Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion Cover Image

Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion

Global Perspectives


Joanne B. Eicher and Phyllis G. Tortora (eds)

Berg Fashion Library

Table of contents

Preface to Global Perspectives

Encyclopedia entry

Pages: xv–xvi

In the twenty-first century, many people across the world wear jeans and T-shirts, and many others wear variations of the hijab (Muslim women’s head covering). Readers of the Encyclopedia no doubt recognize that similar fashions in dress are not confined to large metropolitan and Western cities but are common in smaller cities as well, often found even in villages in remote locations and on every continent. The articles in this volume, in contrast to the focused geographic theme of the first nine volumes, cut across the globe, providing a perspective on dress and fashion pushing beyond specific geographic boundaries. Newspapers, magazines, and books, along with films, television, and the Internet, highlight fashion, makeup, diet, and plastic surgery, underscoring a wide interest and involvement in the daily task of getting dressed. Human beings everywhere understand cultural prescriptions for these tasks, whether garbed in few garments or many, always shadowed by a normative imprint of standards for hygiene, attire, and adornment.

This volume evolved during the initial meeting in September 2004 in New York City for organizing the complete encyclopedia project, convened by Sylvia K. Miller, originator of and consultant to the project, with Joanne B. Eicher, editor in chief (also coeditor for Africa and editor of volume 10), and three other volume editors who were available: Jasleen Dhamija, Phyllis Tortora, and John Vollmer. After deciding how to divide the world geographically into nine volumes and projecting topics for them, the group brainstormed about the focus for volume 10, coming up with a beginning list of ideas for transglobal examples. Eicher shared their brainstorming results later at a meeting at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London with two more volume editors, Lise Skov and Djurdja Bartlett, along with Kathryn Earle, Managing Director, Berg Publishers, and Sarah Waldram, Encyclopedia Project Manager. At that time, some topics proposed by Skov and Bartlett, such as research methodologies and recent textile technologies, emerged and were designated as more strategically suited for volume 10, freeing editors to choose other topics for each volume. Doran Ross, Margot Schevill, and Margaret Maynard shared suggestions for volume 10 by email. All agreed that ideas should relate to broad, general perspectives, with primarily cross-cultural and global examples, such as an article on beads as dress that transcends geographic place, both historically and contemporaneously.

Assessment of the preliminary list made at the first meeting resulted in the identification of topics focused on dress expressing personal and social identity in the context of home, work, religion, and special occasions. Globalization as a phenomenon and buzzword permeates much scholarly work on dress and fashion, making such a section obviously needed. Some volume editors warned that globalization should not be viewed as “everyone dresses alike” and suggested that a snapshot or two should illustrate local interpretations. In addition, editors were keen that dress as an art form and as a subject within the arts be highlighted as culturally significant across the globe. Authors were sought for these areas, including one topic rarely considered: the widespread use of floral forms in fashions in dress.

Technological change is happening so swiftly in all parts of life in the twenty-first century that attention to such changes in dress and fashion had to be prominent. Scholars were sought to write on wearable technology, intelligent textiles, developments in dress relating to the environment, public concerns heralding a “green” future, and fashion for avatars in a virtual world. A proposed single article on museums was divided into four to deal with various museum functions, acknowledging that museums relating to dress and fashion exist across the world and are not confined to the West. A decision was made to seek an article on global educational opportunities as well.

The structure of this volume, as the last to be organized, continued to evolve as the other nine volumes progressed and Phyllis Tortora joined as assistant editor. Also, after the topic of nudity in relationship to dress arose in an article destined for the Africa volume, the decision was made to acknowledge that the topic should not be confined to a single geographic area. Consequently, an article providing a range of perspectives regarding the propriety and appropriateness of dressed and undressed bodies in various spaces and places was specially commissioned. Nearing the end of submission of all articles, one on perfumed garments through time and space also became available.

A controversial idea that arose in the initial meeting was to attempt organizing a timeline on dress and fashion to present a variety of worldwide historical examples. The challenge in crafting such a timeline has been to represent the world adequately beyond Europe and the Americas, because the world beyond the Western purview often has knowledge embedded in oral history and not as written documentation. Such a timeline has been included as a supplement to help readers recognize the historical depth and geographic reach of many items of dress and related technologies, beginning with the use of handheld items related to protection and sustenance, along with ways of adorning and covering the body.

The organization of volume 10 with 42 articles, 228,000 words, over 40 illustrations, and 35 different contributors follows the pattern of the other volumes, with an emphasis on the period from the nineteenth to the early twenty-first century, foreshadowed by earlier history elaborated in articles where appropriate. The articles share space with an analytical, cumulative index compiled from the other nine geographic volumes and an alphabetical list of contributors and their affiliations. This volume invites readers to learn that scholars from many different disciplines have devoted research and writing to the significance of the dressed body across the world as important for understanding human behavior.

The articles commissioned for this volume were selected to represent issues related to global perspectives that were thought to be of most interest to most readers, but further articles may be added to the online Berg Fashion Library site to supplement and update global developments in the fashion world. Such articles can deal with elements of dress (such as buttons or other fasteners), specific textiles (such as paisley or tartan), or examples of types of garments and accessories (like corsets, suits, parkas, or umbrellas). Other topics might include removal of tattoos, hair transplants, and growing hair long to be cut later for use by cancer patients or the commercial production of wigs. Still others can include snapshots on garments or styles named for specific people or specific places, such as the Mackintosh raincoat (named after a Scottish chemist), the Mao suit (named after Mao Zedong), and the Dorothy Hamill haircut (named after the U.S. 1970s ice-skating star).

Many thanks go to those who helped in the process of developing this volume, beginning with the New York City participants and the rest of the volume editors. Support staff at Berg are also especially to be commended. Special thanks go to Sylvia Miller as inspired encyclopedia originator and consultant and also to Kathryn Earle, Managing Director, with her unflinching faith.

Joanne B. Eicher