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6 Iconic Items from Guatemala

We love craftsmanship and we have a huge passion for handicrafts.
Guatemala has a huge diversity of weavings and colors. One of the particularity of the country is the big amount of ethnic groups that cohabit. The biggest group is called Mestizo. It includes a mix of native and European ancestry. It is 42% of the population.
We are thrilled to share with you what we define as 6 iconic items in Guatemala: huipils, leather bags, leather boots, embroidery belts, scarves and shawls, and coin necklaces. We will get started by explaining what the origin of the item is and how to wear it, then we will end up by describing how they are made and by whom.
We hope you’ll enjoy discovering about this country’s iconic items as well as the incredible know-how of artisans working there.


Huipils have been existing for many centuries. It is a blouse mainly worn by Mayan women and the emblematic item of Guatemala.
They are usually made from indigenous women of the Mesoamerican region which includes Central Mexico to Central America including Guatemala. Huipils are made in all Guatemala’s regions and by several different indigenous communities. The huipil is a loose-fitting tunic. Their size varies and can go from a short blouse like a garment, to something very long that will reach the floor.
Huipils have an important meaning in Guatemala. It is one of the most prevalent parts of a women’s traditional dress. Each huipil owns some different designs. Women love it because it emphasizes their uniqueness. Indeed, designs indicate their own personality, the village they live in, their marital status, their wealth, and so forth… Most women own several huipils. Some of them are worn in daily life, while others are for special occasions such as ceremonies. Ceremonial huipils may be used for weddings, or burials.

How are huipils made?

Traditional huipils are made from traditional fabric like cotton. They also contain colored designs that are woven into the fabric such as embroidery, ribbons, or lace. Those are made from 2 or 3 rectangular pieces of fabric which are joined together with stitching, ribbons and fabric strips.

Then, they sew up the straight sides while leaving openings close to the folder top for the arms.. Also, they have to cut a slit or a square in the center of the fold to provide an opening for the head which is often decorated with embroidery. They are handwoven and take several months to complete.

Leather Bags

Most of the leather bags come from the region of the highlands on the west of the country. We noticed a high production of this item in and around Antigua and in the villages around Atitlán Lake. Leather bags are well known and have a great significance in Guatemala.

They are known as handbags, purses, shoulder bags, saddle bags, hippie purses, or pouches. All styles are welcome and emphasized which gives you a variety of choices. Those bags can be combined with all your clothes and can be worn at any time of the day. They are built for endless happiness.

Leather bags are known to bring value, high quality, attention to details, and keep generating attention all over the world. Those bags also own patterns that are created according to each type of leather.

How are leather bags made?

Leather bags are carefully produced by Guatemalan artisans. Those bags generally contain a strap as well as an open cross top body. The strap crosses over the body with the bag resting at the hips.

Their size varies from a handled medium to a large bag. It can take from 1 to several days depending on the complexity of the bag. They are usually brown, but can be seen in many other colors such as black, or warm tones.

They are entirely handmade. They first cut leather, then fold it and hand sew it. Right after this, they have to glue riveting, snaps, or adding hardware. They often sew a weaving on it. They can create designs according to people’s desires.

Leather Boots

We are pleased to tell you about the leather boots, which is one of the most fashionable shoes in Guatemala. Leather boots are known to be made in Pastores, a town in Guatemala that holds its good reputation for making boots. Of course, they are all handmade.

Leather boots are a type of footwear. Most of the time, they cover their feet and ankles. However, they may also cover some parts of the lower calf. Some other boots extend up the knee and may even reach hips. Those boots are made of good and reliable leather. Those boots may appear under different shapes such as pointed, blunted, or slightly rounded. Depending on your needs and wants, you can find those boots in many different styles such as the traditional cowboy boots, hiking boots which are more appropriate for a walk, or extremely pointed boots.

According to your desires, designs can also be added on the boots. For instance, the huipil design, which has a great significance in Guatemala, is widely represented on the shoe. Most people wear those shoes along with a uniform and will elegantly bring a cowboy style to your outfit.

How are leather boots made?

Leather boots are made by Guatemalan craftsmen. The outside of the boots is made from cow, while the lining is made from pig. Artisans use sewing machines which are surrounded by the wares they produce.

The greatest thing is that locals or tourists can observe craftsmen making boots. Indeed, in Pastores, Guatemala they own dozens of shops turning out handmade boots.

