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Clothing: A Global History

Clothing: A Global History

Robert Ross

ISBN: 978-0-745-63186-8

Jul 2008, Polity

232 pages

In Stock

$69.95

Description

In virtually all the countries of the world, men, and to a lesser extent women, are today dressed in very similar clothing. This book gives a compelling account and analysis of the process by which this has come about. At the same time it takes seriously those places where, for whatever reason, this process has not occurred, or has been reversed, and provides explanations for these developments.

The first part of this story recounts how the cultural, political and economic power of Europe and, from the later nineteenth century North America, has provided an impetus for the adoption of whatever was at that time standard Western dress. Set against this, Robert Ross shows how the adoption of European style dress, or its rejection, has always been a political act, performed most frequently in order to claim equality with colonial masters, more often a male option, or to stress distinction from them, which women, perhaps under male duress, more frequently did.

The book takes a refreshing global perspective to its subject, with all continents and many countries being discussed. It investigates not merely the symbolic and message-bearing aspects of clothing, but also practical matters of production and, equally importantly, distribution.

1. Introduction.

2. The Rules of Dress.

3. Redressing the Old World.

4. First Colonialisms.

5. The Production, care and distribution of clothing.

6. The Export of Europe.

7. Reclothed in Rightful Minds: Christian missions and clothing.

8. Re-forming the body: reforming the mind.

9. The Clothing of Colonial Nationalism.

10. The Emancipation of Dress.

11. Engendered Acceptance and Rejection.

12. Conclusion

"A short book, and an easy read that adds a fresh perspective to studies of global history, colonialism, economic development, military history, and the history of costume."
Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"No longer viewed as inconsequential, clothing has much to tell historians. Clothing fits very neatly within this new historiography."
Journal of Social History

"A model work of synthesis - lucid, lively, accessible, globally informed, stuffed with rich and fascinating examples, making good use of theory and comparison, and approaching its topic from economic, political, social and cultural points of view."
Peter Burke, University of Cambridge

"Robert Ross admirably weaves the history of dress into the broader contours of modernization and the rise and fall of western imperialism. Clothing offers the reader insights into the power of bodily adornment, both as a tool of western hegemony, and as a potential symbolic medium for nationalist aspirations of the colonized."
John Mackey, Birmingham University


  • Broad and engaging overview suitable for undergraduates in history, anthropology, cultural studies and fashion studies, as well as the general reader.
  • Explains why we wear what we do, why most people in the world now dress very similarly and why those who resist Western dress do so.
  • The book takes a refreshing global perspective to its subject, with all continents and many countries being discussed.
  • It investigates not merely the symbolic and message-bearing aspects of clothing, but also practical matters of production and, equally importantly, distribution.