Cultural Garments – Silvia Chen

Overview of Korea: Modern

When Korea first began its modernization movement in the late 19th century, it was largely influenced by acculturation, which refers to “a modification of the content of two cultures as a result of contact”. Western culture was seen as a symbol of modernization, leading to often forced adoption of western dress and fashion. Traditional costume was labeled as ceremonial, then adapted and modified for more modern lifestyles. Then, Western dress was integrated in Korea through original styles and imitations. Finally, current Korean fashion design now expresses influences from both the traditional hanbok and Western and international styles.

The history of Korean fashion reflects how countries that were industrializing and developing sought to replicate the “success” of Western nations. The history also reveals how imperialism affected lifestyles down to even the fashion, as Korean fashion evolved from its earlier Chinese influences to Japanese, then Western. It was also interesting to see how Westernized education and new technologies influenced fashion, as newer, Western-style education enforced Western-style dress. Furthermore, the popular 1920s “flapper” style became a symbol of the “new woman” in Korea.

Although the history of Korean fashion is interesting in observing the effects of multiple outside influences on a country, it also shows the suppression of traditional culture through modernization. However, Korea has recently begun integrating the traditional hanbok and other styles into their current fashion, showing a resurgence in acceptance of traditional styles.


Cultural Garments – Aditi

I chose an article called the Rites of Passage and Rituals in India by Jasleen Dhamijia. The article explores the deep connection of garments with many Indians lives. The ritual of weaving is considered as a form of yoga by some communities as it requires a disciplined rhythmic movement of the body. In some tribal communities, the act of weaving certain garments is rite of passage before occasions like weddings. Similarly, the article discusses the wearing of certain garments as a rite of passage, like before a child is born. Additionally, garments often have symbolic significance based on who has woven it, for whom and for specific occasions. For examples, priests from the Vagris community create paintings of the mother goddess with dye. Once complete, the garments become possessed by the goddess and act as her oracle.

I did not realize that garments and the act of weaving had this much significance in some Indian communities. Reading this article definitely let me appreciate the act of weaving much more. I have seen Indian weavers before but I had never really thought much about how difficult and specialized it is. I knew about some of these traditions but looking at the numerous different traditions from communities all around India. It’s interesting that these traditions with garments are a shared experience throughout different religions and cultures around India.

Caribbean Fashion – Elise Delgado

The article spoke about how the Caribbean is a very complex and diverse region. Native peoples to the islands had their own style of dress and colonizers brought different styles which ultimately mixed. Further mixing of style comes from tourism as well as the global fashion trends. We can also observe how the fashion communicates meaning or function. For example, Haitian Vodou has specific colors for celebrations and feast days. Similarly, some parts of the Caribbean such as the Bahamas dress a newborn in red or with a red ribbon to keep away the evil spirits. Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico have heavy Spanish influence in their colorful skirts and peasant blouses but involve African influence with their headwraps. Oftentimes we will see dress accompanied with dance or music. The other parts of the caribbean such as Jamaica, Trinidad, Antigua, Barbados, and the Bahamas involve “creole dress” which is a more deeply rooted African style. And we all know the Bermuda shorts that were a national style for men!

The content and specific sections about the different islands and peoples of the Caribbean is unique and inspiring. I find it fascinating that although these nations are in close proximity to each other, the diversity of cloth and its meaning is profound. From dress that has more religious meanings, to dress with spiritual meaning, to dress for festivals such as carnaval, it seems like such a rich cultural history is present in the way we look at dress. There are deep rooted historical and cultural influences in these traditions that really tell a story. I like how the narrative is constantly evolving and changing. It is important to save garments as they are relics of the past, a story that continues to unwind.

Cultural Garments: Tweed

TWEED, FEMININITY, AND FASHION, 1851–1918 by Fiona Anderson

This article summarizes the rise of tweed garments from the 19th century to the 20th century. The material was invented by Harris Tweed in Scotland. Tweed was pretty well known as a weather resistance material with a thick and slightly heavy body. Due to these characteristics, this material was mostly worn by men in specific garments like jackets, coats, and outerwear. The fabric slowly was being adopted by females, but it took around half a century for it to fully integrate to women’s wear. When women started wearing tweed, it was through underground buyers of the fabric from Scotland, and they wore it with very low profiles because women wearing mens wear material was mostly looked down upon. Once the British imported the materials for manufacture, tweed on women were slightly more commonized. It started off with women who often worked with men wearing these materials as jackets, and then it became ubiquitous to other women who enjoyed riding, golfing, or other sports activities. As the nature of the rise of tweed on women, the material started off being worn by upper and upper-middle class, and as the integration of tweed from London to New York occurred, many started making imitation tweed for the middle and lower class.

