Fashions of the Indian Subcontinent

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In some parts of the world, time seems to stand still where culture and dress are concerned. The Indian subcontinent is one such place, taking old and new and blending it in a unique and alluring package that has endured for centuries, and will doubtless continue to endure for centuries more.

No one region in India shares exactly the same colors and styles; it depends partly upon climate, and partly upon subtly different social rules for an area as to what’s available. The sari is a length of cloth that drapes elegantly and loosely upon the feminine body. Similar yet distinctly different is the dhoti for men. The latter is rectangular and unstitched, draped over the shoulders and wrapped about the waist where it is knotted. The lungi (or sarong) is also popular. Such is the quality of Indian weaving, that many garments are simply lengths of cloth that are wrapped about the body and held in place with pins or knots. However, stitched garments do exist, they also tend to flow and breathe, which as you can see, is one unifying trait shared by almost all uniquely Indian attire. Salwar kameez (or tunic and pants) is an alternative to the sari that has gained ground for both men and women of late. The kurta is a loose, knee-length tunic that is usually worn with trousers and belted at the waist. Lastly, European-style trousers and shirts are also well-known to the subcontinent.

The Hindu film industry, colloquially known as Bollywood has been a strong influence on fashion and attire since the 1960s and 1970s, giving it a modern, sensual sensibility that many find appealing. From colors, which are typically bright and vibrant, accentuating the actress in question in a most flattering fashion, to unique cuts for the cloth, the sheer variety is nearly endless. Colors aren’t the only innovation; materials as well as embroidery techniques are springing up all the time. Velvet featuring zardosi (an embroidery technique of a fairly complex type) and deep-cut blouses are wildly popular.

When it comes to adornment, gold is exceedingly popular virtually everywhere in India. Indians believe that it has the power to purify anything it touches, so it’s typically worn against bare skin. Additionally, necklaces of beads, gold or diamonds are popular among girls and women, as are bangles worn upon the wrists, earrings, as well as finger and toe rings and anklets. The latter are usually worn by married women.

Brazil Fashions

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Brazil was a Portuguese colony for over 300-years before claiming independence in 1822. This large South American country still speaks Portuguese as their predominant language, and the citizens who are descended from African slaves are still treated as a part of their lower-class systems. In all social classes, care is demanded in dress codes, and extreme attention to details is required by those who wish to claim a proper home.

Understanding the Brazilian Bikini Craze

Brazil is a country that is widely known for their scantily clad beautiful women and men on the beach. This country boasts a 73.6% Roman Catholic population that do not all live on the waterfront. The fashions in Brazil are more involved than the simple minimalistic beach styles that are photographed so often. Those beautiful bikini-clad girls on the beach are still often accompanied by the traditional male family escort until they are married.

Female Business Attire in Brazil

Women make up 40% of the Brazilian workforce while occupying most of the lower-pay positions. In 1988, the laws were changed to make it illegal to discriminate against woman. However, all old traditions are hard to change. Business attire for all classes of women include meticulously manicured nails, carefully arranged hair, make-up applied with care, and business-elegant or feminine clothing that will speak well of the family.

Employment positions in Brazil are often attained through family connections. Females who are in the workforce are always dressing to display a respect to all extended family members. Feminine attire includes jewelry to match each outfit, tasteful hair clips, and the ability to harmonize all accessories to match the main garment color-tones. Brazil has a tropical environment and light colored clothing is often in vogue.

Male Business Attire in Brazil

In Brazil, men who are in business often dress in business-formal attire daily. Dark two-pieced suits that are accented with lavish cufflinks, upper-quality watches, and a flashy wedding ring can speak well of individual and the extended family. Executives often wear a full three-piece dark suit at work to denote rank during all weather conditions. Men from Brazil have manicured nails and they wear the latest fashions in eyewear.

When Brazilian business meetings take place, eye contact is required by custom. Men are concerned with their facial appearances while they are out in public. Part of the cultural expectations requires each business meeting to include informal discussions about family and friends to ensure a trusting environment. When a Brazilian man pulls a wallet out of his pocket to show off pictures, this wallet will be made of the softest leather available.

The Sexy Brazil Jeans

It only takes one glance at a pair of Brazil jeans to know that the woman inside of those jeans is beautiful. Unlike other jean fashions, the Brazilian jeans for women are elegant garments that take care with every detail. In Brazil, the jeans are designed to highlight a perfectly curving seat. Legs are tapered and decorated in intricate ways that slim the overall appearance. These fashionable blue jeans are worn with the traditional warm weather halter-tops that show just enough skin to be alluring. As with all other forms of dress for women in Brazil, each blue jean outfit is carefully selected and accessorized to be ultra-feminine.

Brazil Fashion in Recent Years

Brazil is like all other countries on the planet. After the Internet arrived on the scene, it is now possible to see fashions from all parts of the planet mixed into the traditional Brazil wardrobe choices. However, this is a country that clings to their immaculate appearances and trendy clothing choices that highlight individual positions within their social-class structures. Brazil may have the best dressed citizens on the planet.   

