Objects That Matter

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.

Ajrak

Ajrak

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.

Image of a woman in a purple Ao Dai worn over white trousers
Áo Dài

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.

Museum catalog front and back view of an Eagle Feather War Bonnet with a long trailer
Great Plains Feather Headdress

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.

a split-screen image, with a full-length cream colored kimono on the right, and a close-up of detailing on the shoulder on the left
Kimono

Kimono

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.

close-up image of 2 moccasins
Moccasins

Moccasins

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.

Image of a Vietnamese conical hat on a bed of straw
Nón Lá

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

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.