Explore Traditional Clothing From Around The World

From warrior headdresses to 16th century skirts

By Google Arts & Culture

Indian women wearring sarisGianfranco Ferré Research Center, Politecnico di Milano

What we wear is more than just material sewn together to protect us, our clothes are a signifier of our identity and culture. So it’s no surprise that over the centuries, communities have used clothing as a means to communicate status, celebrate important events and show unity among many more things. Here we explore traditional clothing from around the world that’s still worn, finding out the history behind particular garments and the craft that goes into them.

Sari


The sari (often spelled ‘saree’) is a garment traditionally worn in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Though mostly worn by women in modern fashion, the sari is a unisex piece of clothing. It can be an heirloom passed down through generations, or a purely functional garment worn everyday.

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Kimono


The word ‘kimono’ means ‘a thing to wear’ and has come to denote the traditional full-length robes worn in Japan. The kimono is worn for important festivals and formal occasions and the formality of the garment has become synonymous with politeness and good manners.

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Shiro Oshima Tsumugi, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Kebaya


A kebaya is a traditional blouse-dress combination that originates from the court of the Javanese Majapahit Kingdom. It is the national costume of Indonesia but is also worn by women in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, southern Thailand, Cambodia and the southern part of the Philippines.

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Kebaya and sarong (1950s)National Heritage Board, Singapore

Hanbok

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Po, the Seonbi Spirit in Clothing(Hanbok) (2013-10-31/2013-11-20) by Jang Jung Youn Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Shúkà


Shúkà is the Maa word for sheets traditionally worn wrapped around the body by the Maasai people of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. The sheeted garments are typically red, sometimes mixed with other colors and patterns like plaid or flowers. One piece garments known as kanga, a Swahili term, are common.

This image depicts Maasai warriors arriving at a eunoto ceremony, the most demanding test a warrior traditionally had to face – the stalking and killing of a lion with only a spear to arm him. The lion’s mane headdresses are worn to the ceremony by these warriors to demonstrate their success.

Maasai Warriors Arriving at Eunoto Ceremony (1995) by Carol Beckwith & Angela FisherAfrican Ceremonies

Kilt


A kilt is a knee-length skirt-like garment with pleats at the back, originating in the traditional dress of Gaelic men and boys in the Scottish Highlands. Its first wear was recorded in the 16th century as the ‘great kilt’, and the smaller, more modern kilt emerged in the 18th century.
It’s only since the 19th century that the kilt has become associated with the wider culture of Scotland and more broadly with Gaelic heritage.

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By Hans WildLIFE Photo Collection

Agbada


The agbada is one of the names for a flowing wide-sleeved robe worn by men in West Africa and parts of North Africa. The name ‘agbada’ comes from Yoruba language but is known by various names depending on the ethnic group. The garment is usually decorated with intricate embroidery and is worn on special religious or ceremonial occasions. Many agbadas are made from aso-oke, the hand-woven cloth of the Yoruba, a major ethnic group in Nigeria. The fabric comes in various colors and patterns to reflect the individual style of the wearer.

Aso-Oke Agbada by Urban Clothing NigeriaThe Centenary Project

Bamileke Elephant Mask


Cameroon warriors who render a great service to the Bamileke King are eligible to be members of the Aka, or 'Elephant Mask' society. They dance at the funeral of the King and at twice yearly meetings wearing dramatic hats and elaborately beaded elephant masks.

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Bamileke Elephant Mask, Cameroon by Angela Fisher & Carol BeckwithAfrican Ceremonies

Huipil


A huipil is the most common traditional garment worn by indigenous women from central Mexico to Central America. A loose-fitting tunic, general made from several pieces of woven fabric, a huipil is often worn with a blue morga, a skirt with an embroidered seam to join it in the middle.

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Women of a Cofradía, Sumpango, Sacatepéquez (2013)Original Source: http://www.museoixchel.org/

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