Kenyan Fashion

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The continent of Africa is a place rich in history, culture and beauty. Certainly, there are thriving locales like Cairo, Lagos and Johannesburg, with much to commend them. This article wishes to point out another jewel in the crown that is Africa – Kenya, specifically Nairobi, and its fashion.

Western Attire in Kenya

Kenyan clothing and jewelry includes some of the most beautiful and diverse colors in the world. Although many Kenyans now wear Western-style clothing, the country is home to forty different ethnic groups. As such, the cultural heritage surrounding attire and adornment is immensely varied – from emblematic and evocative Masai blankets to the Muslim-influenced dress of the eastern coast. The most politically active Kenyans (the Kikuyu, Akamba and Luo), and those residing in urban areas) are the source of much of the country’s western attire. Many others still wear more traditional clothing such as the kanga (a length of cloth which can be worn as a shawl, shirt or headscarf). Given its prevalence in the more populous areas of Kenya, Western attire doesn’t necessarily denote one’s social status. Much like in other parts of the world however, brand names and clothing labels do.

Traditional Masai Attire

While it isn’t unusual to see a Masai wearing a digital watch or carrying a cell phone, they are one of the social groups in Kenya who attempt to adhere to traditional ways. Kanga and intricate bead necklaces are common among women. As is common with many tribes throughout the world, symbolism is important to the Masai as well. As one might suppose, colors play an important role in Masai life. Red symbolizes bravery (among related traits), white symbolizes peace, blue, water. To the Masai, all of these things are of utmost importance, so it makes sense that they would identify so closely with them. Men often will wear a red-checkered blanket called a shuka, and once they’ve undergone the customary initiation rites, they will dye their hair red as well, with ochre and fat.   Patterned attire, such as the kikoi (a type of sarong worn by the coastal Masai) is preferred, and though the shuka is patterned with checks, stripes are a predominant motif. Bracelets of wood are common among both men and women, and exquisitely crafted beadwork is typically worn by the women. Masai self-identity and social standing within the tribe is articulated through the use of body ornamentation and painting. Prior to contact with Europeans, Masai beads were primarily made from diverse raw materials that were readily available, such as clay, shells, ivory, bone, brass, copper, gourds, seeds, charcoal and iron. Following the arrival of Europeans, glass beads in myriad shades and hues (often bright and colorful) became very prevalent, engendering a shift in the color schemes and presentation of Masai jewelry.

The Masai are but one of many subsets of Kenyan culture. They, along with the Bantu (Meru, Luhya, etc) and Nilotes (of which the Masai are part, along with the Samburu and Kalenjin) are joined by the Cushites. Immigrants are also prevalent, comprised of Arabs, Indians (from the Subcontinent) and Britons (descendants of the first colonials). All combine to make Kenya the rich melting pot that it is today, and while each group maintains its own heritage and history, they contribute immeasurably to the whole.


Cambodia – A Country of Diverse Textures

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Although its neighboring countries Thailand and Vietnam have garnered more attention for their beaches or in the case of Vietnam, its politics, Cambodia is a country whose culture, customs and clothing are diverse, colorful and rooted in tradition. Approximately 14 and a half million Cambodians call this beautiful country home.

By day, Cambodians, like many people in Asia, tend to be rather conservative in their attire. Men are expected to wear at minimum slacks and a buttoned up shirt. A tie is optional, but recommended. Alternatively, women are expected to wear ankle length skirts and a nice blouse. Indeed the climate may dictate how Cambodians dress. Tropical can usually mean hot and muggy days and rainy afternoons and evenings. As Cambodian attire is segregated by social classes and caste boundaries, attire may differ greatly between the peoples who live there. Traditional (both rural and urban) Cambodians wear something called a Krama, which is unique to the Khmer (Cambodians), and is not worn by the neighboring Laotians, Thai or Vietnamese. As versatile as it is beautiful, the scarf-like garment serves as both protection from the elements and is a signature of uniquely Cambodian style, often worn under the Vietnamese-inspired conical hat or as a sarong.

If anything can be thought of as ‘official’ attire for the country, the traditional and elegant sampot can. Influenced by China (rather than Vietnam, like the hat), there are different varieties of the sampot depending on the wearer’s social class. The higher up one is, the more intricate and beautiful the garment. The varieties of sampot are:

• Sampot chang kben
Usually worn by women of the upper and middle class, this sampot resembles a pair of pants more than it does a skirt like other varieties. It is favored by women of ‘all’ classes for holidays and special occasions.

• Sampot phamuong
More complex in its crafting than the chang kben, the phamuong features rich floral and geometrical prints. Highly prized yellow Cambodian silk is often used in its making.

• Sampot hol
Coming in two varieties, the sampot hol can be worn as either a wrapping skirt (made in the typical fashion of such garments), or as a twill weave wrap. The difference is that for the twill weave, each side of the length of cloth is a different color and sports a different print as well. Inspired by Indian attire, its prints are similar to, if not identical to those of the sampot phamuong – featuring floral, geometric or animal designs.

