Objects That Matter

Şalvar

Şalvar are baggy trousers that formed part of the dress of the Turks who came to Anatolia in the eleventh century C.E. and continue to be worn today.

Adire

Adire

Adire is a type of textile originating among the Yoruba indigenous people from the Southwestern states in Nigeria. In Yoruba, the word Adire translates as (adi) “to tie” and (re) “to dye.”

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.

Bindi

Bindi

The bindi is a colored dot worn on the center of the forehead. Made from vermillion powder and sindoor, people of South Asian descent wear the bindi to signify their marriage status or as a cultural symbol.

Black-and-white photo of a Peruvian countryman wearing a striped mantle, a knit hat, and carrying a ch'uspa
Ch’uspa

Ch’uspa

A ch’uspa (in Quechua) or huallqepo (in Aymara) is a bag used in the Andes to carry dried coca leaves since at least the beginning of the first millennium CE.

Sikh man with purple dastaar (sikh turban wearing leather jacket and purple shirt.
Dastaar

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.

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.

Hanbok, a traditional Korean dress with purple skirt and multicolored sleeves and top
Hanbok

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.

Huipil

Huipil

The huipil is a blouse-like garment worn by women in Mesoamerica since at least 2,000 years ago. The name huipil derives from the Nahuatl word “huipilli,” used by the Aztecs to denote this garment.

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.

Kiondo

Kiondo

The Kiondo is traditionally a round, striped, woven sisal and leather strapped basket, made and used by Agikuyu women from central Kenya, to carry out daily domestic tasks.

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.

Qipao

Qipao

For the past one hundred years, the qipao has been one of the most recognized garments associated with Chinese culture. In Mandarin Chinese, “qipao” translates to the “gowns of the banner people.”

Launay, Marie de, and Osman Hamdi Bey, Sébah, Pascal, photographer. Studio portrait of models wearing traditional clothing from the province of Hudavindiguar, Hüdavendigar, Ottoman Empire. Turkey Bursa, 1873.
Şalvar

Şalvar

Şalvar are baggy trousers that formed part of the dress of the Turks who came to Anatolia in the eleventh century C.E. and continue to be worn today.

Chopra, Prem Shil. Prem Lata Chopra in Agra. Photograph. Agra, India, 1960. Prem Lata Chopra sitting in front of the Taj Mahal in a sari.
Sari

Sari

The traditional dress of South Asian women, the Sari consists of six to nine yards of fabric carefully draped around the body.

Terno

Terno

The terno is the national dress of the Philippines. It evolved from the Maria Clara or Traje de Mestiza dress, which originated from the Baro’t Saya. The terno is identified by its butterfly sleeves— flat, oversized high-peaked sleeves that...

Tignon

Tignon

The tignon is an 18th century headdress with origins in Louisiana, the Spanish Colonial Gulf, the Caribbean, and West Africa. It is a kerchief that both free and enslaved women of African descent were mandated to wear in the colonies of...