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Original Issue


Right off a Mexican peasant's back, it has been embellished by California designers to become spring's hottest merchandise

On the West Coast, where the sport shirt came of age as the most colorful item in a man's wardrobe, the hottest design this year comes from Mexico. At least 30 of the 75 manufacturers of men's sportswear in the Los Angeles area have taken the peon's brightly embroidered wedding shirt right off his back, added California color and American fabrics, and put it on display. The results are sellouts. Barney Beller, a California shirt-maker, saw the shirts being worn in Acapulco, timidly added a couple of them to his spring line as "ideas," and was astonished by his sales. White Stag of Portland calls their wedding shirt their greatest surprise seller. They've already sold more than any other sport shirt they've ever had. The original wedding shirt is a dressed-up version of a peasant's bleached-cotton work shirt, with a bib hand-embroidered with birds and flowers. It is worn by Mexicans at their weddings, at fiestas and on Sundays. For Americans, west to east, the shirt is found in cotton and rayon, with embroidered rickrack, bandanna or hand-screened bib. One East Coast manufacturer, hot on the trend, makes the most elegant shirt of them all: all silk with Liberty-square bib for $25.

On an adobe wall in Santa Barbara: the color of Mexico in a cotton wedding shirt ($6.95) with wrap-around peon pants ($5.95, both White Stag). Blue shirt, top, is waist length ($10.95, Abeles). Orange shirt, left, is authentic, made-in-Mexico wedding shirt ($10.95, Abeles). Green shirt, center, has yellow embroidery (Don Loper, $10). Tan shirt, right, has rickrack-braid design (Del Mar, $6.95). Bandanna is used for bib on black shirt, lower left (Barney Beller, $7). Gold shirt at lower right has an appliquéd bib of striped fabric (Don Loper, $10.95). Bottom shirt features hand-screened "embroidery" (Moss-Amber, $5.95).

In Santa Barbara, wedding shirt (Barney Beller, $10.95) is worn with Sunday pants from Acapulco.

In Palm Beach, all-silk wedding shirt, most elegant version, has Liberty-square bib (Peerless, $25).