How Clothing Reflects Cultural Norms of a People
Clothing has been revolutionized through centuries of experimentation and technological evolution. It has gone through different stages of development, evolved from mere protective covering to fashion statement, and yet remains dependent upon climate, religiom, resources, and norms. It was - and still is - an important element of a culture that helps us analyze a region’s history and people’s way of life.
Factors that Affect Choice of Clothing
Social expectations and codes of decorum determine people’s choice of clothing. We know that there are rules to follow and old traditions to respect when attending social events. While some are bold enough to go against the norm, majority chooses to go with the flow. In Scotland and Ireland, for example, people are expected to wear kilts - the traditional shirt-like, clan-specific costume that comes in plaid or checkered design - during important occasions, such as weddings and festivals. In Japan, men and women must wear the kimono to weddings and other ceremonial occasions, while in Korea, people are to dress up in robes and headdresses like royalty when they get married.
Foreign concepts also affect people’s clothing preference. One practice that gained popularity is the use of white dresses for weddings and long evening gowns for fomal events, which replaced the use of traditional costumes in some coutries, or was combined with the customary in others. In Great Britain, for example, ladies wear hats to complement their satin gowns and business suits, not just the frilly dresses. In the Philippines, men and women redesigned the traditional Barong Tagalog and baro’t saya to include some elements of Western fashion, like bold color and asymmetrical cuts.
Religious beliefs and climate consideration likewise determine the type of clothing people use. In Arab countries, people continue to wear long cotton dresses despite the heat because these keep them safe from dehydration. In India, people still wrap light fabric around their bodies to create different styles of garments, a practice rooted in tradition inherited from the earliest known Indian civilization. In Mexico and Brazil, meanwhile, people live up to the image of gaiety associated with their region by wearing colorful sombreros (big hats) that protect them from the sun, and leather sandals and baggy pants that keep them cool.
The “in” Thing
With the proliferation of subcultures created by media platforms, and the popularity of media personalities, new styles have come and gone as quickly as the soar to fame of this generation’s idols. Hitherto unual sights are increasingly becoming common, reflecting the youth’s sense of adventurism. It is now all right for males to use black leather garments despite the summer heat; for females to wear skimpy dresses despite the biting cold; and for everyone to exaggerate with fashion accessories.
Globalization has indeed led to the intermarriage of many customs and traditions, resulting in the formation of new norms, and the gradual phasing out of the old. While some regions are slow to adapt, many countries are incorporating elements from other cultures to enrich their own. What remains to be seen is the extent to which people are willing to let go of the customary and the traditional, in order to assert modernity and individualism.