While jewelry and ostentatious displays are out of keeping with societal norms in Cambodia, some men and women both do favor jewelry with a religious purpose. Some, like the Buddha pendant are worn about the neck. There are other pendants as well, each serving some other purpose in the daily lives of the Khmer. Some are believed to provide good luck, others, protection from evil spirits.

While the concept of ‘daily wear’ has faded in Cambodia, requiring many to adopt the aforementioned semi-formal attire in the day-to-day, it has not gone completely. Look around as you explore this rich and beautiful land and you must see something memorable.

Cheongsam – The Chinese Wedding Gown

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Apart from the fact that people in China have different facial features than those of Westerners, taking a scan of a typical office, business attire tends to mimic that of Western-style.

The Chinese are not a people prone to displays of grandiosity or being ostentatious while in the work place. Men opt for a well-tailored suit and women can be seen wearing a skirt, blouse, pantyhose and heels of modest height. Her skirt is never form fitting and is always loose, and doesn’t reveal her figure in any manner. In keeping with modesty, jewelry and makeup are kept to a minimum. On those days a woman is not wearing a skirt and blouse, a loose fitting dress, same high heels and pantyhose may be substituted. Customarily, skirts and dresses are to the knee or longer. Colors for both men and women are subdued and essentially do not allow the wearer to call attention to him or herself.

Reserving Color For Weddings
As reserved as the Chinese are in the workplace, and as well as they blend with Westerners in their attire, weddings are anything but subdued, modest and lacking in color and adornments.

For everyone around the world, be they rich or poor, deeply rooted in tradition or rather informal, religious or Atheist, weddings are an opportunity to be someone you aren’t for a day. They are a time for celebrating the union of two people in love and the joining of two families. Far be it for the Chinese not to pull out the stops as they commit to partnership and continue the ancestral line on both sides.

As modest as both men and women are in the work place, get ready to see color and a lot of it at a Chinese wedding. In particular red and gold are most represented. Gold is of course symbolic for wealth and the creation of it as they begin their lives anew. Red is for happiness.

Rooted in Symbolism, This is Her Fashion Story

Unlike Western-style weddings, where the bride wears white to extol her virtues, a Chinese bride is a vision in red. Her red dress, known as a Cheongsam, will often be handmade and have details of a dragon and phoenix embroidered into it. The two represent man and woman respectively and symbolize the balance in marriage between the two. Chinese brides may start out in a white wedding dress, which is entirely influenced by American customs, she will end up in her traditional dress at some point during the festivities.

Adornments
Slightly similar to something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, Chinese women are adorned in symbolism. Her headpiece is fashioned to resemble the phoenix she is and may have a red veil or red beans that lightly caress her exquisitely made up face. Her wedding dress would be nothing if not plain if she were to pair this ensemble with anything other than red heels; the taller the better.

Rooted in Symbolism – His Version of Events
Brides aren’t the only ones who get to wear red and don adornments. A traditional groom will wear a long gown of dark blue. Dragons will have been hand embroidered into his gown, and overtop his gown is a silk coat, usually black. His red sash matches perfectly with his red shoes and the more traditional men will wear a red hat with tassels.

Let’s Eat
Having already tied the knot a few days earlier in a private ceremony, witnessed only by the happy couple’s immediate family, it’s time to eat. The room can fit 350-1000 of their closest friends and the decorations, of course, are made up of a dragon and phoenix and lots of gold and red. The food is nothing short of spectacular, consisting of a roast pig and depending upon where in the country the couple resides, sides dishes appropriate to their region. A Chinese wedding banquet is one that if you have not experienced for yourself, by all means you will want to make friends with a recently engaged Chinese couple.

Chinese Jade – Historic Traditions

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Called the “Stone of Heaven”, jade has a long and storied history within China. Back during the the Shang Dynasty, jade was used by the royals for personal adornment. It also enjoyed frequent use in utilitarian and ceremonial objects (such as grave goods). By the dawn of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368 and 1644 respectively), jade had become more referential and was primarily used by the imperial court as objets d’art. In terms of personal adornment, jewelery was worn frequently by both sexes as indicators of nobility and wealth. As time progressed however, emphasis shifted from jade pieces as symbols primarily of status to symbols of beautification. Most common, to both sexes was the earring, though other pieces such as tiaras and rings were also well known. Jade amulets were also popular – these often featuring potent symbols such as a dragon, phoenix or a particular Chinese character.

What Makes Jade So Sought After?

Jade is considered by the Chinese to be a powerful source of positive energy (it is said to bring good luck, after all). It comes in many different colors and hues. Best known is the milky green, but it also comes in shades of white, grey, black, yellow, orange and soft violet hues. If Westerners have difficulty measuring jade’s worth, consider this: the Chinese valued jade as highly in the east, as gold and gems were valued in the west. Of jade, Confuscius said, “The wise have likened jade to virtue….Its color represents loyalty; its…flaws,…sincerity; its iridescent brightness represents heaven…Used alone without ornamentation it represents chastity.” In short, from Confucius to the minds of modern Chinese, the versatile and lovely stone is potent and evocative, bringing to mind every esteemed quality possessed by humanity.

