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Clothing as a Symbol of Culture

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on 28 April 2014

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Transcript of Clothing as a Symbol of Culture

Clothing as a Symbol of Culture
Western versus Eastern
Clothing Represents Cultures & Beliefs
Dress is a cultural universal in 2 different ways:

1) Socially
expression of social identity and status

2) Economically
symbolizes power, wealth, and level of success
Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions
Stephanie Tzetzo & Paisley Butski
"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening." ~Coco Chanel
1) Masculinity/Femininity
Masculine cultures consume for show while feminine cultures consume for use

2) Power Distance
High PD more likely to consume status clothing and known brands

3) Individualism/Collectivism
Individualist cultures consume for self-expression while collectivist cultures consume for acceptance

4) Uncertainty Avoidance
High UA more likely to have greater clothing consumption and maintain a well-groomed appearance
Clothing Consumption in the Czech Republic & Bulgaria

Individualism versus Collectivism Influence on Materialism & Fashion Consumption
Analysis of Personal & Social Importance of Clothing
Using Clothing to Form Social Identity
Hmong Adolescents Living in America
Researchers interviewed 28 Hmong adolescents living in America

Asked questions about how they perceive themselves and other Hmong adolescents in America

Factors for determining social identity?
Research Findings
Social identity defined by clothing style & language abilities
Disparity between dressing "like Americans" and "fobby"
English fluency = higher social status & "more American"
"Fobby" = lower social status & identity is more Hmong/less American
Americanized Hmong are seen as less connected to Hmong culture abandoned Hmong culture in favor of American culture
A cross-cultural study between 2 Eastern European nations
Bulgarians show greater emphasis on symbolism in clothing
A cross-cultural study between the US & Korea
Out of 100, the US ranked 91 while Korea ranked 18 on the individualism scale
Unexpected result that Korean participants considered clothing and possessions as more important indicators of success
Consumer culture spreads from Western to Eastern culture
Materialism expression varies between cultures
Korean consumers were more materialistic
A cross-cultural study between Australian & Italian young women
Italian self image =
fare bella figura
= "making a good impression and always looking one's best"
Clothes were ranked 3rd by Australians and 8th by Italians regarding importance of body attributes
Clothing alone does not define the concept of

bella figura

Australian women exhibited greater personal importance of clothes
What is the cultural significance?
Culture is the basis for forming individual identity
Clothing is an outward expression of culture
Walking down the street, it is fairly easily to distinguish "fobby" versus "Americanized" simply by dress and language abilities (accent, preferred language, etc.)
Individualism vs. Collectivism
Hmong = Eastern & collectivistic culture
U.S. = Western & individualistic
"Fobby" Hmong retain more of a collectivistic image
Americanized Hmong take on more of an individualistic image displayed by their clothing, language, and behavior
Group identity:
"Fobby" Hmong retain group identity
Americanized Hmong abandon group identity in favor of forming a new, American identity
Muslim Veil: Symbol for Culture and Identity
Differences Between Muslim Majority and Minority Countries
Indonesia = Muslim majority country
India = Muslim minority country
How is the hijab (veil) perceived differently by Muslim women in each of these countries?
Hijab is not merely a religious symbol
Symbol of culture, individual identity, group identity, fashion, and opposition against discrimination
Is it a woman's personal choice to wear the hijab or is it a sign of patriarchal oppression?
Evidence for both sides
Western view is that it is oppressive ironic because we use the veil in Catholicism (nuns), Orthodox Christianity, & wedding ceremonies
What did the women say?
Responses were diverse
Muslim Women from MAJORITY Country, Indonesia
Hijab is a fashion symbol
Need for belonging
Group identity
Represents modesty
Collectivistic cultures value tradition
Did NOT emphasize religious significance for wearing hijab
Muslim Women from MINORITY Country, India
Hijab strengthens their cultural identity
Minority population therefore may feel need to compensate from their lack of popular belief
Religious symbol
Symbol against discrimination
Both represent a need for group identity
Strong sense of group identity linked with collectivistic cultures
India & Indonesia = collectivistic
U.S. views hijab as oppressive because we are non-traditional & individualistic
Cultural Significance
Works Cited
Cultural Fashions. (2004). Retrieved March 5, 2014, from Oracle ThinkQuest website: http://library.thinkquest.org

Glover, C. (2013, August 12). Clothing company pulls headdresses from stores
after backlash [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.necn.com/08/12/13/

Millan, E., De Pelsmacker, P., & Wright, L. T. (2013). Clothing consumption in
two recent EU Member States: A cross-cultural study. Journal of Business
Research, 66, 975-982.

Ngyugen, J., & Brown, B. B. (2010). Making meanings, meaning identity: Hmong
adolescent perceptions and use of language and style as identity symbols.
Journal of Research on Adolescence, 20(4), 849-868. http://dx.doi.org/

Tiggemann, M., Verri, A., & Scaravaggi, S. (2005). Body dissatisfaction,
disordered eating, fashion magazines, and clothes: A cross-cultural
comparison between Australian and Italian young women. International
Journal of Psychology, 40(5), 293-302.

Wagner, W., Sen, R., Permanadeli, R., & Howarth, C. S. (2012). The veil and
Muslim women's identity: Cultural pressures and resistance to stereotyping.
Culture & Psychology, 18(4), 521-541. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/

Workman, J. E., & Lee, S.-H. (2011). Materialism, fashion consumers and gender:
a cross-cultural study. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 35,

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