Traditional clothing, and attitudes towards it, can provide us with clues about the history, geography and heritage of a nation. In some parts of the world, national dress is an unofficial uniform, to be worn only on ceremonial occasions, but in some nations, traditional clothing is compulsory. What can we learn about a nation from its costume? What is the story behind it? What are people’s attitudes towards it and how accurately (or otherwise) does it represent the nation’s people? What messages do the national costumes you have studied seek to convey about a nation to its people and the wider world?
Use some of the following sources, and carry out your own research, to find out more about different interpretations of your own nation’s traditional costume and the folk costumes of the other nations you have chosen to study. As you explore, think about how accurate you consider these interpretations of your own nation’s costume to be, and whether, therefore, how accurate you might consider them to be in presenting those of other nations.
- The Culture-ist – 31 Traditional Forms of Dress from Around the World
- Rough Guides – In pictures: traditional dress around the world
- LovetoKnow – National Costumes of the world gallery
- Traveling Pari – Traditional Dresses Around The World
- Shutterstock – National costume images
Consider these questions:
- Does your nation have a national dress? Why do you think this is?
- If it does, did you know what it was before you looked it up? Have you ever seen it worn?
- If not, is there a distinctive, traditional way in which people dress in for important occasions?
- What, if anything, does the national dress of each of the nations you are studying tell you about the history of that nation, it’s geography, people, and their traditional professions?
- What messages about the nation do you think the national dress aims to convey?
- Do those messages fit with how you view the nation?
Capture some thoughts:
Save an image of your national costume (ready for the summary activity at the end of this section) and make some notes about the costumes of each of the countries you are studying on the Symbols of National Identity worksheet.