Dress as Artifact and Cultural Revival

Not all segments of colonial society advocated the adoption of Western dress for their local subjects. Some, who were able to adopt an attitude of cultural pluralism, appreciated differences in dress without assuming the superiority of European styles, while others promoted the revival of local dress and adornment as a way of safeguarding threatened cultures and their aesthetics. In northeast Canada, French Ursuline nuns promoted pictorial and floral imagery among Native Americans in sewing and embroidery, stimulating a commodification of Indian curios. Over time, these depictions shifted from images of "noble savages" to colonial nostalgia scenes depicting the imminent disappearance of a way of life dependent on nature. Similar managed efforts in support of cultural survival were instituted in many places in Latin Americia, Africa, India, South and Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. Products of these cultural revival movements often did not remain within the societies that produced them, but were acquired for private and public collections and museums of textile arts. Although they all have given rise to interpretations about authenticity, such artifacts were everywhere the products of complex interactions and influences that demonstrate continuous incorporation of new developments and inspirations into "tradition."

The retention or revival of some of these clothing and textile traditions sometimes served to express rejection of colonialism, such as in Gandhi's call on Indians to wear homespun cloth. Some dress and textile traditions are used to make claims for political representation in states where indigenous people are subordinated or threatenend, for example in the Amazon region of Brazil. Another development of the cultural revival of textiles and dress practices has turned the process into fashion, in which newly developed styles that are considered ethnically chic attract consumers in former colonies and the world beyond.

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