Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1487 Aztec tequiua
Subjecttequiua knight
CultureAztec / Mexica
Setting: Aztec empire / Triple Alliance, central Mexico 15th-early 16thc
Object: costume


* Hassig 1988 p90
"Some helmets made of wood and bone were highly decorated with feathers, while others were made of the heads of wild animals -- wolves, jaguars, and pumas -- over a frame of wood or over quilted cotton, with the wearer gazing out from the animal's opened jaw."

* Pohl/Hook 2001 p60
Helmets were carved of hardwoods like mahogany.  They were lined with a heavy cotton cap and tied securely under the chin with cloth or leather ribbons.  Those issued as awards to soldiers were limited almost exclusively to the jaguar, coyote, and tzitzimitl or 'demon of vengeance' styles.  However, high ranking nobility could commission helmets for themselves in all sorts of fanciful heraldic forms with eagles, parrots, vultures, monkeys, bears, wolves, and crocodiles being especially popular."

* Anawalt 1981 p56
"Some ... warrior costumes were worn with a matching headdress, while others were in the form of a disguise, constructed so that the wearer's head was also encased by the suit and his face looked out from the gaping jaws of coyote, jaguar, or frightful specter."

* Sayer 1985 p65
"Military head-dresses were often highly elaborate, as recorded by the Anonymous Conqueror: 'To defend the head they wear things like heads of serpents, or tigers, or lions, or wolves, and the man's head lies inside the animal's jaws as though it were devouring him.  These heads are of wood covered on the outside with feathers or incrustations of gold or precious stones, and are something wonderful to behold'.  Although wood is mentioned here, when describing these smae head-dresses Durán speaks of 'quilted cotton'.  Zoomorphic helmets appear in the tribute lists of the Codex Mendoza, together with pointed headpieces, magnificent feather head-dresses and hair ornaments such as the quetzaltalpiloni."

War Suit (Tzitzimitl, Jaguar, Eagle, Cuauchic)

* Anawalt 1981 p55
"The tlahuiztli was a complete body-suit encasing the arms and legs.  It was constructed of feather-covered cloth, made in a variety of colors and styles.  The basic shape of all these suits was probably the same; rank and status were indicated by the addition of various body colors, designs, headpieces, and attached insignia.  It was a male garment, worn in varying colors and feather combinations by different grades of warriors and priest-warriors of high ascribed and achieved status.  Since the tlahuiztli was worn only in martial or ritual contexts, it was special-purpose clothing.
    "This most spectacular type of Aztec military attire completely encased not only the limbs of the wearer but in some cases his head as well.  Monia defined tlahuiztli as arms and insignia, implying to the modern English-speaking reader that he was referring only to weapons and symbols of rank.  Stevens's Spanish-English dictionary of 1726, however, defines armas as 'arms, weapons, armour.'  This inclusion in the Spanish term armas of a garment for bodily protection coincides with the information presented in the Matícula de tributos.  There the Nahuatl term tlahuiztli is always associated with the entire warrior costume, including the fitted body suit, headdress, and shield."

* Hassig 1988 p88
"The war suit (tlahuiztli suit) encased not only the torso but the arms and legs as well in long sleeves and leggings.  These suits were not padded but were worn over the cotton armor.  They existed in many different types; twelve are recorded as having been received as tribute.  Despite appearing like animal skins, the suits of noble warriors were made of feathers sewn to a backing fabric.  Only meritocratic nobles wore tlahuiztli suits of animal skins.  Both types of tlahuiztli suit afforded some protection from projectiles, especially the body if the wearer was also protected by the ichcahuipilli, but the limbs were also protected, though to a lesser extent.  The feathered garments were finer and of higher status.  The slick surface of the feathers may have offered greater protection than would skins, especially against glancing blows, and depending on the backing, these suits were probably lighter and cooler."

* Sayer 1985 p65
"The Anonymous Conqueror defined these [tlahuitztli] as 'suits all of one piece and of a heavy cloth, which they tie at the back; these are covered with feathers of different colours and look very splendid.'"

* Anawalt 1981 p56
"The tlahuiztli displayed wide variety in both style and color.  The coyote costumes were made in yellow, violet, white, black, red, flame-colored and starry-sky designs and combinations of these.  In addition to the coyote-type garments there were several other classes of tlahuiztli, including jaguar, death demons, and Huaxtec costumes.  Other costume types emulated the gods, including Xipe Totec, Teteoinnan, Xochiquetzal, Chantico, and many of the pulque deities."

* Codex Mendoza 1978 p64 (Kurt Ross, commentary)
"... [N]o fewer than 645 suits of this and other designs were sent annually to Tenochtitlan by the subject towns -- with all that that implies for the bird life of Mexico. ... [T]hese were not uniforms in the conventional sense; yet, whatever the motivation behind individual designs, a force of warriors clad in such brilliant, kaleidoscopic colors cannot have failed to make a powerful impression on their adversaries." 


* Pohl/Hook 2001 p60
"Nearly all warriors were issued with some form of the ichcahuipili.  The most basic form of this cotton quilted armor was a pull-over shirt.  It was always worn under both the tlahuiztli and the ehuatl and gave the soldier a very muscular appearance.  Other examples appearing in pictographic histories suggest that it was also worn as a tunic or jacket by itself among high ranking lords.  Many were dyed in vibrant hues of red and blue.  The ichcahuipilli was perfectly adapted to the hot humid climate that prevades much of Mexico.  The theory behind its use was more like a contemporary bullet-proof vest for absorbing the blow of a weapon rather than attempting to stop it like medieval metal armor."  

* Hassig 1988 p88
"Quilted cotton armor (ichcahuipilli) was a common element of battle attire in Mesoamerica.  It was constructed of unspun cotton tightly stitched between two layers of cloth and sewn to a leather border. The belief that the cotton was soaked in coarse salt to strengthen it derives from de Landa; but this account is unsubstantiated elsewhere, and Gates thinks this is a misinterpretation of taab, 'to tie,' for tab, 'salt,' and that the cotton was tied or quilted, not salted.
    "The ichcahuipilli was so thick (one and a half to two fingers) that neither an arrow nor an atlatl dart could penetrate it.  It was made in several styles: a type of jacket that tied at the back, a sleeveless jacket that tied in the front, a sleeveless pullover that hugged the body and reached to the top of the thigh, and a sleeveless pullover that flared and reached the midthigh.  As with their other weaponry, the Aztecs received some cotton armor in tribute."

* Sayer 1985 p65
"Protective tunics and jackets were termed ichcahuipilli.  Made, according to Sahagún, from 'fluffed up cotton covered with cloth', they were painted or, in the words of Díaz del Castillo, 'richly ornamented on the outside with many coloured feathers'.  Further description by the Anonymous Conqueror stated that 'the strength of their feather-covered garments is proportionate to their weapons, so that they resist spears, arrows, and even the sword.'"

* Raaflaub/Rosenstein eds. 1999 p377 (Ross Hassig, "The Aztec world" p361-387)
"Armor (ichcahuipilli) was constructed of unspun cotton quilted between two layers of cloth and made into a sleeveless jacket that hugged the body. One and a half to two fingers thick, the armor could not be penetrated by arrows; it was worn alone or, if status merited it, under a war suit (tlahuiztli suit) that encased the arms and legs as well as the torso.  Helmets made of quilted cotton or wood were sometimes used as well."