The Claddagh Ring – Irish History and Folklore

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Irish culture is full of fascinating history that we have all read about at one time or another. Little do we know, there is an entire world of myth and lore to go right along with the Emerald Isle’s history. Many events occurring in Ireland since its founding have legend and lore attached to them, making for an often intriguing story – if not entirely factual in the telling. No matter which strikes your fancy, they’re usually both pretty darn interesting. This is especially true when the tale is about the Claddagh Ring.
The Claddagh Ring is a beautiful and historical piece of jewelry that originated during the 16th century in Claddagh, Galway. For many centuries it was worn exclusively by the people in this small community, often as a wedding ring. The ring’s design features a heart cupped in two hands, above which is displayed a crown. Both then, and now, it signified love, though as time wore on, it came to include deep friendship as well. One of the long-held customs for keeping this ring states that one should never buy the ring for him or herself, but to give to someone of whom they’re fond. No longer confined to the shores of Ireland, this emblematic and simple yet elegant ring has become popular in several countries and has been shown prominently in several movies.
Historical Depiction
A man named Richard Joyce is credited with designing the ring. Legend says that he lived in Galway, and was kidnapped by an Algerian slaver and sold in the West Indies as a slave. His new master just happened to be a goldsmith, so during his time there, Joyce learned the goldsmith’s trade, soon surpassing his master in skill. When British decree abolished slavery, the goldsmith who was once his master offered Joyce his daughter’s hand in marriage if he would stay on with them. Naturally, Joyce refused and returned to his homeland with the Claddagh ring’s design.
Mythical Depiction
The mythical version of the ring’s origin is more whimsical and fanciful. This version centers around a woman named Margaret Joyce (said to be related to the gent in the previous story). Margaret was twice-married: once to a wealthy Spaniard who died and left her a vast inheritance. Then she was wed to the mayor of her community. She became known as Margaret of the Bridges, owing to her decision to use some of her late husband’s wealth to have multiple bridges constructed within her home province of Connacht. So the story goes, that as she surveying one of the bridge sites, an eagle flew overhead and dropped the very first Claddagh ring into her lap.
While many people believe the ‘true’ historical version, no one really knows the origin behind the beautiful and famous ring. What we do know is that for centuries, it has persisted as a symbol of love, friendship, and honor. Used only by the residents of Galway to seal their marriages for 400 years or more, the ring is a true symbol of love in the Irish tradition.

Scotland – The Tradition of the Kilt

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Scotland is a country rich in tradition, with many a story handed down through the generations. The people who came to this area long ago and made their homes here were rich and hearty of spirit and possessed of great determination. Their descendants have survived not only wars with other countries, but also many in-country conflicts as well. This has served to engender a fierce national pride in the country and its heritage among the native Scots.
A highly important aspect of Scottish history surrounds a ubiquitous garment called the kilt. The kilt has become known to people virtually all over the world as traditional Scottish attire. This perception formed over time, as the kilt evolved from a cloak-like garment into the modern garment we know today.
Beginnings of the Kilt
Kilts are part and parcel in many countries today; as school uniforms worn by children, by people in costume and by performers either doing re-enactments, traditional dances or even bagpipers. The type of kilt most often seen today is a far from the original. It is thought by many to be based upon the Irish leine, which was a large piece of fabric, wrapped and draped about the body and fastened in place. It was a unisex garment, belted about the waist and worn with a brooch at the shoulder or neck. Loose and perhaps unflattering, it was nonetheless emblematic of the culture.
From the leine came the great kilt. It had more than little in common with its predecessor – being of similar length, and being donned and fastened in a similar fashion. While it was also unisex, it was more fitted to the body, and designed only to drape over a single shoulder.
The Modern Kilt
Over the course of the last century or so, the kilt has evolved into what we typically envision when we picture that most uniquely Scottish of garments. Seldom or not at all does it feature the over the shoulder drapery. Instead, it hangs from the waist, wrapped about the mid-section, dropping to the knees. Unlike shorts, which outwardly look similar to those who don’t know better, the kilt is one piece of fabric wrapped about the waist several times, and fastened on the side. A shirt is typically worn with it since it lacks the upper body covering found in its predecessors.
Having become immensely popular all over the world, the kilt is worn by both genders and by people of all ages. While not as prevalent in traditional Scottish wardrobe as it once was, it can still be found at its place of honor among rituals, ceremonies and celebrations. Many men of Scottish descent , regardless where they may live, wear their kilts during weddings and other special occasions, as the kilt holds a special significance even today.
With its rich and storied history, the centuries old Scottish kilt can be found in modern books, movies and artwork from years gone by. While it may have evolved to suit changing customs and social norms of dress, it’s still very much an important part of what it means to be and live uniquely Scottish.

Fashion and Adornment in Russia

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With a marvelous blend of traditional and contemporary, Russian fashion still holds fast to societal mores that have been the norm for decades, if not centuries. In short, some things are slow to change in the former Soviet Union.

