Category: Objects That Matter

The Hanbok

The hanbok (or Chosŏn-ot in North Korean) is a type of traditional Korean dress worn by all ages and genders. It came to prominence in the Joseon period (1392-1897). Initially, the hanbok was worn by Korean royalty and aristocracy as a daily costume and show of authority. Symbolism of status and rank were built into the hanbok colors, components, and characteristics.

The Dastaar

For millennia, the turban has been a cultural status symbol with various religious and ethnic affiliations. Ancient Egyptians wore turbans as a festive headpieces or symbols of royalty, and the Bible references the piousness associated with a linen turban. The turban even entered European fashion in the 1800s where women wore Regency turbans as a show of style.

French Algerian Colonial Poster

Propaganda posters distributed by the 5th Bureau of Psychological Action during the French colonial era in Algeria sought the veil, a presumed symbol of “otherness”, to be the target in a campaign of cultural erasure in Algeria.

Áo Dài

The traditional dress of Vietnam, the Áo Dài, captures the essence of Vietnamese culture and pride, embodying their ideals of beauty, modesty and grace. The Áo Dài, meaning “long dress” or “long tunic,” has evolved throughout the decades, however the earliest known versions date back to the 18th century.

Nón Lá

Vietnamese conical hats (Nón Lá) are often added as the “finishing touch” to several of the stereotypical Asian cultural costumes sold at halloween shops. Although globalization and cross-cultural dressing has brought the Vietnamese Nón Lá into daily dress practices around Asia, it is an article unique to Vietnamese traditional dress. The Nón Lá is a cultural object that embodies Vietnamese spirit and history, not an accessory to enhance racist perceptions of Asian costume.

Palestinian Keffiyeh

A cloth with complex political semiotics, the Palestinian keffiyeh (sometimes written “kufiya” or “hattah”) is a square-shaped, white cotton scarf woven with a typically black houndstooth pattern. It is primarily worn by the people of Palestine and those who stand in solidarity with the Palestinians against the illegal occupation by Israel.

Great Plains Feather Headdress

The Great Plains Indian/First Nation feathered headdress, commonly referred to as a “war bonnet,” is one of most recognizable items of indigeneity in North America due to its prevalence in mainstream media, fashion and sports. The common misconception is that all Native Americans wore war bonnets or that they were a fashionable accessory. In reality, the feathered bonnet headdress is a culturally and spiritually significant article of adornment for the tribes specifically from the Great Plains region.


The Kimono, which literally translates to “thing to wear” in English, is recognized worldwide as the national dress of Japan. It is a fashion that is often perceived as timeless and unchanging, reflecting an outsider’s judgment of Japanese values. However, this false notion denies the rich history of the Kimono which fosters identity, innovation and artistry.


Ajrak (also written Ajrakh) is a cloth that hails from the desert regions of the Indian Subcontinent. Specifically produced in Pakistan’s Sindh province and Kutch in India, this textile has been used for thousands of years to create a wide assortment of textile goods.


Moccasins have become synonymous with all Native American footwear, however this generalization fails to recognize the wide variety of shoe styles, materials and construction techniques used by different Indigenous peoples across North America.