How to Design an Aztec Dress

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Create Aztec-influenced trims using calendars and artwork as inspiration.
Create Aztec-influenced trims using calendars and artwork as inspiration. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

The Aztec influence, seen in jackets and dresses, is recognized for its bold color as well as horizontal and geometric patterns. Though Aztec women wore loose blouses and wrap-around cotton skirts as early as A.D. 900 to 1200, beginners and avid sewing enthusiasts alike can design original garments and trims using the Aztec influence. Research Aztec artifacts as inspiration pieces to create designs such as dresses and beaded necklines.

Things You'll Need

  • Aztec historical books
  • Aztec artwork
  • Colored pencil or markers
  • Sketchpad
  • Solid fabric (3 to 4 yard minimum)
  • Aztec printed fabric (optional)
  • Tracing paper
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery floss (optional)
  • Dressmaker's pins
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Beads: glass, wood, bone, stone
  • Beading needles
  • Beading thread
  • Backing paper, lining or stabilizer

Design Process for Aztec Dress

Collect Aztec inspirational references such as historical books and artwork as a guide for your designs. In the design industry, research for specific themes is necessary to develop authentic textile patterns and trims using the theme to influence silhouette design. For example, if you are designing a denim dress with an embroidered Aztec feather shield for the back of the garment, match embroidery thread colors, feathers and fringe to the selected art piece.

Draw several Aztec-inspired color palettes with colored pencils or markers in your sketchpad using research materials from Step 1 as a guide. Aztec palettes include colors such as turquoise, cream, dark orange, brown and gold tones.

Draw silhouettes combining your research and color palettes. For example, Aztec women wore wrap-around skirts in cotton fabrics. Use the same wrap-around concept for a dress or skirt design.

Design your own stripe pattern. For instance, if you are working with solid color jersey, create an alternating three- to five-color stripe using an Aztec color scheme. As an alternative, insert a printed Aztec print -- readily available at most local fabric stores -- as one of the stripes for a stylized look.

Designing Aztec Trims

Sketch beaded trims using Aztec patterns or artwork as your guide. For instance, if you are using an Aztec mask as the inspiration piece for your dress, position tracing paper over a photocopy of the mask. Trace the outline of the mask including eyes, nose and mouth. Use the tracing to create an Aztec emblem or beaded patch.

Cut out the tracing with scissors. If you are contrasting the mask's eyes, nose and mouth with different trims such as embroidery floss, cut those sections out to transfer the exact position.

Pin it to your selected trim backing or fabric with dressmaker's pins, depending on your trim design. As an alternative to avoid pinning, transfer the outline by tracing with tailor's chalk on the backing or fabric.

Match trims to the original Aztec design. For instance, if the mask features square mosaic-like tiles, choose colored glass, wood, bone or stone beads that resemble the inspirational photo. If the mask has a feathered headdress worn by Aztec nobility, include that detail, combining beads and feathers for the trim.

Use the appropriate beading needle size and beading thread according to the selected bead size. Depending on the weight of the beaded design, use backing paper, lining or stabilizer sheets for beading, to stabilize your beaded design.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use fabric scraps in the same color scheme to position the color of the stripe pattern before you cut the project material.
  • Websites such as Color Hunter develop color charts with specific influences. Their Aztec palettes, which are comprised of specific color formula numbers, also include an attached photo showing the Aztec inspiration piece used for color palette development.

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