The Aztec Empire had a diverse mixture of people from different tribes and cultures and as such different clothing trends and fashions were prevalent within the empire.
The Aztec empire consisted of the vast region of the present day Mexico and even beyond its borders. Thus the cultural identity of the entire empire was relatively loose and different city-states were bound together by a system of tribute which was paid to the capital city of Tenochtitlan.
Aztec Headdresses were worn by the ruling class, nobility, warriors and Priests. Aztec Headdress were elaborate and the feathers of the Quetzal bird were commonly used in the design. Read more about the Aztec Headdress >>
The Aztec clothing trends varied through the history of the Aztecs, although some elements remained more or less the same. The Aztec Empire was established in 1428 as a result of the civil war and the new empire had a military outlook. This emphasis on military conquest and battles also affected the clothing trends of the Aztecs, particularly the clothing of the priests used during the religious ceremonies and the clothing of the warriors.
Everyday Aztec clothing consisted of relatively loose fitting and comfortable dress which covered the body only partially. Young children usually did not use any clothing and went about naked. Common people mostly used maguey clothing instead of cotton clothing. The most common elements of clothing consisted of a loincloth which was made from a long strip of cloth tied at the front. Everyday clothing of people from elite classes was different and more elaborate.
Aztec peasants and slaves were at the lowest level of the society and had least amount of rights. Their social standing was also reflected in their clothing. Thus they used the simplest Aztec clothing and sometimes their clothing consisted only of a loincloth. This simplicity also helped them in undertaking their duties which demanded physical agility and exertion.
Aztec clothing of Aztec emperors and the nobility was elaborate and lavish. There were certain kinds of materials and colours which were reserved for the ruling classes and common people could not use them. Other than the loincloth, Aztec clothing of the emperors and the nobility also consisted of skirts and tilmas. A very important feature of the Aztec clothing of the emperors was the headdress for which beautiful and colourful feathers of Quetzal were used. Their clothing was bright coloured and gold was often used along with feathers, furs, pedants, and other decorative materials.
Fashion in Aztec clothing was mainly reserved for the nobility and the ruling classes since common people were not allowed to display their wealth. The most important fashion, of course, was the use of Quetzal feather for which the birds was specifically raised. Other fashions included jewelry of various sorts including necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. During the religious ceremonies and rituals, elaborate masks were also used.
Just like in every other domain of life, Aztec religion and gods also influenced Aztec clothing. Thus a variety of drawings depict Aztec priests and kings in the guise of gods for which specific kind of clothing was used. These guises were particularly used during the religious ceremonies along with a variety of decorated masks which also had religious significance.
Aztecs had a variety of hairstyles which were worn by people according to their social standing. The most common hairstyle for the women was two protruding twists of hair at the crowns of their heads. The hairstyle for the common man was neck-length hair which sometimes included a fringe. Hairstyle of warriors, on the other hand, often consisted of a stiff ridge of hair growing down the centre of the head with rest of the head shaved. Hairstyle of the warriors varied as they moved up the military hierarchy.
Jewelry was an essential part of Aztec clothing for the nobility. They made use of a variety of materials as jewelry, such as necklaces with charms and pedants, armlets, bracelets, leg bracelets, and rings. Just like everything else, religious influences was also visible in Aztec jewelry. Jewelry was often crafted into natural shapes in addition to shapes of various birds and reptiles. Small tinkling bells which looked like flowers were also popular with the Aztecs.
Most of the common people in Aztec society went barefoot and did not use any shoes. However, use of footwear was common among nobility and soldiers. Traders also used shoes since shoes helped on the rugged terrain and anyone who travelled around needed them. They mostly used sandals made of leather from goat or sheep or from plant fibres. Woven fabric straps were used to tie the shoes with feet.
Use of headdresses was common among Aztec nobility and the ruling class and was part of Aztec clothing for these classes. The most famous headdress was that of Emperor Moctezuma II which was made of the feathers of quetzal and other birds mounted on a base of gold and precious stones. Aztec warriors and priests also made abundant use of headdresses. The Aztec headdresses formed a disc in shape which signified the universe and the sky.
The Aztecs created a variety of masks and while these masks were not part of everyday Aztec clothing, they were used during religious ceremonies and festivals. The most important material used in these masks was turquoise with other materials being used such as wood, obsidian, coral, shell, stone, or even a real human skull. Other than being worn during rituals and ceremonies, the masks were also used as death masks for emperors.
Warriors had their own kind of Aztec clothing which signified particular military society to which they belonged. The position of soldiers in military hierarchy dictated the kind of costumes which they used. War heroes made abundant use of jewels in addition to masks and headdresses. The headdresses of warriors were also designed for protection other than decoration.
Aztec clothing varied according to the social standing of the people. Thus clothes of the common people were simple and children often went about naked. The nobility and the ruling classes, on the other hand, made use of lavish clothes in addition to headdresses, masks, and jewelry of various kinds. Most of the common people did not wear any shoes but the nobility, warriors, and the traders used shoes usually made of goat and sheep skin.