Russian attire and adornments are highly reflective of not only the time in which they came about, but are also indicative of the diversity of Russia itself. Traditional garments and modes will always have a place of their own, but as modern influences have found their way into Russia’s borders, and the lives of young and old alike, so too has modern clothing. If you think ‘warm’, ‘durable’ and ‘rustic’ as words to describe the ideal qualities of Russian clothes, you wouldn’t be far off, yet there is a certain modern aesthetic that has taken hold, broadening what it means to be and dress as a Rus.

By the very nature of the country, Russian clothing tends to be warm and insulating – comprised of such things as wool, leather and fur. Clothes of yesteryear came in canvas or wool and were often as not, embroidered with myriad designs or colorful threading to accentuate handmade garb. Capes, hoods, hats, and shawls provided both modesty and warmth. Pre-Industrial Russian peasant women wore sarafans with corsets, long skirts and sleeves, usually in a floral pattern. To accompany and accentuate this common outfit, they also wore a headdress or hat known as a kokoshnik. Conversely, men wore kaftans (a long cotton or silk cloak that belted with a sash, based on an earlier Persian design), kosovvorotka (traditional, mid-thigh length tunic), and ushanka (literally ‘ear hat’, a fur and wool hat with muffs designed to keep the head warm in winter). Both wore lapti (standard peasant shoes made from fibrous tree material) and valenki (felt/fur winter boots).

Present day Russian clothing styles tend towards the ‘edgy’ and may appear out of keeping with the rest of the modern world’s modes of dress. While it’s something of a truism that Russian fashion tends to fall behind (sometimes by as much as ten years) the rest of the western world, one consistent aspect of Russian fashion is its adherence to particular norms in certain regions. In the north, more reserved colors and schemes are preferred, and in the south, typically brighter colors prevail. Even so, it wouldn’t be thought amiss for trendy, hip Russians to routinely dress as they were going out for a night on the town. This reflects an almost cosmopolitan nature, especially in the larger cities, like Moscow. Traditional materials, like wool, leather, cotton and fur – still necessary for warmth and comfort in the frozen north – are gradually being augmented or replaced with newer fabrics that work just as well, and as an added bonus, offer up a nearly endless fashion array from which to choose.

The Yoruba Tribe of Nigeria and Their Clothes- Rich in Colors and Textures

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Welcome to Nigeria! This is a beautiful country, which is rich in natural resources and home to approximately 152 million people and is the continent’s most populous nation.
Over 200 tribes (ethnic groups) make up Nigeria, which borders Chad and Niger to its north, and sandwiched between Benin and Cameroon, there are three major ones. These tribes are Yoruba, Hausa and Fuluni (two tribes that merged) and Ibo. It gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, and as such, English is the national language. Each tribe, however, has its own very specific written and spoken language as well as culture and customs.

In the eyes of a Westerner, while it might seem that each ethnic group’s culture, customs and style of clothing are the same, they are quite different and distinct from one another. While not the most populous tribe, the Yoruba people tend to be most often found in positions within the national government and in jobs of distinction and power. Based on exposure, when Westerners identify with people or refer to someone from Nigeria, whether they realize it or not, in their mind’s eye, images of Yoruba people and their clothing are what often pops up.

Nigeria has three climates: equatorial, tropical and arid. As a result, the clothes, regardless which ethnic group is making them, tend to be loose fitting, and, more often than not, made from cotton. While a man may wear a Western style suit one day – usually gray, black, navy or tan, the next day he may opt to wear something Yoruba. Women for the most part dress in their ethnic garb or may do something rather clever. They’ll take the cloth used to make their apparel, and create a Western style skirt suit. The higher up a person is in his or her profession and the amount of business dealings he or she has with England, Europe and the United States will often determine the size and variation of their wardrobe.

Men’s Clothing
A typical Yoruba 4-piece suit consists of the following:
• Buba – Blouse or shirt – may be one color or several and come in varying lengths; either just shy of his hips or it may come to his knees.
• Pants – Slightly baggy to allow for breathing, rarely are they tight. Again, may be one or several colors. The pants will have at least one color in common with his Buba, and unless they were purchased specifically for that suit, may be worn with another suit.
• Agabada – Flowing robe with wide sleeves. The more important the event, the more ornate the embroidery becomes. Agabadas are generally reserved for special occasions.
• Hat – Often two or more colors, it completes the ensemble. It is usually one that fits snuggly about the head and may or may not touch his ears.

Women’s Clothing
Similar to a man’s outfit, sans the pants:
• Buba – Blouse – may be one color or several. May have embroidery or not and this largely depends upon the location where her outfit is being worn.
• Wrapper – This is a meant to be similar to a Western-style wrap skirt that was popular in the 1970s or likened to a sarong. It’s a large piece of square cloth that may or may not be the same color scheme and pattern as the Buba. It may come to just past her knees or to the floor. It may be fairly form fitting or extremely loose and flowing.
• Gele – Her head scarf or gear. Generally speaking, this is fashioned from the same piece of material as either her Wrap or her Buba or both (assuming the two were cut from the same bolt of cloth).

