Inspiration: Guatemala

Here at the Iowa State University Textiles and Clothing Museum (TCM) we have a significant number of historical items from different countries all over the world. Some of our favorite international garments either come from or are inspired by Guatemala. The country of Guatemala is bursting at the seams with amazing stories and culture due to its rich history.

One of the items in the TCM collection that is inspired by Guatemalan culture is this intricately detailed and brightly colored jacket. The woman’s jacket is made of a woven cotton fabric that has a supplemental weft design in red, purple, blue, yellow and pink. The center front closure has one button and a rolled collar. It is evident that this jacket is not an authentic Guatemalan garment, but a westernized jacket that has been created with fabric from Guatemala. This type of object is often marketed to American buyers as something that can be culturally appropriate in America, yet can be viewed as a foreign artifact.

The jacket was donated by the Waldee family back in 1999. Dr. Edward Waldee was an Iowa State University alum and, for a brief period of time, a professor. Mrs. Bertha Waldee was a textiles professor at Utah State University. The Waldee family’s contribution to the TCM has played an enormous part in our success and expansion. Edward Waldee generously donated their collection of cultural textiles as well as a substantial endowment to the Textiles and Clothing Museum in 1995 to honor his wife for her contributions to the education of people around the world. This endowment became the foundation money that began our involvement in the Morrill Hall renovation project.

guatemala flag

Guatemalan flag

We also have a Guatemalan inspired ensemble, including a skirt and vest, here at the TCM from the early 1960s made of a handwoven Guatemalan fabric. Mostly red in color, the skirt has a green-blue and white supplemental weft design detail on the waistband and hemline that seems to include a type of bird as well as a type of fish. The skirt is uniquely structured with pleating coming from the waistband as well. The vest has the same weft design around its borders. This ensemble, similar to the jacket photographed above, is not authentic to Guatemalan culture. It is, instead, an outfit that could be worn in and is common in American culture that is made from Guatemalan fabric to appeal as an indigenous artifact.

It is assumed that the skirt was part of the Joanne Margarethe Hansen collection that was donated to the TCM after her passing. Joanne Hansen became the first person to be head of the Applied Art Department of the College of Home Economics at Iowa State University  in 1919 (Miller, 1990). She is known to have “move[ed] art study from an applied arts program with a focus on the home to a broader program encompassing both the fine and applied arts with a more professional emphasis” (Miller, 1990).

One of many items that we have that represents authentic Guatemalan culture is this huipil. Unlike the previous garments featured, the huipil is a traditional Guatemalan garment and has not been westernized for American culture. According to Odland, “In the highlands of Guatemala, indigenous Maya women are well known for their beautiful traditional dress, called traje. Women’s traje consists of a huipil (blouse or tunic)…usually brocaded by hand on a backstrap loom…[A] traditional garment that continues to be popular and has great social significance” (Odland, 2005).

This beautiful garment can be described as a three panel, hand woven garment with solid red along the hem and a multi-colored horizontal linear design across the chest and shoulders. The circular neckline is finished with dense blanket stitch in black yarn and chain stitched embellishment. This item was donated by Priscilla Kepner Sage, retired Iowa State University College of Design Associate Professor, fiber sculptor, and artist.


By Dyese Matthews


Miller, B. P. (1990). Selected gender influences affecting the development of the Applied Art Department of Iowa State University: A case study of professor Joanne Hansen’s administration, 1919-1941. Iowa State University, Ames, IA.

Odland, J. C. (2005). The huipil of Guatemala: In M.B. Schevill (Ed.). Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: Latin America and the Caribbean. Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved from

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