Asian & Asian American Studies

Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


The Politics of Dress

in Asia and the Americas

In the series
Asian & Asian American Studies

Mina Roces teaches in the School of History, at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia. She is author of Women Power and Kinship Politics: Female Power in Post-War Philippines.

Louise Edwards is Professor of China Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. She has published widely in the field of women in China. Together with Mina Roces, she has previously edited two influential books on women in Asia.

This book examines how the politics of dress has been incorporated in constructions of nationhood in both Asia and the Americas, and reveals how politicians and political regimes (including tribal, revolutionary, authoritarian, colonial, and democratic) manipulate sumptuary practices in order to create national identities, to legitimise hierarchies of power or to build personal political identities. In tackling these broad themes over two centuries, the editors and contributors grapple with gender politics; in particular, how men and women’s dress reflect their political and economic position in the nation-states.

This collection of pioneering essays – the first volume in the Sussex Library of Asian Studies – explores the transnational nature of dress in a host of different locations and shows how changing dress codes have long been conversations between cultures. It brings the politics of dress into contemporary times and engages directly with the topical issues of dress legislation in the twenty-first century. Country case studies include: China, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Native America, Latin America and Argentina.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-163-4
Hardback Price: £55.00 / $75.00
Release Date: December 2007
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-399-7
Paperback Price: £29.95 / $44.95
Release Date: January 2010
Page Extent / Format: 320 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Highly illustrated with colour plate section


Chapter 1
Trans-national Flows and the Politics of Dress in Asia and the Americas
Mina Roces and Louise Edwards

Chapter 2
Gender, Nation and the Politics of Dress in Twentieth-Century Philippines
Mina Roces

Chapter 3
Dressing for Power: Scholars’ Robes, School Uniforms and Military Attire in China
Louise Edwards

Chapter 4
Refashioning Civilization: Dress and Bodily Practice in Thai Nation-Building
Maurizio Peleggi

Chapter 5
Gender, Citizenship and Dress in Modernizing Japan
Barbara Molony

Chapter 6
Identity, Nation and Islam: A Dialogue about Men’s and Women’s Dress in Indonesia
Jean Gelman Taylor

Chapter 7
“Dressed in a Little Brief Authority”: Clothing the Body Politic in Burma
Penny Edwards

Chapter 8
Power Dressing on the Prairies: The Grammar of Blackfoot Leadership Dress, 1750–1930
Blanca Tovías

Chapter 9
Nationalism and National Dress in Spanish America
Rebecca Earle

Chapter 10
Refashioning the Inca: Costume, Political Power and Identity in Late Bourbon Peru
David Cahill

Chapter 11
Wigs, Weapons, Tattoos and Shoes: Getting Dressed in Colonial Amazonia and Brazil
Barbara A. Sommer

Chapter 12
Fabricating Specimen Citizens: Nation Building in Nineteenth-Century Mexico
Magali M. Carrera

Chapter 13
Urban Expressions of Solidarity: Fashioning Citizenship in Argentina
Regina A. Root

A truly fascinating and original collection of essays. By discussing the reciprocal relationship between dress and political identity and action, the authors in this book provide a fresh and very insightful entry into analyses of the ever-changing relation between power and gender. The instances which are described are taken from all around the Pacific rim, thus providing important elements for comparison, both within the wider region itself and through the rest of the world. Those of us who work on other parts of the world can only be jealous.
Robert Ross, Professor of African History, Leiden University

Try to imagine Fidel Castro in white tie and tails, or George Bush in a Polynesian sarong. For most people, these images just don’t work. Clothes make a statement. Roces (history, University of New South Wales) and Edwards (China Studies, University of Technology, Sydney) have assembled articles on how dress has been and continues to be a statement of politics. With a focus on Asia and America, topics range from scholars and school uniforms in China to the invention of a Thai national costume for women in order to promote local silk weavers. Others discuss how the use of a particular hair comb in Argentina could signal solidarity for the democratic movement or how Blackfoot peoples used adaptations of Western clothing and that of other tribes to indicate status. The rest of the essays are equally varied in time and region, giving a fascinating angle on a facet of politics that is rarely seriously studied.
Reference & Research Book News

Editors Roces and Edwards provide 13 case studies (7 Asian, 6 American) covering 18th- to 21st-century examples of transcultural interactions related to colonialism, imperialism, democratic republicanism, enlightened monarchialism, and globalization, whereby new forms and interpretations of hybrid dress were created. Themes and examples include the evolutionary problem of which group is accepted as wearing the national dress (indigenous peoples, ethnic groups, peasants, or mestizos); power dressing by elites; gender clothes as expressing power; and use of dress by elites related to political programs. The book’s cover illustrates the controversial use of “national” dress as Asian Pacific Economic cooperation leaders pose wearing clothing of the host nation. Overall, this small book is a rich gem that poses new questions, penetrates contrasting cultures over time and space, and demonstrates that the study of dress is a serious academic endeavour. Highly recommended.

Those who delve into the history of clothing and politics will be rewarded with an extremely fertile field of study. The subject offers diverse examples of how specific garments, cultural practices of clothing the body, or indeed, keeping parts of the body naked, have been manipulated to serve or undermine political ideologies and agendas, promote class values, or craft sexual identities, within a myriad of temporal contexts.
Asian Studies Review

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