Home / Skulls, Virgins and Armor Breastplates: Maya Hansen’s New Conquistadoras

If the world ends on Dec. 21 this year, like the Mayan calendar has predicted, at least you’ll have something suitable to wear for the occasion.

Spanish corset maker extraordinaire Maya Hansen has produced the year’s most wildly original collection, a kind of tribute to Mexican folklore, folk art and the Mayan civilization that greeted Columbus over 500 years ago.

The set of 30+ pieces is called “Skully Tulum” and is named for the cliffside Mayan ruins of Tulum near Cancun. And it’s slated for spring 2013 release — which means Maya H. is counting on the Mayan calendar being wrong.

As we’ve written before, Maya Hansen is one of the most creative fashion designers on the planet, each collection more ambitious and imaginative than its predecessor. She’s also truly peripatetic — veering from haute couture looks one season to kitschy pop-art styles (like her rock-star corsets from a few years ago) the next. This time last year, she was producing an entire collection from braided ropes.

None of which, however, prepares you for Skully Tulum, which is filled with ideas that will make you gasp — and laugh. Best example? How about the bridal corset-dress made from tiny skulls (below)? It’s called Day of the Dead and the handcrafted skulls are inspired by the candy sugar skulls that are offered to the ghosts of deceased Mexican children in solemn ceremonies each Nov. 1.

Using bright regional colorways, bold historical prints and all manner of embellishments, the Skully Tulum collection of corsets, bodysuits, dresses, cinchers and corset-dresses is loosely grouped into five themes:

  • Day of the Dead styles, including corsets with huge skull prints to cover your chest;
  • jungle and dolphin prints celebrating the flora and fauna of southern Mexico;
  • an Alejibre range inspired by the colorful papier-maché folk art figures most commonly associated with Oaxaca;
  • a Virgin of Guadalupe range that uses historical madonna imagery celebrating Mexico’s holiest Catholic icon;
  • and an astonishing collection of metal corsets that recall both the armor plating of the Spanish conquistadors and the craftsmanship of gold artifacts found in Mayan ruins.

The last grouping will almost certainly prove the most popular, as it combines the historic battle-garment look with some very fashion-forward details — like deadly metal spikes and wraparound brass bustles — that will make onlookers give you plenty of space on the dance floor or at a crowded party.

Skully Tulum debuted last month at Madrid Fashion Week. As always, each piece is custom-made to your specifications and can take several weeks to receive. You can find out how to order one of these pieces from Maya’s webshop.

It remains to be seen whether Skully Tulum will trigger any backlash from average Mexicans who might not think the Virgin of Guadalupe or the Dia de los Muertos are suitable subjects for a playful fashion range like this one. It’s worth remembering, though, that the Spaniards took a lot from the Mayans when they first met centuries ago. This time, Maya Hansen pays them back.

Here are a few of the remarkable looks from Maya Hansen’s 2013 collection, Skully Tulum:

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