Eicher, J.B. and B. Sumberg. 1995. “World Fashion, Ethnic, and National Dress.”

Eicher, Joanne B. and Barbara Sumberg. 1995. “World Fashion, Ethnic, and National Dress.” Pp. 295-306 in Dress and Ethnicity: Change Across Space and Time, edited by Joanne B. Eicher. Washington D.C.: Berg.

The concepts of “ethnic dress” and cosmopolitan (frequently perceived as urbane, European, “cultured/worldly”) are highly interconnected and in ways, mutually dependent: “Factors encouraging rapid change in the dress of many people, including the adoption of non-indigenous items, occur along with factors encouraging continued adherence to indigenous forms and styles of dress.  Awareness of group affiliation and the power of identification with a group can mobilize actions and emotions of group members in order to identify with a group through dress” (296).

de Vos and Romanucci-Ross (1982): ethnicity occurring at four levels of analysis:

  • “a social structural level; […]”
  • “a pattern of social interaction; […]”
  • “a subjective experience of identity; and, […]
  • “expressed in relatively fixed patterns of behavior and expressive emotional style” (xi, here 296) – including materials of dress, and the meanings attached to them.

**** ethnic identity as “a past-oriented form of identity, embedded in the cultural heritage of the individual or the group [… that] contrasts with a sense of belonging linked with citizenship within a political state , or present-oriented affiliations to specific groups demanding professional, occupational or class loyalties” (de Vos and Romanucci-Ross 1982: 363).

“In a world of shifting identities, dress often indicates an aspect of identity, for both group exclusion and inclusion are made apparent through the processes of modifying and supplementing the body” (297 – 298).

  • Ethnic dress is not always national dress, as multiple ethnicities may reside within one nation’s borders.

Roach-Higgins (1981): clothing, dress, and fashion are not synonymous, despite many scholars frequent interchange of them.

  • Clothing is not dress, as clothing “ignores body modifications as a part of dress” (299) – i.e. tattoos and piercings
  • Fashion is not dress, as “fashion can be found in many arenas of life, not just in clothing and body adornment” (299) – i.e. what’s in vogue (kx^ say, the hottest furniture at IKEA this season)
  • Clothing is not fashion, “because not all clothing is fashionable dress” (299) – implying that fashion has something to do with cultural desirability, esteem, etc.


World dress perceived as a homogenizing (possibly unifying force); ethnic dress promotes articulates heterogeneity – as “the opposite of world fashion [… it] is worn by members of one group to distinguish themselves from members of another by focusing on differentiation. Ethnic dress visually separates one group from another […]” (300).

kx^ – but what happens when “ethnic dress” – items traditionally worn to establish difference are absorbed into the repertoire of “world fashion,” and thus promote homogeneity, urbanity, and cosmopolitanism?


de Vos, G. and L. Romanucci-Ross, (eds.) 1981. Ethnic Identity: Cultural Continuities and Change. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Roach-Higgins, M.E. 1981. “Fashion.” In Perspectives of Fashion, edited by G. Sproles. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing Company.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: