Century Design: Ethnic Influences
focus of this course is on the influence of various ethnic groups, their
cultures, and clothing practices on Western apparel fashion and textile
arts during the 20th century. In this course, we will do as Baizerman,et
al. (1993) suggests, and examine the interrelationships of Western
and non-Western dress concentrating primarily on the 20th century.
dress has been defined as including only dress that can be clearly identified
as within the influence of western European fashionable dress. However,
all those things European have actually been influenced by centuries of
exposure to and intermingling of many cultures. Human societies are
not closed; we are continuously receiving stimuli from each other that
do people wear clothes?
do people in different parts of the world dress differently?
ORIGINS OF DRESS.
Most cultures use some form of clothing. The most basic reasons for
wearing clothing are:
(2) Decoration -
generally acknowledged as the primary reason.
(3) Modesty, and
DRESS. Within a society, dress may have very distinctive functions.
These may include:
(1) designation of gender
(2) designation of age,
(3) social status,
(4) identification of
(6) enhancement of sexual
In studying fashion history, we find that FASHION HAS HISTORICAL CONTINUITY.
This means that contemporary fashion is an evolutionary outgrowth and elaboration
of previously existing fashions. Contemporary fashions generally
evolve from the previous years' fashions. Dramatic changes are unlikely
to occur over a short period of time because most are too innovative to
be accepted by most consumers (Sproles & Burns, 1994).
FASHION IS A REFLECTION
OF SOCIAL CHANGES
change is a powerful feature of the 20th century. It has modified
such things as class structure, lifestyles, roles of men and women,
and structure and function of families. Fashion reflects these socio-economic,
political, and cultural changes. Social, cultural, historical and
economic forces combine to influence the adoption of fashion (Sproles &
context of Fashion Change
Fashion change exists within a broad cultural context. Changes in
the cultural patterns of society involve changes in knowledge, artistic
and literary styles, ideas and beliefs, and modes of behavior. Cultural
influences not only affect the form which changing fashion objects take,
but also affect the speed of fashion change within a society.
is viewed as the distinctive way of life of a group of people, or, more
generally, the beliefs or customs of all people. The primary influence
on the type of clothing people wear is cultural. These influences
cannot always been seen directly; however, they are expressed by behavior
and material things. Clothing is one category of material expression
of culture. Since it may be observed, it serves as a tool or
key for those attempting to understand other cultures, or their own.
Although there is some cultural breakdown and spread due to the influence
of mass communication and modern transportation, cultural patterns pertaining
to dress are still firmly set in much of the world(Sproles & Burns,
Three levels of Culture
The strength of cultural
traditions varies based on how deeply the tradition has been imbedded in
the way of life of the culture under study and is related to resistance
- fundamental and unquestioned customs and behaviors learned as political
laws or strict cultural norms. Includes customs which are based on
traditional patterns of behavior. Violations for going against formal
traditions can range from arrests to social shock. These are passed
from generation to generation and are very slow to change.
which are based on traditional patterns of behavior. Often clothing
customs are associated with religious ceremonies, rituals, and rites of
passage. Graduation is an example.
-- These are behaviors learned by imitating models within a society.
As the models change, so do the informal traditions. The most basic
of informal traditions surrounding fashion is that of cultural ideals of
attractiveness. Cultural ideals of attractiveness define what is
socially considered physically handsome or beautiful.
Are related to the ability to produce goods. This is a fundamental
force in how styles change within a culture and the amount of change a
culture may develop. This depends on the availability of resources, and
the technical and artistic skills of the designer and manufacturer (Sproles
& Burns, 1994)
What is ethnicity?
For some, the word ethnic indicates, as tradition seems to, something
that does not change, something that comes from the past. However,
what is ethnic is not necessarily completely indigenous (native).
“Ethnicity combines both cultural stability and change...” (Eicher and
Erekosima, 1995, p.144). Dress
is often used as a significant mark of ethnicity by communicates group
identity. Ethnicity embraces this group cohesion which also includes
shared language, similar dress, manners, and lifestyle.
Ethnic identity is not static; a sense of ethnicity is developed and defined
over time. This redefinition occurs in relationship to life experiences.
An individual will develop personal and social meanings related to his
ethnicity as he gains knowledge of his own origins. Individuals who
have a strong ethnic identity will use and identify with dress which reflects
Ethnic dress in the late 20th century cannot be analyzed without recognizing
and acknowledging the phenomenon of world fashion. They are inter-related.
As we travel from one place to another, we gain knowledge about the world
outside our home community. Many of these places may be seen as ethnic
communities. However, international media and global communication have
become pervasive and are influencing many people around the world, including
those who may never travel from their home communities. In the media
emanating from western countries, people are portrayed wearing what has
become known as western dress. Many tailored clothing items, hairstyles,
and accessories are often referred to as western, however many people around
the world wear this style of dress. Therefore, defining dress as
western when those who are wearing it are from other areas of the world
is inaccurate. The terms "world fashion" or "cosmopolitan
fashion" are more precise (Eicher & Sumberg, 1995).
Dress is the opposite of World Fashion.
It is worn by members of one group to distinguish themselves from other
groups. It focuses on differentiation. Awareness of group affiliation
and the power of identification within a group encourages group members
to identify with a group through dress. World fashion is worn by
those who wish to identify with contemporary society and to blend-in, not
be distinctive. Ethnic dress is also worn to identify with a group,
but at the same time to distinguish one's self from other groups.
defined as an assemblage of modifications
of the body and/or supplements to the body.ETHNIC
DRESS is "understood as those items, ensembles
and modifications of the body that
capture the past of the members of
a group, the items of tradition that
are worn and displayed to signify cultural
heritage" (Eicher and Sumberg, 1995).
may include borrowed
items from other cultures; the new item is culturally authenticated.
is not usually static
(unchanging) over time
variety can be found
within a group at any point in time. Creativity and individuality
are common to all.
may not always be worn
daily; may be for special occasions or a special location. An individual's
wardrobe may contain both ethinc and world fashion, to be worn in appropriate
times and places. (Eicher and Sumberg, 1995)
S., Eicher, J.B., & Cerny, C. (1993). Eurocentrism in the
study of ethnic dress. Dress, 20, 19-32.
& Erekosima (1980). Distinguishing non-western from western dress:
The concept of cultural authentication
[abstract]. Proceedings of the 1980 Annual Meeting of the Association
of College Professors of Textiles and Clothing,
J.B. & Sumberg, B. (1995). World fashion, ethnic and national
dress. In Eicher, J.B., ed., Dress and Ethnicity,
Herndon, VA: Berg Publishers Limited.
J.B. & Erekosima, T. (1995). Why do they call it
Kalabari? Cultural authentication and the demarcation of
ethnic identity. In J.B. Eicher, Ed., Dress and Ethnicity,
Herndon, VA: Berg Publishers Limited.
G. & Burns, L. (1994). Changing Appearances: Understanding
dress in contemporary society. NY: Fairchild.
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Updated: August 3, 1999
Copyright Belinda T. Orzada, University of Delaware, 1998. All rights