Asia is the largest continent of the world with its 17,300,000 sq. miles area. The continent comprises of a number of countries and each country varies from the other in terms of its culture, habits, tradition and fashion. It will be a Herculean task, rather an impossible one to bring Asia and its culture under one roof. It is so vast and variegated that all the words of expression would fall short for it. So it will be wise enough to concentrate on only one of the aspects at aimed, selecting only a few countries. When we think of Asia, the name of the countries lurk into our mind are Japan, India and China. So let us concentrate on the traditional attires of these countries and find out how these traditional wear are getting infiltrated into the modern fashion trend.
Being an Indian, I know Indian culture and tradition better than any other foreign country. So I would definitely like to talk about our traditional clothing first. India is a country with as many as 29 states and each state has its own way of robes. But as far as the national dress is concerned it is identified with ‘sari’. It is attire for women only. A ‘sari’ is nothing but a long rectangular piece of cloth about 5 to 9m in length. It is worn without any fastening, pins or buttons. The tightly fitted blouse worn under sari is known as ‘choli’ and the final length of the saris hanging from the women’s shoulder is called ‘pallu’. The style, color, texture of a sari varies from one another. It may be printed, embroidered, stone and mirror embedded et al. The material of sari can be cotton, silk, synthetic or man many more things. Besides its color and design, the most striking and charming feature about the sari is that it is not cut or tailored for any particular size and can fit any women. There are several ways of wearing a sari; and its manner of draping as well as its color and texture indicate the status, age, occupation, region and religion of a woman.
Beside sari, there are many other dresses that are worn by Indian women like ‘salwar kameez’, ‘lehanga’, churidar etc. A ‘kameez’ is a long tunic worn over ‘pyjama’ which is like a loose fitted trousers. A tight-fitted pant is known as ‘churidar’.A pleated skirt is called a ‘lehanga’. Some traditional garments for men are ‘kurta’, ‘lungi’, ‘dhoti’ and ‘pyjama’. ‘kurta’ is like a long top while ‘lungi ‘and ‘dhoti’ are apiece of cloth that is draped around the waist. ‘pyjama’is the pants worn under the ‘kurta’. A collarless khadi jacket is also popular among men. But most of the India men, unlike women, wear the conventional western clothes. A majority of women in India wear ‘sari’ though some urban women love and feel comfortable in western dresses.
Throughout the country there are many religious and regional variations in the costumes, such as Rajasthani women wear embroidered, mirrored and the tie-dye materials while in Arunachal Pradesh women are found draping home-spun long woolen skirts.
Indian dressing style is thus marked by many variations-both religious and regional; and one is likely to witness an abundance of colors, textures and style in garments of India.
The clothing of Edo period (1601-1867AD) comes into one’s mind when asked about Japanese traditional clothing. This consists of the basic pieces like ‘kimono’, ‘obi’ and ‘hakama’. The Japanese clothing is as simple as it is complex and elegant. The building block of Japanese traditional clothing begins with the “kimono’. During Edo period, this become an outer garment and was made up of all kinds fabrics. Before and during Edo period, fabric was class oriented, silk was reserved by the for the upper class people. All adult ‘kimono’ are cut into 8 pieces from 1 roll of cloth about 36cm, 14 inches wide and 11m long. The seams are cut straight and always the same width regardless of the wearer’s size, so cloth is left over. Any extra length was tucked under or over the ‘obi’ depending on the gender. ‘Kimono’ is simple in design and there is no fasteners used to hold the ‘kimono’, close. ‘Kimono’ is designed according to age, social status and gender. Just as a married woman would wear a ‘kimono’ made out of darker fabrics and with shorter sleeves than a young unmarried girl. Under the ‘kimono’, the lighter ‘kimono’ is called ‘Nagajuban’. An ‘Han-eri'(a scarf like collar) is worn between kimono and neck. Some other dresses worn by them are ‘Yukatabira'(light and loose fitting robes), ‘Happi'( a short coat), ‘Kamishino'(two piece costume), “Kataginu’ etc. “Hakama’ is like pants and has 7 folds that signifies 7 human qualities such as courage, humility, justice,chivalry, honesty, loyalty and prestige. During monsoon they wore jackets made up of straw. ‘Cording’, ‘sashes’ and ‘obi’ are used to close different types of jackets.
All Japanese clothes are wonderfully embroidered and crafted with beautiful fabric works. Clothes are highly decorative that includes family crests, animals, bamboo, flowers, branches etc.
The ‘Pien-fu’ is an ancient two piece ceremonial garment of a tunic like top extending to the kneesand a skirt or trousers extending to the ankles. In China, clothing indicated not only class gender difference but also ethnicity. Han Chinese and Manchu were two major ethnic groups in China who wore different cloths. The decorative band, appliquéd borders and richly variegated embellishment and embroidered design is one of the unique features of the traditional Chinese dress. ‘He ch’ang-p’ao’ is one-piece garment extending from the shoulders all the way to the heels. “Shen-I’ is a cross between the ‘pien-fu’ and the ‘ch’ang-p’ao’. It consists of a tunic and a skirt or trousers like the, ‘pien-fu’ but the tunic and the skirt are sewed together and essentially one piece like the ‘ch’ang-pao’ .Chinese clothing is not only an external expression but also an internal symbolism. Darker shades of color are preferred to lighter shades. Dresses with lighter color are worn by the people for daily use. Chinese associate few colors with seasons such as red stands for summer, black for winter, white for autumn and green for spring. They can be said to have fully developed a system of matching, coordinating and contrasting colors: and shades of light and dark in apparels.
Chinese clothing has a vitality of its own. It reflects a woman’s modesty. Chinese traditional silk clothing almost varies with consistency which was roughly established by the era of the Yellow Emperor and the Emperor Yao and Shan. Remains of woven silk and hemp articles and ancient ceramic figures further demonstrate the sophistication and refinement of clothing in the Shan Dynasty. Orient dresses almost vary with a woman’s figure. Mature women, in such attire can display their graceful and refined manner. In the 17thc in North China, a collarless tube shaped dresses were developed; they were the old ancestors of new dresses.
But this traditional Asian Clothing is seen slowly infiltrating into the modern and trendy fashion of the day. Various fashion designers have taken the approach of making dresses that people can wear everyday from the exotic treasures of Asian traditional attire.
‘Saris’, besides being the traditional attire of India, has become an inseparable part of today’s fashion. Women worldwide now are experimenting by draping this elegant designer’s creation of India. In many grand parties, women from other countries also, are seen wearing a gorgeous sari. Apparels like lehenga, choli, salwar kameez are already in the trend.
Black Japan printed floral Kimono wrap top, georgette geisha kimono, geisha blossom kimono top, Asia flutter top and so on are some of the other imports to modern fashion from Japan.
Clothing of Asia varies from one country to another. More importantly in a country from one region to other it varies significantly. But if you are closely following the trend across various Asian countries, you will find a certain pattern is followed everywhere. In one type of clothing a piece of cloth is draped which may be sari in India or kimono in Japan. The same trend is followed in Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and other Asian countries. In other trend a loose trouser like attire for lower limbs and a closed-chest coat like things for upper part are followed. Sometimes this top goes upto knee like kameez in India or ends at belly region. People who are near hilly region generally wear colorful and embroidered garments, while people in plain land prefer to remain simple. Asian clothing is wide, vast and has enormous ranges. Like the people of Asia these are colorful, smooth, silky and comfortable. And above all these are as attractive as Asian land.