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Woman's sleeveless dress

1850/1899

British Museum

British Museum

This woman's dress was made by one of the Karen people from the hills of east central Burma. Clothing traditions are one of many ways in which we can identify the ethnic groups and sub-groups in the hills of Burma and in neighbouring Thailand. However, styles and patterns are often adapted according, for example, to social status. The white decorations on this dress are made with the hard seeds of a leafy grass known as 'Job's tears' (Coix lacryma-jobi), which are used to decorate a variety of clothing. The dress also has appliqué decoration and red silk embroidery. The cut of the garment is extremely simple, with two narrow strips of indigo-dyed cotton sewn together, with a gap left in the seams for the arms and a further hole for the neck. The dress came to The British Museum after the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. At the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century various countries and colonial governments held large international exhibitions where they displayed the variety of cultures represented in the territories that they administered. This dress was displayed in the British India section at the Paris Exhibition.

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  • Title: Woman's sleeveless dress
  • Date Created: 1850/1899
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 78.00cm; Width: 73.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: woven; embroidered; appliqu
  • Registration number: As1901,0318.16
  • Production place: Made in Burma
  • Place: Found/Acquired Bago Region
  • Peoples: Made by Karen
  • Material: cotton; coix seed
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Indian Section Paris Exhibition 1900 Committee

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