While the number of textile employees declined between 1950 and 2002, the percentage of women and blacks also declined, while the percentage of Hispanics increased. The overall decrease in the number of workers has been accompanied by a decline in the American production of textiles in the post-World War II period, due to foreign competition and an influx of imports, particularly from Asian countries. Textile production and employment in the countries of Western Europe has seen similar declines.
Textile production and distribution is no longer a process of a single nation, but of a world economy. Increased foreign competition and trade exist among many textile-producing nations. To increase production and to remain competitive, textile manufacturers have invested in new machinery and techniques of production that increase the productivity of labor. This means that fewer workers are needed to "tend" to a larger number of machines. Corporations have merged, joint ventures with foreign companies have occurred, new plants have been constructed in foreign countries, and American-owned companies have increasingly shifted operations to offshore manufacturing. All of this means fewer jobs domestically, but increased employment abroad. This process is a continuation of the shift of textile jobs from high-wage to low-wage environments that was seen already in the movement of textile production from New England to the American South in the middle decades of the twentieth century.
Textile production has shifted to a number of developing countries, including China, India, Pakistan, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Because women are lower cost employees worldwide than men, textile manufacturers in these countries typically employ more than 50 percent females in textile production. Some Asian countries, including Japan and Korea, that once offered low-wage employment in the textile industry, have also seen a flight of textile production to countries with even lower wages overseas. In 2004 leading low-wage countries include Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Bangladesh (Industrial United Nations Development Organization, 2003).
Although textile manufacturers argue that free-trade practices (such as the abandonment of trade quotas to restrain imports into the United States from China and the North American Free Trade Agreement) have been the cause of mill bankruptcies and closings and job losses in the United States (Nesbitt, 2003), many economists point out that tariffs, quotas, and other protectionist measures are generally ineffective in maintaining employment in declining industries, and result in higher prices for consumers. Only factories offering some specific comparative advantage (for example, techno-textile production, on-demand specialty textile production, extremely high labor productivity) are likely to survive in high-wage environments in the era of globalization. The portability of the textile industry (whole factories can be dismantled in one country and reassembled in another, lower-wage one) and the relatively unskilled nature of textile work means that production of basic textiles will continue to flow to low-wage environments. An important contemporary challenge is to protect textile workers (largely female, poor, young, and vulnerable) from exploitation, industrial hazards, and other negative effects of employment in an industry that has seldom seen worker protection as a high priority.
See also Cotton; Dyeing; Fulling; Hemp; Lace; Wool; Yarns. BIBLIOGRAPHY
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THEATRICAL COSTUME Western theater tradition has its foundations in the Greek celebrations performed in the sixth century b.c.e., honoring Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry. The revels (dances, songs, and choral responses) evolved into spoken drama in 535 b.c.e., when the playwright Thespis introduced an actor to respond to the chorus leader. The result was dialogue.
Another playwright, Aeschylus (525-456 b.c.e.), is credited with establishing what became the traditional costume for Greek tragedy. It consisted of a long, sleeved, patterned tunic, a stylized mask for instant character recognition, and a pair of high-soled shoes called corthu-nae. All of these garments were exclusively for theatrical use. One cannot act the hero in everyday wear.
Actors in Greek comedies also wore masks to indicate which characters they portrayed. Additionally, they would often add exaggerated body parts, padded bottoms or stomachs, and oversize phalluses to heighten the comic effect. Short tunics, much like those worn by ordinary citizens, were thought appropriate to comedy.
Although the Romans added their own twists, the costume conventions established by the Greeks essentially remained the same until the fall of the Roman Empire, when Western theater virtually disappeared for eight hundred years.
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