Fashion Inspired By Folklore Cultural Studies Essay

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Folklore is a symbolic and artistic area of culture, with includes traditional beliefs, art and crafts, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations. Folklore is syncretised and unconsolidated.

Term ''Folklore'' has been introduced by an English writer William Thoms in 1846. He used the term to describe the oldest components of culture, that hasn't been proved by any historic documentation. Over time the term ''folklore'' has been popularized all over the world, especially in Europe, when current glorification of Romanticism, has set peoples mind. Only in the thirties of the XX century, thanks to the distinguished scholars folkloristic has became an independent academic discipline whose subject of knowledge is folklore.

In the XX century folklore contributed to the growth of national consciousness and became the basis of ethnic identity of European nations, was also a component of political ideologies such as socialism.

Fashion has a long history of borrowing from other "exotic" or "primitive" cultures to create new looks that perfectly express the moment.


Western fashion's fascination with exoticism dates to the eighteenth century when wealthy Europeans and Americans donned Turkish-inspired ensembles for masquerade and to sit for portraits. The love of things oriental continued into the nineteenth century with the popularity of cashmere shawls, fez caps, and kimonos.

In the first decade of the twentieth century, exoticism found a new proponent-the Paris couturier Paul Poiret best known for freeing women from corsets. Inspired by the Ballets Russes, he created widely copied ensembles based on middle Eastern and Asian prototypes like ''harem'' pantalones and ''lampshade'' tunics, often shown with turbans. Soon several constituencies-intellectuals, designers, and politicians- borrowed clothing styles from rural communities to represent specific cultural ideals. Poiret's major contribution to fashion was his development of an approach to dressmaking centered on draping, a radical departure from the tailoring and pattern-making of the past.[6] Poiret was influenced by antique and regional dress, and favored clothing cut along straight lines and constructed of rectangles.[6] The structural simplicity of his clothing represented a "key moment in the emergence of modernism" generally, and "effectively established the paradigm of modern fashion.

Artists, writers, and political activists who settled in New York City's Greenwich Village after 1910 adopted peasant blouses and farmer's smocks to signify their leftist sympathies. Embroidered blouses, sold in Hungarian and Russian shops, became almost a uniform for bohemian women. The city's fashion industry picked up on these new Greenwich Village styles, featuring them in Women's Wear (predecessor of Women's Wear Daily) and leading department stores like Bonwit Teller.

Similar peasant looks appeared in Paris following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, when aristocratic Russian émigrés arrived in the city. In need of money, they began to embroider traditional peasant designs for Kitmir, a company founded by Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, daughter of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovitch. Kitmir's two major clients were Jean Patou and Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel, who produced simple tunics and waistcoats with Russian embroideries for their first postwar collections.

The trend for geometric embroideries on gauzy fabrics coincided with a period in fashion history of clothes with simple shapes and elaborate decoration. Many blouses, delicately embroidered with Slavic motifs, survive from this period in museum collections.

Folk-inspired motifs and shapes appeared in other apparel as well. Sweaters frequently took their inspiration from folk designs, such as the Fair Isle patterns popularized by the Prince of Wales in the 1920s. In the 1930s, skiwear designers looked to Scandinavian, Swiss, and Austrian models for trousers, jackets, sweaters, and caps to wear for this newly fashionable sport. The designer Elsa Schiaparelli included Austrian Tyrol looks in her collections. Peasant styles occasionally sprang from resorts frequented by the rich and famous, such as men's embroidered shirts from Mexico, or ponchos suitable for wearing as beach cover-ups or on board ship.

After World War II ended, the popularity of clothing inspired by folk dress faded. The sophisticated lines and elegant fabrics preferred by the two leading post war couturiers, Christian Dior and Christóbal Balenciaga, were the antithesis of folk looks. Peasant styles found a new home, however, among dissenters who rejected the blandness of the 1950s. Folk music aficionados wore rural-inspired ponchos and peasant shirts. Beatniks added eclectic elements from cultures around the world-Mexican shirts and huaraches, Peruvian vests, Indian sashes, and ethnic jewelry-to signal their marginal social position.

The folk and beat looks of the 1950s signified the beginnings of a rebellion against mainstream society that blossomed into the full-blown "flower power" of the later 1960s. This social transformation, fueled by the coming-of-age of the baby boomers, incorporated the antiwar movement and the new youth culture of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Hippies, as they were known, wore anti-establishment looks borrowed from India, Morocco, Mexico, and Native American communities. The hippie movement foreshadowed the ecology movement; once again the clothes of peasants seemed right for the time. In the 1970s peasant looks merged with ethnic looks, forming the immensely popular "folklore look."

Authentic folk and ethnic patterns became available to home sewers in the mid-1970s, when three California women founded Folkwear. Their first two patterns were for a Syrian dress and a Turkish coat. In the early 2000s, the company offers patterns for smocks, various peasant blouses, shirts, vests, and dirndls.

Designers inspired by street styles brought the folklore look to high fashion in the 1970s. The English designer Zandra Rhodes observed that in the late 1960s, with the Beatles in India and the Rolling Stones in Morocco, "folklore was appealing." She found the peasant embroidery and the simple shapes of ethnic clothes "infinitely pleasing" and began creating dresses with ethnic shapes for her hand-painted textiles. Before long, the Paris couture got in on the act, particularly Yves Saint Laurent. His Russian collection of 1976-1977 featured rich peasant looks with full skirts, corselet-type bodices, and short decorated jackets in luxurious fabrics trimmed with fur. This collection introduced colorful scarves, shawls, ruffled skirts, and boots to mainstream fashion.

Since the 1980s any number of designers regularly revived the folklore look. Sometimes, some of the garments are created by deformation of the original outfits. Designers are mixing historical fashion with new generation textiles and innovative technologies, so then they can please demanding costumers. In order to do so, they often research specific; shapes, silhouettes, pattern cutting, colour palettes, print and embellishment. Jennifer Craik describes this process as "bricolage"-the creation of new patterns and styles from a variety of sources, including non-Western dress. Mixing high fashion and everyday clothing is consistent with the postmodern, multicultural world that emerged in the 1980s. At the couture level, Christian Lacroix is known for incorporating peasant elements from Provence into his exotic outfits. John Galliano mixes historical and cultural influences to create innovative designs for Dior. The appropriation of themes from folklore cultures is characteristic of ready-to-wear collections from designers such as Anna Sui, Vivian Tam, Miu Miu, Arden B., and Dolce & Gabbana. Such looks are easily recognizable and move rapidly across the fashion landscape. Indeed, in the spring of 2002, the embroidered peasant blouse was featured by the fashion press as the "look of the moment," and was soon copied at all levels. Donatella Versace was photographed for the March 2002 issue of Vogue wearing jeans and an embroidered peasant blouse purchased from The Ukrainian Shop in New York City. Barely a season later the look was declared passé.