I’ve never really been a fashionista but have always enjoyed looking at traditional costumes. I'm fascinated by regional, cultural and ethnic distinctions that give rise to incredible costumes of great beauty (and often, practicality and comfort is not a consideration). And what's interesting is that sometimes traditional costumes seem "obvious" to their land or people and others, just not. Here are some glorious traditional costumes from around the world.
Photo courtesy of Robert Tyszek
If you see a number of pictures together, you can see that the traditional costumes of countries defined by a region exhibit the same kind of features. The traditional dress of Poland as above, for example is similar to those of the neighboring Baltic States.
Some costumes have specific significance. In Russia the kokoshnik (headdress) is an important part of traditional dress (sarafan). It is worn by married women. Unmarried women wear a povyashka, which is open at the back.
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The traditional headdress of the Ordos people - an ethnic group from Inner Mongolia (around Hohhot.)
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The Hmong are one of the sub groups of the Miao ethnicity. They live in Southern China, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
The traditional Balinese dress is similar to the Indian sari but has more of a sarong feel and is usually of heavier fabric.
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So many ethnic costumes include an elaborate headdress usually containing some traditional craft work.
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And many traditional costumes are associated with dance because they were originally worn for feast days, festivals and holidays.
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The Khanty people of Western Siberia know how to dress for the cold.
Kurdish women dressed for a traditional dance.
A gorgeous Chinese wedding gown - red of course - topped by a gold phoenix crown.
The traditional dance costume of Okinawa.
The fur is needed to keep warm in the winter in the mountains.
The bright colors of the Andean Indians.
The traditional costumes of the Low Countries are pretty similar. I hope she's wearing her wooden clogs!
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Miao women adorned (well, dripping actually) in stunning
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Stunning gold thread embroidery on the kaftan-style gown is echoed in the headdress.
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Embroidery and lace are the main features of traditional
dress in Alsace-Lorraine.
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There are regional variations in the Albanian national dress due to the divisional principalities that existed from the Middle Ages. (Am really loving that they have very modern manicures!)
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Silver adorns traditional costumes all around the world.
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The Amazigh are a sub group of the Berbers, a semi-nomadic people of Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and other areas of North West Africa.
The Kalashi are a pagan tribe from Chital in North Pakistan.
Although following a similar theme, there are many variations of the traditional Norwegian wedding dress, some specific to small villages.
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The áo dai is usually a tight fitting four or five-paneled tunic, worn over a flowing skirt or very loose pants.
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As with many other countries, the traditional dress of Macedonia is an expression of folk art.
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Beads and heavy wool are a big part of the traditional dress of Greenland.
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The significance of this costume is quite incredible. The Kampa people were mostly nomadic and they had to carry their wealth around with them, so it was usually worn. And as such, the more ornaments and jewelry worn, the greater the wealth. Common materials are gold, silver, coral, amber and turquoise.
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Can you see the Spanish influence? This costume is more common to the Intramuros area of Manila which was the seat of government when Spain ruled the country.
The tall lace headdress signifies the traditional costume of Bretagne (Brittany)
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I understand that in some Swedish villages the bridal costume (an example of Folkdräkt) was so expensive that it was owned by the parish and loaned out on wedding days. This one is from Rättvik.
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The gorgeous stones on the headdresses of the Ladakhi women are naturally occurring turquoise.
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With so many islands (more than 1,400) traditional costumes around Greece are variations on a theme.
From simple white with intricate embroidery to something like a French courtesan would wear!
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The lavish outfit of a Berber bride.
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The national dress of central Eurasian countries (usually ending in stan!) have been subject to Russian and Asian influences.
Source: Panameña en Pollera.
The South American country's traditional dress is called the Pollera.
Typical dirndl skirted pinafores for the women and lederhosen for the men.
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Owned by Denmark, the islands' national costume has a definite Scandinavian influence.
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Lace is an important component in the traditional costumes of Spain.
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A colorful costume of the Sami people of Northern Scandinavia - also known as Lapps.
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Many villages in Sardinia have their own traditional costumes, usually exhibiting special handicrafts of the villagers.
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The Dard people are reclusive and there are only two villages in the Brokpa region of North India that are open to visitors.
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The traditional "China Poblana" style dress from the state of Puebla.
Like so many other countries, each region of Algeria has its version of the traditional costume.
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For Western brides, it is a matter of choice as to whether to wear a veil or not. For many cultures and peoples, it's a given. This stunning example is worn by a Yemeni Jew in Israel.
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This costume from La Alberca seems a far cry from the "usual" vision of a Spanish national dress. The heavy beading and ornamentation is more African tribal than traditional Spanish.
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The red is glorious!
So many colors in one costume. A traditional look of the Uyghur people of East and Central Asia.
Such a rich color palette.
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These gorgeous women are from Sabah, one of the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo.
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Muslims make up a significant proportion of the population of Kyrgyzstan.
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No matter how traditional and detailed your costume is, there’s nothing quite so comfy as a pair of flip flops!
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Dressing in layers for winter warmth.
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It's important that we continue to appreciate traditional costumes as it keeps some handicrafts alive.
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The style of costume indicates she is a married Ndebele woman who make their home in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.
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The minority ethnic groups of India rarely have saris as their major form of dress. These are women from Zanskar. Their costume is practical to allow them to clamber over the hills of Kashmir as they tend to their livestock.
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Grass skirts are reserved mainly to show tourists these days.
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The Welsh national costume - distinguished by the tall black hat and white apron - is generally only seen at festivals and fairs these days.
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Tongan men and women wear toga-come-sarong style dresses in traditional print - called tapa cloth.
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Cowrie shells - once a form of money in Africa - are an important part of the traditional Kikuyu costume.
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This bright costume is worn for the Mestizaje dance.
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Lace, headdresses and pinafores make up the national dress of Austria.
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This is the costume of a Taupou - a ceremonial hostess selected by a high chief of a Samoan village from the young girls of his household, elevated to a high rank, and charged with the formal reception and entertainment of visitors. They will usually perform a dance as a greeting ceremony.
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The Zulu are one of the peoples of Africa who make fabulous use of beads for their traditional clothes.
Scottish families generally have a "clan" tartan.
Red and gold is such a prevalent color combination in the traditional costumes of Asia.
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Hennaed hands, diaphanous veil, richly embellished sari, tons of bangles, exquisite jewelry - everything we'd expect from a Rajasthani woman.
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A wonderful mix of African and Spanish influences for this beauty from Salvador da Bahia.
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The women from the Afar tribe practice facial scarification which serves as a means of establishing tribal identity and a way to enhance physical beauty.
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The Bonda tribe is one of the oldest and most primitive in mainland India. There is only about 12,000 of them and their culture has changed little for more than a thousand years.
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The kimono must be one of the most recognizable national costumes but to the skilled eye there are nuances between the styles for marital status and occasion.
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The traditional dress worn by Koreans is called a hanbok.
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The stunning beadwork of the Maasai women makes up a bit part of their traditional costume.
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The headdress/adornment here is usually worn with a robe called a thawb - as seen in the next picture.
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The robe is known as a thawb.
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Seriously - can you imagine having to dress like this for work every day? Kudos!
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The Itelmen are the original settlers of the Kamchatka Peninsula which is opposite Alaska. You may therefore notice similar ethnicity to the First Nation peoples.
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And from Russian natives and First Nation people to the
Native Americans. This gorgeous dress dates back to the late19th century.
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And to end, I'm sure this is what most of us imagine when we think of the costumes of India - saris in jewel colors.
We’ve come to the end of the global fashion show. We’d love to hear from readers of their own experiences of national dress. Please tell!
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