For a woman who rarely leaves her house without a Gele, what matches her work outfit, when going out will be nothing short of stunning. At minimum her Gele will be rich in color and often contort to an elaborate shape.

As with Westerners, the pieces worn are the same in the office as they are for social events, however, the materials, patterns and adornments used will differ. Dressing up is relative because in general, if a Nigerian leaves his or her house, whether rich or poor, he or she is always presentable. Casual is not a word that enters their fashion dictionary. There are just varying degrees of formal. What someone in the US might label dressed up, that’s usual attire for a Nigerian. Socializing, whether in a restaurant, a party, an office party, a wedding, etc., is a spectacle to behold!

Navel Piercing – New Trend or History Repeating Itself?

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What young woman doesn’t look at her belly and think that a pretty diamond, barbell or even a flower would make it prettier? Whether she already has pierced ears or not, it’s almost a natural leap to jump from dangling something from her lobes to adorning her flat belly.

In western culture, a quick way to annoy your parents, whether you are a young man or woman, is to pierce your navel. You will hear every argument against it. The common two persuasions are that only girls who are trying to sexualize themselves too early do it and that only “deviants” mutilate their bodies in this manner.

Long associated with thugs, strippers and other wayward types, many believe this is a new trend that spawned in the 20th century, just to aggravate middle-class, hard working moms and dads.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Although there is common misconception about its origins, this “trend” is several centuries not decades old.

One common belief is that navel piercing started in ancient Egypt (3500 BCE – 100 BCE) and was exclusive to statuaries. While on the face of it, this explanation could have some merit, given the mystery and beauty of Queen Cleopatra, it seems that a more plausible one is that navel piercing stems from India and the Gupta Empire (320-550 BCE), far more recently. Drawings in the marriage guide Kama Sutra (2nd century CE) support this theory. Lacking any physical data supporting the earlier assertion, this author is more comfortable citing the latter as being more likely.

Body Piercings in India – Practicality that Turned into a Tradition of Beauty
Both for purposes of adornment and as a means of keeping the “family jewels” safe, women in India have been decorating their bodies with semi precious and precious stones for at least five centuries, and likely longer. Its roots date back to a time when their husbands traveled frequently for work. Gone for long periods of time, if ill fate should befall her betrothed, the wife, who of course didn’t work, could have a means to support her family and her. On each toe, each finger, in her navel, each ear and in her nose was her insurance that her family would never starve.

Rich, poor, whether she’s a Brahman or a Sudra or some place in between in the Caste System, chances are good that she has at least a nose ring and quite likely one in the navel as well. This is not a tradition relegated to a specific class, but rather one you’ll find throughout the country – most particularly those who practice Hinduism, the predominant religion.

Today, between banks and safes, she needn’t wear every piece of jewelry she owns. However, it’s not uncommon to see women both in India and those of Indian descent living outside the country, continuing this tradition. Fewer things are more sensual than seeing a woman dressed in a saree (also expressed as sari), adorned with a jewel in her navel, a tinier version in her nose and two in her earlobes.

So, the next time your parents tell you that only girls trying to emulate Britney Spears or the girl in your town that everyone assumes to be a stripper or worse, tell them that it’s a rite of passage in India. Although it might not persuade them, they may, if only for a moment, realize that although relatively new in the United States, the association with deviant behavior has no relevance.

Native American Adornments

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When it comes to cultural adornments, nothing is quite like the beautiful jewelery crafted by the various Native American tribes of the United States. Further, nothing captures the primal majesty like the Native American in his (or her) full regalia – headdress, face paint (or masks), beads and hand-made clothing.

Native Smiths
Every tribe’s jewelry style differs slightly, either in the techniques by which it is crafted, or its presentation. However, Native Americans of many tribes already had a long-standing familiarity with the ingredients that went into making it (beads, shells, copper, silver, bone, turquoise, amber and other stones) by the time they first countered Europeans. Since the 1800s, when the Native Americans picked up silver smithing and other advanced techniques from the Spanish, such advancement has only improved the scope of their efforts, allowing Native American craftsmen to offer some of the most unique, evocative and memorable jewelry seen today. The inclusion of European techniques fused with traditional designs brought about the hitherto unseen yet beautiful squash blossom necklace, bracelets overlaid in silver, and turquoise inlaid rings, as well as earrings, chokers pins and pendants. Every year, markets in the Southwestern United States showcase masterwork from the Hopi, Jemez, Navajo, Taos, and Zuni tribes, and more besides. With all these advancements brought by the foreigners, it would be easy to forget the inherent skill of the tribal craftsmen. Native beadwork, especially when compared to their still-developing use of metals, was already very well established even prior to colonization. They knew then, how to finely grind turquoise, coral and shell beads, making them into elaborate Heishi necklaces. They also knew how to delicately carve the individual wood and bone beads, and the process to intricately stitch hundreds of beads together, into the flawless jewelry and museum pieces we know today.

