Thursday, April 29, 2010


As a finale blog, I would like to take a look at an entire line derived from culturally specific fashion; Native American. Anna Sui’s Spring 2009 line is bursting at the seams with reference to American Indians.

I mean, who doesn’t own a pair of moccasins? But here, she takes it to a whole new level. Although this is only four pieces from an entire ready-to-wear collection, it is plain to see Sui’s central theme. To begin, her use of geometric patterns as detail and in the prints is the first obvious indication of her “Navajo chić” focus. Notice on the left-most dress her use of robin’s-egg blue beaded tassels emerging from an embroidered, gradient design. Also, with the same dress, a large beaded necklace of blues, whites/ivories, and yellows is worn that looks very similar to hand-crafted Native American jewelry. On the other dresses, notice the similarity in shapes, patterns and colors compared to these original Native American prints:

This is definitely a modern style for all the trendster/indie/hippies out there. Who can say no to fringe, right?

Burqa'n up the wrong tree...

Muslim communities are known for being extremely modest. Most obvious of their conservative practices is covering the women from head-to-toe.

Coming from a culture where, in some instances, pasties and daisy dukes are appropriate public attire (I've seen this first hand on numerous occasions), it is hard to fathom walking around looking like a Halloween ghost. To them it is standard practice. Women's beauty is a private affair meant only to be seen by their husbands. As is stated in the Quran, "O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and the believing women that they should draw over themselves their jilbab (outer garments) (when in public); this will be more conducive to their being recognized (as decent women) and not harassed." This type of garment is usually made out of cotton or crepe material and is typically black. It drapes from a woman's head to her toes, only exposing her eyes, hands, and feet. She is anonymous. Besides being unidentifiable, women are severly restricted when wearing a burqa. Peripheral vision is disrupted, the long length makes walking difficult, and typical regions where burqas are worn tend to have very high temperatures. It seems so impractical yet these religious garments have been worn for centuries. Because burquas are so vastly different from the dress of almost every other culture in the world, you would think they would be almost impossible to translate into high fashion. would be wrong. Give any good designer a concept, and they can almost surely tweek it to be runway ready. Take a look at these interpretations of the burqa:

All of these "modern" styles have taken away the annonymity of the burqa in terms of showing a woman's face, but they are all still modest. This just goes to show we can keep women looking "decent" and celebrate their beauty at the same time. Thank you western culture, for understanding and embracing individualism.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

toga, Toga, TOGA!!!

Despite it being indisputably linked to the idea of college and frat parties (thanks in large part to Animalhouse), the toga actually began as the garment of a strong, Roman male. They were usually made of a woolen material and worn on special occasions by male citizens. Different forms of the toga were worn to indicate status or occasion and were typically worn over a tunic or a loin cloth. They were made of a semicircular piece of cloth that was cut to be three times the wearer's height. It was wrapped around the body in a series of intricate folds that left the right arm restricted, making it impossible to put one on alone. Its typical features included a one-shouldered bodice, long-length, waist belt or tie, and pleats. Although you don't generally see people running around in traditional Roman garb unless there is a keg in the vicinity, it is easy to see traces of inspiration in modern fashion. Ironically most of these are seen in womens dresses, when originally women weren't even allowed to wear the toga. Check out some of these toga ancestors:

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm so sari...

Moving our journey a little to the south-west, let’s take a look at India’s sari. The sari was first seen in South India around 100 BC. It is said that the sari "was born on the loom of a fanciful weaver. He dreamt of Woman. The shimmer of her tears. The drape of her tumbling hair. The colors of her many moods. The softness of her touch. All these he wove together. He couldn't stop. He wove for many yards. And when he was done, the story goes, he sat back and smiled and smiled and smiled". With this in mind, it is easy to see why the sari is draped the way it is; to emphasize femininity. It is wrapped around the body, accentuating a larger bust and hip while highlighting a smaller, bare midriff. Originally there was no bust band and the breasts were exposed. As time progressed, modesty became of more importance and a separate bust band was added that sometimes extends to cover the stomach. Saris are usually about 47 inches wide and 216 inches long. The reason these fabrics were never tailored in the past is because it was believed that by piercing the fabric with a needle, it would be made un-pure. As a result, there are many, many ways to drape a sari depending on the region. For instance:

It is easy to see how such a feminine and beautiful garment has stuck around for so long. Traditional saris are still worn in everyday life in many cultures and influences can be seen in western fashions as well. Take this piece, for instance:

It uses the same principles of a conventional sari, but with a modern flair.

For additional information on the meanings of certain motifs and colors used to construct a sari, click here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

First stop, Japan.

Let me start by introducing myself; my name is Kara and I am currently a Junior Apparel Studies major at the University of Arkansas. I love fashion and find it interesting how much it varies from culture to culture. Considering fashion trends are so fluid, never taking a break from evolving into "the next big thing," I want to look at pieces from various cultures that somehow became iconic.

That being said, let's take a look at Japan. The first thought when mentioning iconic Japanese clothing is the Kimono. First seen in the Heian period (794-1192), the long straight-cut robes were worn by men, women, and children. They were usually made of bright, colorful fabrics like linen and silk.
The decorations on Kimonos were used as a way of distinguishing status and class. Warriors even sported the colors of their leaders to display their loyalties on the battlefield. Up until around 1870, Kimonos were worn on a daily basis. This changed when Japan became more heavily influenced by western culture. As Japanese styles changed, the Kimono became more and more formal. Traditional Kimonos are still worn today in Japan, but they are usually only seen on special occasions.

If you look around you at the fashion coming off the runways today, you can see traces of Japanese influence. The Kimono sleeve has been extremely popular in fashions through the decades, as well as Mandarin collars and silk prints. This can be seen in Marchesa's Spring 2010 collection, especially in this piece.

It's fantastic.