Historical Girls' Clothing: Countries--Asia

Indian girls dresses 1930s
Figure 1.--This is a studio portrait from a glass plate negative. It was taken in India durig the 1930s, but we have no further information. we at first though it showed siblings, but we now think it was a young mother with her child. She is wearing what would have been her best sari along with her jewelery. It suggests she was part of India's emerging middle class. She has the tilaka on her forehead. The child was dressed up only with laces. For middle class babies and toddlers it was not uncommon to go unclothed.

In the world of fashion, surely the most fascinating womens clothes come from Asia. And of course for a Westerner, they are the most exotic costumes we note. Of course Asia is a huge, diverse continent with many styles. Unlike Europe, there is not the same detiled artistic tradition of painted depictions. So we know less about historic eras. And the photographic record is not nearly as extensive as itis for the west. Many of these styles have disappeared. some are rather like folk costuming in the west, worn only for special occassions. In other countries they are still everyday dress. We do not note special styles for children. Girls wore small editions of their mothers' outfits. Today girls in many countries are more likely to wer Western styles, especially for school. Some of the most important styles come from China, India, Japan, and Korea. Thereare also many fascinating styles in Southeast Asia. Of course in large countries like China and India there are many regional differences. In addition to the bright colors and beautiful styles in much of Asia, we also notice drab cover everything approached in many Muslim countries. At this time we have just begun our assessment nd would inteested in reader input.



The classic Indian garment for omen and girls is the sari which we see here (figure 1).


Japan since the 16th century was one of the most isolated countries in the world. Shogun Hideyoshi and the succeeding Tokugawa Shogunate repressed Christianity and other Western influences which was seen as disrupting Japan's traditional society. The role of women among Christian families was one of many European cultural issues that offended Japanese tradituionsl society. Christians were hunted down and killed. Commonly they were crucified. The 26 martyrs of Japan were tortured and crucified on crosses outside Nagasaki to supress Christianity (1597). Trade with Europeans were severely limited. Thus Japan into the modern had a basically medieval traditioinal society entered to modern era with women at the bottom of the social structure, totally subservent to men. This was not always the case. Historians a diiferent societal role of women in ancient Japan, a matriarchal antiquity. An important factor in the change that occurred was the two major religions of Japan, Shintoism and Buddhism. The place of women evolved to one acquiescent confinement. This was the situation at the time of the Meiji Restoration (1868). The role of women changed very gradually and primarily because Japan began to build a modern education system whivch included girls. Boys dominated secondary and university education, but fr the first time girls were being educated bd exposed to ideas outside the household. Still Japanese siocirty relegated girls and women to hiusehold and maternal duties anbd caring for their husbands. Only with World War II, however, did Japanese women take the next big step. As the War went against Jaopan girls and unmmarried young women were mobilized for factory work. And with the Japanese surrender and the coming of the Americans The Government were recognized as having equal legal rights to men. Economic and social cinditions were a different matter and changed more slowly. And are still evolving. A scandal just emered on how female students were discriminated gainst in medical school entrances (2018). There is visual evidence of Japans evolving society. After the Meiji Restoration you begin to see men and boys wearing Western dress. This is especially the case for boys in schools as school uniformswere adopted with Western styles. We see girls and women clininging to traditional dress and not jusr whn dressing up for formal occassions, but for everyday wear. We see sountless family portraiy=its until after Wiorkd War II with the boys and men wearing Western styles and the girls and women wearing traditional srtles. This varies from family to family, but is very pronounced in the photigraohic record.


Korea has been one of the most isolated countries in the world and Communist North Korea still is. Situated between China and Japan, the country has been conquered by both, but mananaged to preserve its independence and became known as the Hermit Kingdom, reflectings its desire to remain inndependnt of both its neighbors. Like both China and Japan girls and women wore colorful traditionalal garments. The basic traditional garment Hanbok (South Korea), known as the Joseon-ot in North Korea). The Hanbok is done in silk with vibrant colors and follows simple lines without any pockets. Hanbok translates as 'Korean clothing' and is the sty;es of the Joseon/Chosŏn dynasty. This was a long-lasting Korean kingdom (14th-19th centuries). Today the Hanbok is worn as formal clothing during traditional festivals and important family celebrations. Korea over its long history had a kind of dual clothing tradition rather similar to European monarcial traditions. The rulers and aristocracy adopted a variety of mixed foreign-influenced but indigenous styles. Commoners preserved a distinct style of indigenous clothing, today known as hanbok. What the commonors role were, however, not the expensive silk and colored hanbok garments of modern Korea. The photographic record shows both men and women wearing inexpensive white garmebts for eceryday wear. Japan firt intricuced Western garments to Japan during the colonial period, primarily school uniforms for children (1909-45). Since World War II Koreans have adopted Western fashion. This process began slowly, but accelerated as South Korea adopted capitalist economic policies and became one of the Asian Tigers (1970s). The afflience of South Korea have made them Korean women anomg the most fashopn concious in Asia. South Korean women and girls want to use fashion to express their individuality. Just the opposite is the case in North Korea where the state has instituted fashions which reflect the submission of the individual to totalitarian state control. Indivisuality in North Korea actually is dangerous. The hanbok is a rare matter of North-Sputh consensus. And as much as South Koreans are into modern fashions, there is a strong nostagic attchment to the hanbok, especially for women and girls. The South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism established 'Hanbok Day' to encourage South Koreans to wear hanbok (1996).


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Created: 4:02 AM 10/3/2015
Last updated: 8:53 AM 12/11/2018