Tradition Meets Beauty
As with any culture, Native Americans have traditions surrounding worship, their views on life, death and the world in which they live. Nothing symbolizes this quite so much as their regalia. A Native American in full traditional attire is a sight to behold, and though such an elaborate costume has become fodder for children’s Halloween costumes and the imaginations of eager, if ignorant tourists, there still exists an air of mystery and power when watching ceremonial dances and rituals. The problem with conception is that what many imagine a Native American looks like is inaccurate. Take for instance, the long, flowing headdress of eagle feathers. There were only a few tribes who actually wore them, though as other tribes relocated (to the Plains, for example), they adopted the headdress as a means to appease tourists and visitors who expected them to look a certain way. More common were the roaches crafted of dyed porcupine quills. These were shorter and easier to mange, sometimes worn in combat, but typically for ceremonial purposes. For certain ceremonies, kachina dancers of the southwest would often wear masks, to represent a certain aspect of the culture, natural world or cosmos. This could be either intangible things or representations of people – a revered ancestor, an element, a location, a quality, a natural phenomenon, or a concept that has a particular poignant meaning for the tribe. The Plains Indians also wore buffalo masks in some of their ceremonies. Authentic tunics, trousers (or breech cloths with leggings attached), and moccasins are also common, each featuring intricate stitching, beadwork and possibly metalwork. Garments could either be woven, or crafted from hide and leather. Moccasins often were made of sturdy hide, the better to protect against the elements.

Mongolia – Weather, History and Lifestyle all Influence Their Clothes

Author: admin  //  Category: Uncategorized

“It is amazing how this nation invented clothes that can fit all seasons and needs, well thought of and used in many different ways,” ————-Author unknown, but it is said that he or she was a medieval European traveler visiting Mongolia for the first time.

Mongolia, which borders both China and Russia, boasts a population of approximately 3.9 million people. Given its proximity to both Asia and Europe, Mongolia has a very interesting history, all of which has made its way into their unique attire.

The Notion of Layering Takes on New Meaning
If you live in a climate with diverse seasons, you are familiar with the notion of layering. An undershirt, a short sleeved shirt, a sweater and an overcoat if necessary should allow you get through a typical Spring or Autumn day. Cool in the mornings, warm by noon and by the time you leave work, it’s already cool or cold again.

Imagine, if you will, the temperature is 50° in the morning, by 10:00 a.m. there is a sand storm and by 2:00 p.m. snow is beginning to fall and it’s 20 degrees cooler suddenly. Now with this image in mind, picture yourself leading a nomadic lifestyle.

So, What’s a Nomad To Do?
Clothes that are as practical as they are aesthetically pleasing are the only way to go for a fashionable Nomad; brightly colored long gowns allow for the most flexibility. For example, long sleeves, which can rolled up when it’s warm and quickly rolled down if begins to snow, suddenly. Something that slips over a person’s head means there are few buttons to have to fumble with when the temperature drops suddenly. A single hook over a brocade button just below your shoulder and you’re snug as a bug in a rug. The nomads of the Mongolian steppes were long adept at dressing according to the mercurial whims of Mother Nature. While every stitch they would wear in the course of a year was as varied and unique as the nomads themselves, they were also highly adaptable and interesting, while being imminently practical at the same time.

Mongolian hats tended to differ between both sexes and within different age groups, with shapes and purposes to suit seasons, holidays, and ceremonies as well as hats for occasional and everyday wear. In addition, they differed between tribes, and on a personal level, were often reflective of a person’s social standing within one tribe or another.

The customary calf-length tunics worn by Mongolian nomads were just as diverse as their hats. The one unifying feature was the cut and form of the shirts – typically long-sleeved, loose fitting with a high collar. Called a ‘del’, Mongolian tunics are differentiated by social standing within the clan as much as by the season. The cut and make of a shirt tended to remain the same between the sexes, with only the color and fit adjusting between them. Males wear slightly larger and more reserved shirts, while the females don brighter colors. In the frigid Mongolian winters, dels are often padded with sheep’s wool or layered cotton.

To finish off the typical Mongolian ensemble, boots are sturdy, handsome pieces, with upturned toes. Arguably this makes the typically rigid and hefty boot both easier to walk in, and capable of helping the nomad to retain his or her seat whilst a-horse. Made of thick leather, they can be joined by thick, soft felt socks in the winter, or sans socks in the summer.

The clothing will vary from the simplest everyday use to the gorgeous and full colorful custom made outfits that will speak of the sex and age, the status and welfare of the person. Also, they will correspond to cultural events and specific celebrations. Mongol clothing will slightly differ according to the ethnic groups like their dialects.

The clothing will correspond to the four seasons of the year. During the hot and short summer the nomads wear light dels made of cotton. In harsh and very cold long winters they wear warm dels made of lamb’s skin. In between during the spring and autumn the nomads wear both heavy and light dels due to highly contrast weather.

The immensely varied and rich presentation of the Mongolian nomad’s wardrobe is highly appropriate, don’t you think, considering the ancient and proud heritage boasted by these robust people of the steppes.

