¡Viva México! Clothing & Culture celebrates the ROM’s Mexican textiles and costume collection

 ROM’s first exhibition of this significant collection vibrantly highlights Mexico’s colourful history and culture

Its May 9th opening comes as Toronto prepares to welcome the world to the Pan Am Games


Photo of a colourful patterned textile(Toronto, Ontario – April 16, 2015) — The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) presents ¡Viva México! Clothing & Culture  from Saturday, May 9, 2015 to Sunday, May 23, 2016. On display in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume, the original exhibition features approximately 150 pieces created in Mexico between the 18th and 21st centuries. This is the first-ever presentation of the ROM’s wide-ranging collection which spans 300 years and reflects Mexico’s indigenous and colonial past. ¡Viva México! opens a window onto Mexico’s colourful history and culture as it showcases the best, brightest – and often rarest – of this significant collection.

The evolution of Mexican clothing styles reflects the history of Mexico, where the textile arts reach back over many centuries. In pre-Conquest times, the splendid garments of the elite served as symbols of high status. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived in 1519, they were immensely impressed by the accomplishments of spinners, dyers, weavers, embroiderers, and feather workers. After the Conquest of 1521, European skills, raw materials, garment styles, and design motifs were adopted, merging with those of indigenous societies. Over time, this fusion has given Mexican textiles their immense range and visual appeal, with distinctive styles of dress drawing on a variety of textile techniques. Approximately 60 languages are still spoken by the descendants of the Maya, the Aztecs and other ancient cultures, and fine textiles remain central to the everyday and ceremonial lives of many communities in rural Mexico. Contemporary makers combine traditional elements with modern materials, keeping clothing and ornament alive as a vital form of cultural expression.

¡Viva México! explores this continuity and change, demonstrating how the country’s artistic traditions were impacted by, and, in turn, influenced the world around them. Indigenous and post-Conquest styles combine in the exhibition to create a feast for the eyes, from flamboyant and elaborate ensembles, to the intricate details adorning each piece. Ceremonial outfits, worn with elaborate lace headdresses, evoke grand fiestas and are symbols of Mexican identity. The exhibition also includes superb embroidered samplers, beautifully woven rebozos (women's shawls) and dazzling patterned sarapes (men’s wool overgarments) from the 18th and 19th centuries. Complete costume ensembles from the early 20th century and impressive examples of contemporary clothing, some recently commissioned by the ROM, are also displayed. ROM-produced short films feature interviews by the curators with skilled artisans as they spin, dye thread, weave, and embroider, vibrantly demonstrating the unrivalled skills behind the exhibition’s stunning pieces.

“This exhibition will create awareness of Mexico in Canada, helping contrast the country’s past with its modern and sophisticated present,” says General Consul of Mexico in Toronto, Amb. Mauricio Toussaint. “We expect many will be inspired to travel to Mexico for their next vacation.”

Chloë Sayer is the exhibition’s guest curator. A ROM Research Associate in Textiles, she has spent many years studying textile traditions in Mexico. She says, “When I first visited the ROM as a Veronika Gervers Research Fellow in 2010, I quickly realized that the collection of Mexican textiles and costumes was first-rate. I'm thrilled that I can help share this vibrant collection with the public.” Dr. Alexandra Palmer, the ROM’s Nora E. Vaughan Fashion Costume Senior Curator is exhibition co-curator.

The full-colour publication Mexico: Clothing & Culture accompanies the exhibition. Published by the ROM with the generous support of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust and written by guest curator Chloë Sayer, it is available in the ROM Boutique along with other Mexican-inspired wares. Programming enhances the exhibition experience including a talk and reception with Chloë Sayer during a ROM Speaks (May 5) and a Cinco de Mayo edition of the popular ROM Friday Night Live series (May 8). Members Preview takes place on Friday, May 8 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.¡Viva México! Clothing & Culture, free with ROM membership, is included with ROM general admission.

Presented by:


This exhibition is generously supported by:

Burnham Brett Endowment for Textiles and Costume
Gwendolyn Pritchard Fraser Fund
Veronika Gervers Memorial Research Fund
Kircheis Family Endowment Fund
Through ¡Viva México! Clothing & Culture, the ROM is participating as a Cultural Collaboration with PANAMANIA presented by CIBC, the arts and cultural festival of the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.
*Image Credits
Man’s classic-period Saltillo-style sarape (detail)
Mid 19th century
Natural dye wool weft and cotton warp woven in tapestry technique
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. W. Kent Newcomb.
Certified Canadian Cultural Property / Bien culturel canadien attesté