People can then observe the process from scratch in order to have a better idea of how those boots are made.

Embroidery Belts

Different kinds of belts exist in Guatemala created by different communities. We noticed a high concentration of belts with floral embroidery in the region of Chichicastenango.

These belts are usually made of materials such as leather or cotton. For most of them, they are worn around the waist, but they can also go as far down as hips. Quite often, there is a buckle on the belt that enables the wearer’s waist to be closely adjusted.

Embroidery can be described as a decorating fabric using a needle so as to apply thread or yarn. Colors are multiple since they exist in blue, turquoise, grey, red, pink, brown, and some are even multicolor.

How are embroidery belts made?

They are made by Guatemalan artisans, mostly women artisans. First, they have to strap a leather belt around their back that binds to a small wooden loom.

Then, they need to tie the other end of the loom. Embroidery belts are done by using a needle and a thread. These must be dyed with natural materials such as fruits or vegetables, for instance, bananas are widely used to dye cotton. Patterns are then created as artisans go, which makes each piece unique and shades are diversified.

Scarves & Shawls

Scarves and shawls are both neckwear but are different by their textile.
They are produced in the highlands on the west of the country and specifically around Atitlán lake.


Nowadays, scarves are a common type of neckwear. Indeed, they are worn around the neck, or head for warmth, sun protection, or cleanliness.

Yet, they are more and more used as a fashion accessory because it’s versatile so it can fit any of your outfits. They are usually made with cotton and this is one of the most common materials used in Guatemala. They are available in a wide variety of colors.


A shawl is a simple item of clothing that is generally loosely worn over shoulders, upper body, arms, and it can even be put on over the head.

Shawls are often presented under the form of a rectangle, or a square that is folded to make a triangle. Although shawls are widely used to keep warmth, they are mostly used as a fashion accessory to complement a classy outfit or a costume.

Indeed, they symbolize brilliance, harmony, and enduring quality. They have always been described as an exotic luxury symbol. Shawls are made of jaspe and their designs are composed of patterned, striped, tie dye, bordered, embroidered, or ikat material.

How are scarves & shawls made?

One great aspect about Guatemala’s fashion is that every piece of cloth is amazingly handmade.

Most scarves are made in Atitlán area by Guatemalan women artisans. They keep using the traditional technique which consists in hand weaving with backstrap and foot looms and using breathable cotton.

Scarves can only be made one at a time and can take up to 2 weeks to complete.

Coin Necklace

A coin necklace is a piece of traditional jewelry, mostly worn by Guatemalans and indigenous women. They are known as chachales k’iche’ word that means collar. Chachales have a high generational value to Guatemalans. For those who would wonder, chachales are a mix between prehispanic times and spanish influence.

Designs of the collar depend on regions. For instance, Quiché’s chachales use shorter threads while Alta Verapaz use longer ones. Coin necklaces are elaborated with beads, coral silver, and coins. It contains a large real coin and many smaller coins are binded to the basic coin. Coins are often said to be in silver. Other small coins are mixed with beads on the necklace and some may even contain some metal charms plus some crosses that are welded to the top of the coin pendant.. This pendant owns charms and dangles.

Those necklaces come with designs that especially come from Guatemala. Indeed, silver beads and the 2 quetzal birds are known to be popular in the country. There are also some feathers that are arranged symmetrically with the birds.

Coin necklaces can be worn at any time, for any occasion. You can wear it with a very casual outfit such as a t-shirt worn over a jeans, you can wear it with a nice dress, or women even wear it when they get engaged.

This jewelry will elegantly brighten your look while making it unique. Coin necklaces emphasize wealth as well as prosperity and are introduced as a sign of good luck. Thus, feel free to treat yourself by offering you this jewelry that will bring you happiness.

How are coin necklacess made?

Coin necklaces are made by Guatemalan women artisans. There are 3 ways of making them which are drilling or punching a hole through the coin and mounting the coin in a bezel. The second option requires more work.

Then, this is how it goes. They need to lay the coin on a flat surface, choose the side of the coin they wish to display. After this, the hole must be drilled so that the top center of the coin can be lined with the drill. Then, a needle nose pliers has to be used to open the jump ring so that it can be slipped through the new dripped hole.

Indigenous women also create necklaces by using coins such as one peso and adding other elements that symbolizes mother earth like plants and animals.

Alexandrine Michelas

Founder and Artistic Director