When I think of tweed in our 21st century, I mostly think of vintage, luxury, and Chanel. It was really interesting reading this chapter about tweed because I did not know its origins and the purpose of the material. Because nowadays tweed is only commonly seen in luxury fashion shows, imitation fast fashion brands like Zara, or on older women, it has a delicate yet expensive connotation to it. Looking into its cultural origin, I was surprised to learn that tweed originated from menswear and that it was common knowledge that it is weatherproof hence mostly worn during outdoor activities. I also find it very interesting that the marketing techniques back then still exist in the fashion industry today. In the chapter, it covers how once the British started manufacturing their own tweed, tailors had a Scottish name attached to their products to make their product more authentic as if it was made in Scotland. This I feel like is still a marketing technique for internationally imported goods using cultural context to appeal to a crowd who may be unfamiliar with the product. Another thing that really caught my attention was how the material integrated with womenswear design. One of the photos in the chapter shows how tweed was integrated into making women’s jacket and skirt with a corset silhouette and a puff shoulder detail that would never be found in menswear.

Cultural Garments – Sophia Huang

Innovative Application of Traditional Cheongsam Craftsmanship in Modern Design

By: Gao, Yingpei

This article talks about the history and the story of the Chinese cheongsam, also known as qi pao. The Chinese cheongsam is over 100 years old and first appeared in the first half of the 20th century. It then quickly gain popularity and became a common piece of clothing for women in China. The article also mentioned how cheongsam became popular because people thought that the previous traditional styles and crafts were old and “lacking in breakthroughs”. It is now one of the most ethnically representative Chinese costumes. It also comes in different designs and styles and was worn for different settings.

Something that the article mentioned that I never really thought too much about was the reason why cheongsam became popular. The article said it’s because people saw the previous traditional clothing as “old” and “lacking in breakthroughs”. I think that this shift to cheongsam has both positive and negative impacts. Before cheongsam became popular, many people in China wore han fu. Han fu has more than 3000 years of history and is known as one of the most traditional clothing that people used to wear. It also consists of many layers and it represents the Chinese culture. In the past, women are not allowed to show too much of their bodies. It was seen as inappropriate if women, or anyone, were to wear too little or if their clothing is not worn properly. However, as time passed and as people in China get more exposed to the other worlds, they became more and more accepting of other’s traditions. People also started to like the way those from the West dressed and they no longer saw wearing too little as a horrible thing. I think that this has negative impacts because although cheongsam still consists of designs inspired by Chinese cultures, it is still like a step away from traditional clothing. And as time passed, there are fewer and fewer Chinese elements left in their clothing.

At the same time, I also think that this shift has positive impacts. I believe that the shift to cheongsam gave women more ability and freedom to express themselves. Not only was it a tradition for women to wear many layers before cheongsam became popular, but women were also not allowed to reveal their bodies in front of people, other than their husbands. Cheongsam changed this. It is often made out of a thin piece of fabric and it has a high leg opening. It also better show a women’s body shape than han fu. I think that this shift allowed women to gain confidence and freedom. Confidence because they can now “reveal” more of their body and don’t need to hide in many layers of clothing. Freedom because they can now have more of a say of what to wear and what to and not to show others.

Cultural Garments – Ashley Burbano

Title: Latin American Fashion

By: Regina A. Root

Summary: The article is about clothing in Latin America and how it was impacted by Spanish Colonization. It was used to visually reinforce the social hierarchy or caste system that was forced upon the native by the Europeans. Clothing also served as another way to oppress the natives. The natives were forced to wear European clothing, which intentionally reinforced the overarching narratives of superiority and righteousness. The natives were also restricted in the types of fabrics they were allowed to wear, which also plays into the caste system. They were not allowed to wear taffeta or velvet, because these were fabrics reserved for the rich.