Japan’s Street Fashion

Author: admin  //  Category: Uncategorized

As anyone who has read about, or even seen movies concerning pre-20th century Japan knows, fashion tended to follow very different lines from the West. Clothing normally mirrors the necessities of Japanese life – loose, flowing garments were preferred for activities in the home, for instance. In the middle of the 19th century, Japan began to experiment with, and emulate Western fashion. This was done to bring Japan up to speed, as it were, with the rest of the world. As trends and tastes evolved, eventually something called ‘street fashion’ came into being. Street fashion is defined as a fashion movement derived not from studios but the whims and interests of people, or grassroots. Linked to youth culture, since the 21st century, and probably a bit before that, Japan’s street fashion industry has been sustaining myriad diverse styles and trends.

Blending traditional and contemporary, clothes and accessories that fit into this category are often homemade. However, savvy clothing labels, both foreign and domestic, are cluing in to what is popular – either based on the resurgence of previous styles, or the prevalence of current ones, and releasing a broad array of products in an attempt to satisfy diverse appetites.

Some examples of prominent street fashion in Japan include:

Lolita
Signified by Victorian-era clothing as well as costumes from the Rococo period (late 18th century), this is one of the most diverse and popular subcategories of adornment and fashion in Japan. Japanese youth are fond of a certain ‘cute’ factor in their clothes and merchandise – Lolita epitomizes this to varying degrees, and comes in several varieties, they are:

• Gothic – heavily Victorian, ‘Goth’ style with dark colors
• Sweet – childlike, cute, with use of pastels
• Punk – blends Punk and Lolita
• Classic -Traditional and somewhat staid or mature. Classic focuses on light primary colors – red, green and blue.

Ganguro
Popular among teen and preteen Japanese girls, Ganguro is best exemplified by bright outfits, mini-skirts, tie-dye and platform shoes. Accessories common to Ganguro include fake eyelashes, monochromatic eyeliner, earrings (and rings), bracelets, and necklaces. So-called ‘black facers’, followers of this trend also sport dark tans.

Kogal
Popular in the ’90s, but having since fallen into decline, the Kogal look is based on that of a typical high school uniform, but more sexualized. It can be likened to the United States’ Valley Girl mode.

Bōsōzoku
Similar to Kogal, Bōsōzoku has fallen out of favor since the 1990s. It can still be seen in one form or another in various forms of media, such as anime, manga and Japanese movies. It is typified by jumpsuits, baggy pants, high boots or vaguely militaristic-looking outfits, and is popular among underage motorcycle gangs.

Cosplay
Short for “costume role-play”, Cosplay is a variety of performance art whose participants dress themselves up in diverse and elaborate costumes and accessories. The costumes most often mirror the attire worn by various characters from such digital and artistic mediums as manga, anime or video games. Not quite as common, some cosplayers will dress up as figures from live action roles such as fantasy movies and Japanese musical groups. Cosplay is quite popular with the throngs who attend conventions such as ComicCon in San Diego, Anime Expo (AX) in Los Angeles, or the Tokyo Game Show and Comiket in Japan.

Visual Kei
Popularized by the Japanese entertainment industry, the flamboyant and often androgynous Visual Kei is a hallmark of such groups as X Japan, Malice Mizer, Dir En Grey and Luna Sea. In addition to complex and flamboyant outfits, it features striking makeup and unusual hairstyles.

Henna – Intricate Adornment, Ancient and New

Author: admin  //  Category: Uncategorized

When it comes to body modification, there’s arguably no other form more celebrated than that of tattooing. But this article’s purpose isn’t to discuss the permanent markings and techniques to create them utilized by various cultures around the world. Instead, we’ll discuss henna tattoos. Before we get into the details though, first you have to know what henna ‘is’.

Henna is a tall shrub or small tree that has been cultivated since the Bronze Age to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather, silk and wool. Records circa 400 CE from India, Rome and Spain show henna’s use as a hair dye, and it was listed in Syrian and Egyptian texts as a medicinal herb as well as a dye and preservative for leather and cloth..

Today, it is widely cultivated and used throughout North Africa, India, the Pacific Islands, and via immigratory use, parts of Australia, the UK and much of the United States. To this end, henna has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity due to advancements in cultivation and processing as well as exposure to a broader range of peoples and cultures as immigrants from traditional henna-producing regions move to other areas.

Skin Deep

Linguistically and culturally, henna had many different words and names for it, imparted from a number of languaes. This indicates that it was discovered and put to use in many areas around the world, and at different times. Despite its diverse origins, the method of preperation didn’t differ all that much when it came to applying i to skin. A paste of ground henna (prepared from either a dried powder or fresh ground leaves) would be placed against the skin from a few hours to overnight. The depth and quality of the inking could last from a few days to a month, depending on the person’s skin type, the quality of the paste, and duration of use.

Today, people (typically women, though men are embracing the art form as well), especially in Western cultures, use henna as a more temporary (and less painful) means of adorning their bodies merely for the pure joy of doing so. They do it without necessarily attaching a specific significance to the henna or to the application of it to the skin. In days long past, henna was used widely in fertility rites, marriage ceremonies, and myriad social events as well. With the exquisite, intricate patterning, and varied coloration available, there was, and is, no end to how one can beautiful themselves with this delightful and versatile plant.