13 Traditional Costumes from Around the World

by Deb on July 14, 2011

So what on earth, you say, am I doing writing about traditional clothing on a science blog? Apart from the fact that it’s interesting and fun to look at? Partly it’s because I have a background in the ‘softer’ sciences, such as anthropology and archaeology. They don’t have laboratory experiments, but they can still be studied in a scientific way. But also, clothes are something that even little kids are familiar with, and they can start to make links between clothes and where people live or do comparisons.

For example, if you compare

  1. Balinese


  2. Caribbean


    Bali and the Caribbean are far apart, but they are both tropical islands and developed relatively similar clothes to help cope with the weather.

  3. Sudanese


  4. Sari

    Sari from India

    Especially if you then add in these very hot countries.

  5. Mongolian


    Historically, both India and Mongolia were part of the Silk Road, which can be seen in the materials they use. And the Mongolian clothing is extremely practical for a nomadic lifestyle, where everything needs to be carried and a blizzard may blow up out of nowhere.

  6. Swedish


  7. Peru


    Both Sweden and Peru are significantly colder, plus the materials used in Peruvian clothing are unique – llama wool.

  8. Greece


  9. Ethiopia


    Ethiopia is hot but cooler than other parts of Africa because of its plateau. And it has historical ties with both Africa and the Mediterranean.

  10. Lakota


    And then there are the whole range of clothes that aren’t made from woven cloth but local materials such as leather,

  11. Inuit



  12. Papua New Guinea

    Papua New Guinea

    or at the other end of the climate scale, leaves, bones and feathers. (Did you know the semi-official name of one of the traditional New Guinean costumes is arse-grass?)

  13. Torres Strait Islands

    Torres Strait Islands

    And here we have one of my favourites, the Torres Strait Islands. The reason I like these is because they are a brilliant demonstration that culture is not static, but dynamic and living. Part of their traditional costume is a grass skirt, and in the past these were your standard pale yellow. But the colours used in their flag are symbolic – blue for the sea, green for the land, white for peace and black for the people. And it just so happens that plastic shopping bags come in these colours. I’ve seen Torres Strait Islander people dancing in skirts that are made from plastic strips rather than grass, which isn’t somehow a step backwards, but shows how they can incorporate their traditions while taking advantage of the modern world.

It’s good fun to look for pictures, then investigate how people made their clothes and guess why they made them that way.
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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

CountryDew July 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Great learning experience! I enjoyed looking at those photos.


sandy July 15, 2011 at 12:42 am

all so lovely in their own uniqueness


Mariposa July 15, 2011 at 1:55 am

I wish I have photos to share for the Philippines! 🙂

Enjoyed it…very interesting!


Deb July 15, 2011 at 9:50 am

Thanks, there were so many lovely ones it was hard to choose only 13.


shar July 15, 2011 at 2:43 am

A great post thank you. You have given me some great ideas for our International Week.


Jessi July 15, 2011 at 4:29 am

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing! Happy T13


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