United States of America
It is difficult to define traditional American clothing, as its fashion has been exported around the world. Some essential items of traditional American clothing include the iconic blue jeans, the t-shirt, and the baseball and cowboy hats (the latter is especially representative of Texas).
There are many varieties of traditional Mexican clothing, depending on ethnic group, gender, and social status. Traditionally, women wore a skirt called the “huipil” (a richly embroidered cotton blouse) and a “rebozo” (a long scarf covering the head and shoulders). Men’s clothing was very European-inspired. Items consisting of trousers and shirts, and also the more traditional “sarape” (a blanket-like shawl often of brightly colored wool). During the Carnival, men wear the “Charro” outfit (referring to a traditional horseman, see image), which consists of the iconic sombrero.
From region to region, traditional Brazilian clothing varies a lot.
During Carnival, women wear bright bikinis with feathered and jeweled adornments.
In the southern plain region of Brazil, the gauchos wear bombachas (baggy trousers), ponchos, straw hats, and leather boots. The vaqueiros in the Northeast region wear a coat, hat, and leather chaps.
In the Amazon, native Amerindians wear tunics and paint their faces, accompanied with beads around their necks.
Many Ethiopians have adopted the European-clothing style. Traditionally, however, Ethiopians wear clothes made of woven cotton. Men wear gabbi (handmade cloth worn over the shoulders and upper body), and women often wear kemis (tunic, dress, which is the traditional attire of Habesha women, and netela (handmade cloth used to cover the head)with colored embroidered woven crosses. Some ethnic groups wear their own type of traditional clothing; certain tribes, for instance, cover parts of their bodies with leather, while others do not wear any clothes, but paint and decorate their bodies.
The Igbo women of Nigeria traditionally wear wraps. Igbo men generally wear cotton wrappers, shirts, and sandals. The Yoruba people are renowned for their exquisite clothing, which symbolizes social status and wealth. Yoruba women wear Gele, a traditional cloth which they wrap around their heads. Agbada is a robe that men often wear over their clothes during formal events. A buba, which can be worn by both men and women is a loose blouse with long sleeves. Iros are long wrap-around skirts, and sokotos are loose trousers. Hausa-Fulani men wear a babban riga, which is equivalent to the agbada. They also wear a round cap called a fula, and women wear colorful wrappers called abaya. Western-style clothing is also very popular in Nigeria.
The traditional cloth of Ghana is the Kente, a very colourful fabric, entirely hand-woven by Ghanaian weavers. It is a mix of cotton and silk, and every design has a unique meaning. The Kente is worn for special occasions. Traditionally, women wear a long skirt with a bright short sleeved top, with bold patterns. They also wear long dresses and head wraps. Men usually wear a long smock over pants, which may be striped or have some traditional symbols. Many people nonetheless wear Western-style clothes.
Iranian traditional clothing is a product of its Persian heritage. Men would traditionally wear a wide belt known as kamarband or cummerbund. They would also have headdresses, known as the sarband.
Traditionally, Iranian women wore trousers and a blouse, called a Pirahan, along with jackets and other over-garments. These jackets were generally decorated with heavy brocades and embroidery. Today, Iranian men have a dress-code that is very close to Western outfits, including short-sleeved shirts and t-shirts.
Iranian women would also wear a large variety of jewelry. Following the revolution of 1979, Iranian women were obliged by law to wear loosedresses and a head-covering. As such, scarves and veils have become a part of traditional clothing for women; head scarves are calledroo-sari. They also wear a roo-poosh, which is a knee-length coat, along with a long dress or pants.
Dhoti worn with a kurta is the traditional Indian clothing for men. Dhoti is a piece of cloth that is tied around the waist and legs. The kurta is a long loose shirt that falls below or just above the knees. Men also wear sherwani, which is a long coat that is buttoned up to the collar, and falls below the knee. Turbans are headdresses that carry a lot of significance for Indians.
Women traditionally wear salwar kameez, which is commonly referred to as Punjabi suit. Sari (see image) is also one of the beautiful dresses traditionally worn by women in India.
Western clothes are, however, very common in India.
As in each country, there are various types of traditional Chinese clothing. Traditional Han Chinese clothing (which became known as the Han Fu) refers to the clothing that the Han people used to wear. It consists of long gowns with a cross collar, wrapping the right layer over the left, no buttons, and loose wide sleeves.
The Chinese Suit (Tang Xhuang, see image) is usually straight collared, with coiled buttons, and is tailored in a Western manner but features chinese colors and designs.
The Chinese Tunic Suit (Zhongshan Zhuang), which is also called theYat-sen Suit, has a turn-down collar and four pockets with flaps. Westerners call it the Mao suit, as Mao Zedong wore it quite frequently. It is still worn today by Chinese leaders.
Western clothes are often used as daily, casual attire.