Reaction: This article made me sad, but it showed how deeply ingrained colonialism was/is in the cultures of Latin America. It also made me realize how significant and symbolic clothing can be in life. Like something like fabric type, which is now seen as simple and insignificant was used a form of oppression. It shocks me how something that had so much impact on people’s lives and wellbeing, is seen as frivolous now by most people.

I also felt sad that native people of Latin America were stripped of their culture and identity and that this was also done through clothing.

Cultural Garments – Jasmine Lee

The article I chose to read from the Berg Fashion Library was actually the chapter, “Style: The Endless Desire for a New Look” from Changing Fashion by Annette Lynch and Mitchell D. Strauss. The chapter discusses how the modern female silhouette emerged during the first two decades of the twentieth century. It discusses where the first true transformation began, durign the 1200s – 1400s in Europe, where dress relied heavily on ornamentation, surface design, and a wealth of materials for visual interest. The change to using silhouettes and the relationships between body and lines only started happening after the 1400s, with a dialogue developing between dress, painting, and sculpting. The chapter continues to discuss whether changes in fashion or internally driven or externally driven. The 20th century ideal of a modern woman was said to draw from elements of menswear to create a certain eroticism, greatly contrasting to the 19th century ideal, where womenswear relied on its heavy contrast to menswear. The rest of the chapter is spent discussing this notion while using famous examples throughout the times.

The article presents interesting viewpoints on what actually drives fashion. It is definitely not an easy question to answer, as there are many factors in such a big world. It seems to come to a conclusion that external events and trends going along in the world seem to play a slightly bigger impact than the internally driven work of the designers and makers who are still undertaking fashion exploration. The chapter also presents an interesting conclusion that the current fashion “cycle” or “era” of womenswear is driven by the perception of the one before it. While the 19th century had a more conservative feminine ideal, the 20th century took more liberties, with the 21st century continuing the trend.

The chapter comes to a rather satisfying conclusion that beauty ideals drive fashion changes throughout the centuries, but I would have liked to read more about where the beauty ideals originate from. I suspect this might be answered in other chapters of the book, where fashion is inspected through the lens of self, search for meaning, collective behavior, performance, and cycle. It also presents careful evidence of garments changing through the years to support its points. For example, Victorian underwear with bifurcated legs (as opposed to previous skirt-like undergrarments) had a reputation as taboo, but eventually became a sort of societally sanctioned expression of sexuality. The chapter is littered with this sort of analysis that provides a richness to historical fashion that can’t be found simply looking through museums.

Fashion Library-Danova
This text analyzes examples of advertisements for children’s clothing and how they contribute to a culture that imposes heterosexuality and fetishizes gender differences from infancy. We are shown a variety of images of children in different magazines and the text breaks down how each emphasizes certain traits that are considered particularly feminine or masculine through the garments and the artistic choices made. Not only does this reinforce a rigid gender binary, the advertisements also rely heavily on implications of heterosexuality and association of childhood with innocence (and thus innocence as within the gender binary and heterosexuality). Boys are associated with the colour blue, they’re often shown as having more agency and acting more playful, while the girls are generally dressed in pink, appear more sweet and smiling, and are associated with dolls.

I found this article to be pretty interesting as it shows how often the type of clothing bought for children clearly involves implicit gendering and sexuality assumptions. Clothes for children are often not created with their use and practicality in mind, but rather with meanings relating to a specific type of sexuality- and these advertisements aim to push further the normalization of heterosexuality. This burden of a very specific gender and sexuality norm is the placed on children from the moment they start wearing garments and seeing advertisements. These expectations are now so deeply ingrained we have internalized them and they have become a normalized part of clothing in every stage of life- any alternative choices are often othered and seen as something unnatural.

Every image shown in the article has many elements that are subtly staged in ways suggest at problematic cultural assumptions about the gender binary- when girls and boys are posed together, the girl is often placed farther back, is wearing pink floral clothes, while the boy stands defensively forward- suggesting at their expected roles and future relationships. The images appear very natural, however due to them being in fashion magazines they are in fact very staged, making these ideals that much more insidious. Passiveness and activeness expectations are so often clearly displayed, “teaching sensitivity in girls and assertiveness in boys”, and furthering and commercializing dangerous Freudian theories of a radical gender gap and innate heterosexuality in children.

