We recently posed the question through our Facebook page “How important of a role does national costume play in a countries cultural identity?”
This is a very difficult question to answer but lets have a look at what clothing encompasses to start with. Clothing can be described as part of the total structure of personal appearance which includes hairstyles, masks, ornaments, decorations and mutilations. It provides protection from the elements so will vary greatly in different climate regions. It also plays a large role in ceremony acting as a divide between social classes.
“The different parts of the structure (of costume) are consciously manipulated to assert and demarcate differences in status, identity and commitment (support or protest) at the level of personal, national and international relationships.”
Costume and Identity, Hilda Kuper 1973.
We posted the image below and asked if you were able to distinguish which country or region was associated with each of the dress codes. We have detailed the answers below.
Please note that some of these costumes are indeed similar to other nations so we appreciate your understanding if some of our responses are slightly different to your expectations. We have taken care in providing answers that are as accurate as possible.
1. Indonesia – A Kebaya is a traditional blouse-dress combination worn by women in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Burma, Singapore, southern Thailand. It is sometimes made from sheer material and usually worn with a sarong or batik kain panjang, or other traditional woven garment such as ikat, songket with a colorful motif.
The kebaya is the national costume of Indonesia, although it is more accurately endemic to Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese people.
The version shown has been wonderfully decorated with gold and an ornate head-dress for a formal occasion such as a wedding.
2. Arab Nations – Women’s dress in Islamic culture is based on a principle of female modesty. Customs of the time, place, and social class of the woman influence what she might wear. Some options include hijab – or modest, loose clothing and a scarf over the head and under the chin – and burqa or burka, a more complete covering of the head, face and body.
The reason for this strictness is so that the woman is protected from the lustful gaze of men. She should not attract attention to herself in any way. It is permissible for a man to catch the eye of a woman, however it is haram (unlawful) for a man to look twice as this encourages lustful thoughts.
Clearly, it is a myth that the Muslim world is one homogenous whole. Nevertheless, women in Muslim countries and communities share a common experience of ways in which concepts of ‘Muslimness’ are constructed, legitimised and imposed. Dress codes contribute to the construction of ‘Muslimness’ and are dictated by both local and international forces operating from within Muslim societies as well as from outside Muslim contexts.
3. Japan – The Japanese word kimono means “something one wears” and they are the traditional garments of Japan. The style of kimono also changes with the season, in spring kimonos are vibrantly colored with springtime flowers embroidered on them. In the fall, kimono colors are not as bright, with fall patterns.
This ornate garment is interconnected to the Japanese culture through the world of the Geisha, although the kimono is actually worn by a large proportion of the nation at some point. In fact the kimono should really be connected moreso to the Maiko (Geisha apprentices).
4. Kenya – Although Kenya has no single culture that identifies it the touristic impression of the area would have to be defined as the Masai Mara who are traditional inhabitants of the area. Masai Mara safaris have you experiencing Maasai way-of-life through culture trips to learn of their traditions and beliefs. The Maasai’s distinctive color is red that has them always wearing something of that color.
Maasai men drape red blankets and carry long wooden poles. Women favor an excessive use of beaded jewelry. Families live in enclosures surrounded by thick fencing of sharp thorny bushes protecting them from predators. They live in small mud- straw huts.
5. Peru (Andean region) – In Peru as in most Andean regions, people wear the richest costumes for fiesta and ceremonial occasions, either masquerade or traditional dress. Fiestas and rites of passage differ markedly among the different ethnic groups of the region.
Clothing was an important aspect in Inca society. Just looking at the dress of a person, status of that person in that society can be readily perceived. Though their costume initially was typical of that of all the Andean and coastal peoples, afterward they excelled on it.
Inca nobles wore rich costume, but a bit sober than Emperor. His dress was of the finest wool of the vicuna, richly dyed, and ornamented with a profusion of gold and precious stones.
6. India – Dhoti and Kurta is supposed to be the native Indian dress for men. Dhoti is a piece of cloth, which is tied at the waist, and one part of it is passed between the legs and is tucked at the back, whereas Kurta is a type of an Indian tunic. In Southern India, men mostly wear Shirt and Lungi. Lungi is also a type of dhoti, worn differently. It is tied at the waist and hung lose at the legs.
The cap and dupatta are the main headgears used by Indian men and women respectively. Muslim men use a special type of cap known as ‘Topi’ to cover their heads whereas turban, locally known as ‘Pagadi’ in Punjab, is an integral part of a Sikh men