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Appropriation or Appreciation: Clothes of Other Cultures

Since the traditions and customs of each country have their peculiarities, residents of different countries have various attitudes towards the choice of clothing. While in some states, a woman in trousers looks quite natural, in other countries, she can shock citizens. However, there are certain conditions under which people of one culture wear clothes of another, for instance, business meetings with representatives of other states, moving to another area, fashion shows, star appearances, and festivals.

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Sometimes, when people want to impress and achieve the signing of an international treaty, they wear some elements of the national dress of other countries for business meetings. Some presidents do the same during a visit to another state. For example, during the APEC summit, it is customary for a joint ceremony to wear elements of the country’s national dress in which the summit is being held. In 2017, the meeting was in Vietnam, and the presidents put on traditional Vietnamese blue shirts (Estepa, 2017). It seems pretty logical to put on the clothing of another culture to show respect to other states.

When people move to another place, they are forced to adapt to it and its peculiarities. A new area of residence changes people, and their clothes change with them. Obviously, it would be wrong to claim that all people, who move somewhere, immediately start wearing new national garments. However, several countries have strict restrictions on clothing for both tourists and residents. For instance, it is forbidden in Iran to wear a tie and jeans; in the Netherlands, they avoid the orange color in clothing (Fashion taboos, 2020). Therefore, it is necessary to consider the fashion prohibitions that exist in different countries.

Nowadays, many designers create new collections and various shows using elements of clothing from other cultures. A lot of stars also appear in public, wearing national costumes of other countries to attract attention. For instance, Khloe Kardashian wore a niqab, and Rihanna appeared in a Chinese dress (Soh, 2018). Various talented American models on catwalks and photoshoots often act as Indian, Japanese, or Chinese women. Thus, the national clothes of the majority of countries are widely used in the fashion world, which contributes to the establishment of different cultures in the modern world.

It should be understood that if a person puts on the national outfit of another country, especially to make a profit, for example, as part of brand promotion, some people may regard it as appropriation. Appropriation refers to the situation when members of one culture utilize elements of another. Mark Jacobs, who had decided to create a performance in which he involved white models with dreadlocks, was heavily criticized and accused of appropriating the assets of a foreign culture (Soh, 2018). However, he and other famous designers claim that “design is a mish-mash of different styles and ideas,” and they do not “deliberately go out to rip off cultures” (Soh, 2018, para. 11-12). Dr. Delice says cultural appropriation only “happens when there are power inequalities between different cultures” (as cited in Soh, 2018, para. 26). Thus, it would be wrong to accuse the designers of theft.

Although people are firmly attached to their traditions, sometimes, they wear national costumes of other countries. They often do it to show respect to representatives of different cultures or draw attention to themselves or their brand. Now, the issue of appropriation of cultures is becoming especially popular. However, designers should not be blamed for the potential theft since they enrich the fashion of the whole world due to creating their collections.


Estepa, J. (2017). President Trump joins the tradition of wearing matching shirts at the APEC summit. USA Today. Web.

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Fashion taboos: What is forbidden in Dubai, China, Indonesia, and other countries. (2020). World Fashion Channel. Web.

Soh, S. (2018). Does fashion have a cultural appropriation problem? The BBC. Web.

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