Cultural Garments – Sarah Xi

In the book Paris Fashion by Valerie Steele, the 8th chapter covers the geography and evolution of fashion in Paris. As Paris is widely known as an international capital of style for hundreds of years, the chapter I chose discusses notable sites of fashionable display, mainly in the theater and on the racetrack.

In theater, the success of plays became increasingly reliant on not just literary quality but the costumes the actresses wore on stage. Men in the audience would notice the actresses’ dresses, for it “accentuated their physical charms” and the actresses’ themselves would spend great money to get their stunning costumes. As such, it became widely believed that “superior costumes could even save a mediocre play”. However, watching performances wasn’t the only reason why people went to the theater, the audience itself was also said to be on display. Since attending the theater was considered to be a social ritual, there were many strict rules as to where certain people were allowed to sit and what dress code they were supposed to follow. From court dresses to workers’ blouses, this is what separates the spectator from whether they are in a private box or in the orchestra pit. The level of fashion expectations varies with each theater too, ranging from the Gaîté (where “the blouse prevails) and the Paris Opera (known to be “one of the temples of fashion”.
Many paintings also depict this phenomenon, oftentimes showing men or women looking at not the stage, but another private with their opera glasses.

Similar to the theater, there became an intense competition of elegance and luxury between people in horse racing on racing day. At racetracks like Longchamp and Chantilly, you would be able to find people dressed up to be judged by other fellow audience members, in addition to milliners and seamstresses looking proud to see their handiwork displayed.
Bois de Boulogne is another notable place (although not a race track but a fashionable park) where the presence of fashion is strong. Appropriate dress codes for a stroll at a fashionable promenade also became strict as clothing acceptable for a carriage ride may not be for when your on foot. As such, certain jewels for earrings were only permitted and street dresses that were short, sturdy and “without superfluous ornament” became acceptable for the morning or walks.

Overall, I enjoyed reading about past cultural fashion practices, especially on the equestrian sport. It was fascinating to learn about how highly thought of fashion was in daily life, like having strict different appropriate dress codes for whether you’re in a carriage or not and how different theaters had varied levels of expectation in fashion. In addition to that, there were other parts of the article I found interesting that weren’t really about horseback riding and theater. For instance, the emergence of wearing certain garments such as bloomers and trousers (for cycling), and how the popularity of them among women wasn’t fully accepted even though it was presented in France as an increasingly fashionable item.


Kimono – Caitlyn

I read the chapter “The Contemporary Kimono” in the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, written by Sheila Cliffe, a kimono researcher and author. The article details the history, construction, industry, development, and culture surrounding the kimono, a signature garment of Japan typically consisting of a floor-length robe wrapped around the body. Kimonos come in a range of styles, from casual to formal, with differences in methods of production and wear. Cliffe explains a variety of kimono types meant for certain occasions, from the shiro muku wedding gown to the iro muji for tea ceremonies. The author discusses the evolution of the kimono over time that came with social, technological, and cultural changes in Japan. For example, as women’s roles in society changed over time, so did the garments they wore. An example is the hakama, or trouser skirt, which indicated the more active lifestyle of a samurai wife. Before the early twentieth century, kimonos were ubiquitous across Japan. The 1950s marked a major shift in Japanese dress, as western clothing became very popular. Yet, the kimono continues to retain its special significance in Japanese social life, as it is the preferred dress for festivals, ceremonies, and other occasions. Additionally, the influences of kimono are present in fashion in art internationally, seen in motifs, methods, and structures. Cliffe concludes with a section on controversies about the kimono, dismantling myths about the influence of European thought on the birth of fashion systems, the evolution of the garment, and the misuse of the term kimono.

This article was quite fascinating to read, as I have always been curious about the history of the kimono. I was particularly interested in learning about the slow and subtle changes in the kimono over time, and how the fashion/dressing system of the kimono has transformed according to political, economic, social, and technological factors. The author’s discussion of misunderstandings and controversies related to the kimono was particularly thought-provoking, and I found this quote insightful: “Some have argued that the kimono takes no account of the size of the human figure, because it is not shaped, like Western dress. This is a misunderstanding, as the fitting takes place during the dressing process rather than during the cutting of the cloth, which means that it can actually be fitted perfectly to the body rather than the wearer choosing a generic size, which might or might not fit his or her body well” (Cliffe).