Women’s traditional dresses include dvuprestilchena, a costume with two aprons, sukmanena, a type of gown, sayana, a dress with a slash in the front, and ednoprestilchena, a single-apron costume. All of these dresses are embellished with bright embroidery.
Men traditionally wear “white” and “black” costumes. The “white” one consists of a chemise, gashti (an inner pair of trousers), benevretsi (trousers with tight-fitting legs), dimii (tight or looser breeches, pants), poyas (wide girdle), belt and white top clothes. These clothes are embroidered and have gaytani (colored woolen braids) on the bosom, the chest, the sleeves, and the legs. These traditional outfits are generally worn during festivals and carnivals, to celebrate the nation.
Traditional Spanish clothing is a fascinating mixture of Roman, Spanish, Arab, Berber and Latin influences. The mantilla is a traditional headscarf made of lace, which covers the head and shoulders. Traditional clothing also includes the gilet, a sleeveless jacket which can go down to the knees and is generally straight-sided.
The traje de flamenca is the dress worn by female flamenco dancers. It is a long dress with ruffles in the skirt and in the sleeves, and is generally brightly colored.
Men would traditionally wear high waist trousers with a short jacket (traje corto), linked together by a wide colored scarf on the waist. They also frequently wore hats.
Spanish bullfighters are renowned for wearing well-fitting, beautifully ornamented costumes. The costume includes a silk jacket, which has extremely detailed gold embroidery, knee length tight pants, white or brightly colored stockings, a montera (a black bicorne hat) and black shoes.
Traditional Swedish clothing generally consists of folk garments. In 1903, Marta Palme designed and promoted a Swedish national folkdress (Folkdräkt, see image) as a way to unite people around national pride. It only became the official national folk dress after Quen Silvia wore it in 1983. It is blue and yellow, like the Swedish flag. The dress consists of an apron (forklade), a neck scarf (sjan) with a variety of designs, a head covering (huvudbonad) and a waist bag (kjolvaska), worn outside the skirt or pants.
Each French region has its own traditional clothing, and they are very different from one region to another. Traditional French clothing is today seen as part of folklore and is only worn during cultural celebrations.
The iconic striped Breton shirt was originally introduced for the French navy, but became a common fashion garment, particularly among the working class, in the early 20th century. The beret was a common headdress in France made with rain-resistant wool fabric. It gained popularity in the 19th century when it was included in the soldier’s uniform. The faluche is a traditional black beret adorned with bright ribbons and badges worn by French students. The badges on the faluche recall the life of the student. Today, the tradition lives on!
While traditional Russian clothes varied from region to region and depending on social status, they often took the form of a cape. Women wore headdresses called kokoshniki, sarafan dresses with embroidery in brocade and silk, and both men and women wore fine linen rubashkashirts. Men also wore kosovorotki (see image), which are long sleeved shirts that reach down to the mid-thigh and only have buttons at the collar. The collar and sleeves were often decorated with traditional slavic patterns. Detail was extremely important, and waist-belts completed most outfits. Today, these clothes are worn during cultural celebrations.
The colonial bush experience shaped Australian dress with a preference for strong cotton drill or khaki pants, worsted wool coats, oilskin coats, rabbit-fur felt hats and elastic-sided work or riding boots. Brightly-colored print shirts inspired by the Pacific Islands have also made it into traditional Australian clothing. The beach experience in Australia has led to surf board shorts, singlets, colorful shirts and flip-flops to integrate Australian national dress code.
Local Aborigines, Australia’s indigenous peoples, traditionally wore little clothing. They often had a vast selection of jewelry and accessories, from necklaces, to hair combs and headbands, to waistbands and belts, headdresses and masks. They usually wore clothes that reflected the elements of the landscape. In more rainforest-like areas cloth was beaten from the tree fibre, while in other areas, people used kangaroo skin as clothing.
Papua New Guinea
Each province of Papua New Guinea has its own traditional dress. Most traditional headdresses are made from the feathers of the bird of paradise, which is a main symbol of Papua New Guinea (it figures on the national flag). Traditional grass skirts are made from the bark of trees. When working indoors or in gardens, Papua New Guineans usually wear a simple apron, sometimes with a bark belt, and do not cover their heads. Face painting is a very popular tradition in Papua New Guinea. The patterns and colors are often remembered as the names of animals and plants. Additionally, men in the Iatmul area often have crocodile patterning on their skin made by scarification.
Nowadays, however, many Papua New Guineans wear European and western-style clothes.
(The image represents a woman from the Selehoto Alunumuno tribe in traditional attire)
Traditional clothing is highly representative of a country’s history, climate, customs and the diverse ethnic groups who inhabit them. As such, each country has various traditional clothing, some of which are specific to certain regions. Moreover, many traditional clothes across the world are no longer worn on a daily basis; they are mainly used during festivals as national symbols. Western-style clothing has indeed become the predominant style of casual dress across countries.