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How Different Countries Define Their Culture Through Textiles

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Dating back to indigenous people throughout history, textiles have been a huge part of the world’s cultures and traditions.

A textile is a flexible material created by weaving and interlocking yards or threads. As time went on, textiles developed into an artistic tradition in many different cultures around the world. 

Many countries have developed traditional textiles that embellish designs and showcase fabrics that are unique to their culture and origin. 

Textiles in Otavalo, Ecuador
Textiles in Otavalo, Ecuador (Photo via Envato Elements)

Alex Bressler with Matador Network explains the variety of textiles in his article, “9 Amazing Textile Designs from Around the World and Their Unique Stories.” He says the differences in how cultures are represented by textiles, “from Scottish kilts to Japanese kimonos, as well as decorative pieces meant to be enjoyed for their artistic value.”

Textiles have influenced different countries’ cultures in different ways. Jennifer Ogle, professor and graduate program coordinator at Colorado State University says in an interview that “there is a material component of culture and artifacts being a product of human workmanship, dress, tools, housing, fashion and tangible artifacts,” in regards to textiles.

Dress is a part of culture and reflects different parts of textiles. These are just a couple of examples of the many wonderful textiles across the globe that represent different cultures.

TARTAN

Tartan is a Scottish fabric that consists of a bold pattern of repeating equidistant lines and stripes. The textile was used to identify different Scottish families on the battlefield in the 18th century.

Closeup shot of tartan skirts
Photo via Envato Elements

“What makes tartan is certain color arrangements,” said Patrice George, associate professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “The stripes are the same vertical and horizontal. It’s also going to be asymmetrical tartan if it’s from Scotland, and it would be wool.” Today, the textile is known as the unifying fabric of Scotland and is used in modern fashion such as flannels.

BATIK


Batik is a symbol of Indonesian culture and can be traced all the way back to 1,500 years ago. According to IWareBatik, a textile-making company in Indonesia, “Batik has been used to depict the great journey of human life: birth, marriage, and death.” The fabric characterizes Indonesia’s cultural heritage and fashion. 

Asian women travel to see batik wearing jilbab and analog camera
Photo via Envato Elements

African wax print textiles were created by the Dutch and inspired by the Indonesian batik influence. In her book, “African Wax Print Textiles,” author Anne Grosfilley writes: “The Dutch developed an ambitious industrial and commercial strategy to maximize profit on the Asian market,” causing them to compete with batik production.

Ogle also says in her interview that African wax prints are often used for funerals in African culture.  The textile has been produced since the 1960s in Africa and is predominately worn by women. 

There are many other examples of textiles and their wonderful background stories on how they represent different cultures. Just one woven fabric that was first created as clothing turned into an artistic tradition in many different countries and cultures used in many different ways.

Look out next time you’re at the mall, you may see different forms and patterns of textiles influenced by modern fashion.

Textiles in the bazaar on Istanbul
Photo via Envato Elements
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