths. There are some examples of ‘Mexican stripes’ in New Zealand fashions of the ‘40s and ‘50s, and small costume pins with sombreros or burros are not uncommon, but the wilder examples of painted circle skirts and embroidered jackets were 35