Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion Cover Image

Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion

The United States and Canada


Phyllis G. Tortora (ed)

Berg Fashion Library

Table of contents

Preface to Central and Southwest Asia

Encyclopedia entry

Pages: xvii–xviii

This volume of the Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion encompasses the geographic region that is occupied by the United States and Canada in 2010. Dress is defined in this work, following Joanne B. Eicher and Mary Ellen Roach-Higgins, as “the assemblage of body modifications and body supplements displayed by a person and worn at the particular moment in time” (quoted from Eicher’s The Visible Self ). As used here, fashion is a strong preference shared by a large group of people for a relatively short period of time that is quickly replaced by a new preference. Fashion is an essential part of life in most of the United States and Canada in the twenty-first century. Fashion is evident not only in dress but also in other objects from the material culture and in some aspects of behavior. As expressed in the dress of West Europeans and North Americans, its major distinguishing feature is rapid change, or what some authors have called fashion racing. Many articles in this volume focus on fashionable dress. But there are also situations in which tradition mandates or subtly imposes requirements on the fashionable dress worn by individuals. Therefore, some articles will address traditional elements within dress that persist beyond or override fashion cycles.

The articles in this volume are organized to provide a smooth flow of content from one topic to another. At the same time, each article stands alone in its treatment of some specific facet of dress and/or fashion. The organization of the articles into five parts is intended to develop the material in a logical sequence, beginning with information about the region and identification of existing evidence on dress in North America that serves as the basis of knowledge about dress, past and present. Only two countries are included in this volume, and those countries have much in common. Part 1 introduces readers to the geographic and cultural region. Conflicts in current theories about how this part of North America was first reached by human inhabitants are acknowledged. Subsequent immigrations and patterns of settlement are noted where relevant, as well as the impact of geography, climate, and natural resources on dress. Fashion, which is a strong factor in the dress of both nations, can then be explored in depth in part 2. Part 3 examines influences that are not solely an outgrowth of fashion, and parts 4 and 5 examine dress as shaped by culture.

The people who populate the territory occupied by the United States and Canada in the early twenty-first century trace their ancestry to all parts of the globe, including the Americas. Terminology used to refer to indigenous people, and those non-native people arriving before, in, and after 1492, is problematic. After careful consideration of current usage in such diverse fields as archaeology, anthropology, and history, as well as preferences expressed by descendants of the people living in these countries before 1492, the editors have settled on the following vocabulary and definitions. Individual authors may, however, choose to use different terms, based on current usage in their specialized disciplines.

The origin of the name assigned to the indigenous people of North and South America, Indians, originated from the mistake made by European explorers in believing they had reached lands called India. This mistake was reinforced by the explorers’ observation that some people they encountered wore elements of dress made of cotton. A species of cotton is indigenous to South America, but the Europeans knew this fabric as a trade item from the Indian Subcontinent, where a different species of cotton grows.

In recent years, some writers have substituted the term Native American for Indian in the United States, but this usage has not been universally accepted. As the Smithsonian Institution has noted, the term Native American has not been accepted by many of the people to whom it was assigned, who continue to call themselves Indians or may prefer a tribal-language term. Canadians prefer to use the term First Nations instead of Indians. This volume will, when speaking of the Indians of the United States and Canada collectively, follow the usage in the Smithsonian Handbook of the North American Indians and use the terms North American Indians and First Nations Peoples or, sometimes, the names of tribal groups. Joe D. Horse Capture, Associate Curator, African, Oceanic, and Native American Art, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, guided us toward the selection of appropriate authors for the articles dealing with dress in the ten North American Indian/First Nations regions. His review of the table of contents and the scope of the articles in part 4 made sure these sections were as comprehensive as space limitations allowed.

When speaking of U.S. and Canadian residents who clearly identify with the countries or regions where their families originate, the name of the country of origin will be used with the word American or, sometimes, Canadian, as, for example, Asian American. The term people of color is not used because it is less specific.

Part 1 introduces readers to archaeological and other data supporting the study of dress in the United States and Canada. Articles explore the kind of research that serves as a foundation for what is known about the history of dress and current practices related to dress and fashion. The identification of important publications and museum collections in both the United States and Canada shows how knowledge in the field is shared and how and where actual artifacts of dress are being preserved and can be seen.

Part 2 examines many aspects of fashionable dress. Articles range from an exploration of the differences between traditional and fashionable dress to the history of the textile and fashion industries in the United States and Canada. They include the relationship between the body and dress. In part 3, “Demographic and Social Influences on Dress,” following a general introduction, the first two articles consider how age may impact dress. Other articles examine such diverse areas as gender, class, health, and leisure and dress, and how music, the arts, film, television, or occupations influence what people wear.

Parts 4 and 5 recognize that some traditions and practices that might be called unique exist within some identifiable groups living in the United States and Canada. Part 4 looks at aspects of the dress of North American Indians/First Nations Peoples, dividing them by region. Part 5 identifies and examines practices within other groups living in the broader societies. Some of these groups are ethnically based; others are self-identified subcultures within the broader society. Articles also explore the varied experiences with dress of the indigenous peoples, settlers, immigrants, and residents who live in the United States and Canada. It should be noted here that dress in Hawai’i is examined in this volume from the date of its annexation to the United States in 1898. Readers wishing to find articles on the earlier history of dress on this island should refer to volume 7 of this encyclopedia.

A work of this scope can be completed only with contributions from many individuals. It is not possible to acknowledge all those who provided assistance to the editor and contributors, but the contributions of some stand out. Joanne B. Eicher, editor in chief of the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, who originated the idea for this work and who tended it so carefully and ensured its survival, has been a source of inspiration. Publishing staff have responded to a blizzard of e-mails, always having the right answers and providing superb guidance for contributors and the editor.

Consulting editors have played a large and special role in this volume. Sylvia K. Miller, a consultant, was part of the project at its beginnings, taught us the ins and outs of making an encyclopedia, and was an outstanding source of ideas. Once again we recognize the contributions of Joe D. Horse Capture, Associate Curator, African, Oceanic, and Native American Art, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, in his role as a consultant for part 4 of this volume.

Several of the authors of articles in this volume should be acknowledged for special assistance they provided beyond the articles they wrote. The volume editor is from the United States, and there were a number of times when Cynthia Cooper, Curator, Costume and Textiles, McCord Museum of Canadian History, helped resolve issues such as terminology differences between Canadian and U.S. usage. She reviewed the table of contents to assure its inclusion of Canadian topics was adequate. She was also very helpful in identifying appropriate Canadian authors. We offer her our sincere appreciation. Patricia Warner, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts Amherst, who was born and raised in Canada and later lived and worked in the United States, was also helpful in providing insight into questions relating to differences between U.S. and Canadian fashion-related topics, and the balance between Canadian and U.S. material.

Early in the development of the table of contents, scholar and author Betty Kobayashi Issenman provided insight into the development of content related to North American Indians. Although other commitments prevented her from writing for the publication, her comments are much valued and appreciated.

And, finally, thanks to all of the authors who labored so diligently to make this volume comprehensive, accurate, and insightful. Their contributions are the bedrock of this work, and they deserve my sincere gratitude for a job well done.

Phyllis G. Tortora