The Culture of Fashion


By Drew Dorsey

 Much like art, film and literature, fashion is a snapshot of a society’s times and culture. When culturally inspired adornments find their way into mainstream fashion trends, the end result transcends style and personal taste.  Not only is this cultural fashion infusion a reflection of the beauty that is ethnic and personal identity, it is also a celebration of various cultures coming together in the name of art. Let’s explore some of the most popular culturally inspired pieces in recent memory and their impact on fashion and society, as a whole.

Sophia Loren


Turbans have been a go-to statement piece for fashion icons throughout the ages.  Through legendary screen sirens like Marlene Dietrich and Sophia Loren (pictured here) to modern mavens like Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica Parker, fashion fans have come to love the turban as an effortlessly chic topper appropriate for any occasion.

Turbans first emerged around the Fourteenth Century, giving a whole new meaning to the term “vintage!” The Turban has many variations in regard to the way it is wrapped and for particular functions depending on culture or religion. The Turban takes upon various folds, shapes, and sizes. Its construction depends on factors such as status, race, profession, and faith practice. Other names for head wraps reminiscent of the turban include the “Tarboosh” in Arabic, the “Taj” in Arabic and Persian and the “Dulband” – which is also Persian. The English name derives from words that are variations of the tulip flower. The way the Turban is folded is reminiscent of the tulip due to the fact it is a beloved flower of the East.

As we have seen, turbans have been integrated into mainstream fashion beyond cultural and religious bounds. While some designers have preserved its use as a head wrap, others have used the turban in fashion as a hat – letting the hair hang unfastened. Designer Jason Wu recently presented his 2010 spring collection with models wearing black and cobalt turbans to complement his designs. In October of 2010, Giorgio Armani used turbans inspired by North Africa for his monochromatic collection presented at the shows in Milan.



Initially, the word “kimono” was used as the Japanese word for clothing, in general. As time progressed, “kimono” referred to the traditional Japanese garb we recognize today. Kimonos emerged during the Hein Period, which spanned from 792-1192. It was during this time that the straight-line-cut method was adopted. This was a method in which the fabric was cut into straight lines and then sewn together, enabling flexibility for any body shape. As the kimono became a Japanese staple, colors were heightened. Traditionally, the various color arrangements symbolized political class or the colors of seasons.

According to a 2013 New York Times article spotlighting hand crafted kimonos, “Akiko Fukai, chief curator and director of the celebrated Kyoto Costume Institute explains ‘that there have been many Western designers influenced by the kimono,’ noting that both Prada and Gucci had references in their spring/summer 2013 collections.”


A garment that was once every woman’s nightmare has become a must-have element in everything from wedding gowns to sexy tops and Halloween costumes! Shockingly enough, it was a woman who actually invented the corset! Roxey Ann Caplin invented the bonding shackle of doom to keep a woman’s torso upright, create an hourglass figure and raise the bust line. Introduced in France in the early 1500s, corsets were worn by aristocratic women paired with hoopskirts. More prominent in England than in France, tight lacing of the corset was seen as a sign of morality.

By 1987, Vivienne Westwood and Paul Gautier presented their own signature versions of the corset, transforming it into a sign of female empowerment. The iconic cone bra worn by Madonna and designed by Gautier is a famous representation of this groundbreaking transformation.


Sarees have been a fashion staple for 5,000 years!

The saree (or sari) is an ancient traditional dress of Indian woman. The saree is made up of 6-9 yards of fabric that is then wrapped around the body. While wearing a Saree, the midriff remains bare due to the fact Hindu’s believe the Supreme Being’s naval is the source of creativity and life. The idea of feminine beauty in ancient India consisted of a small waist, large bust, and hips – all of which the Saree accentuates exquisitely. Sarees are often made thin cotton or silk, often consisting of bright colors with ornate designs.

Many modern Indian women have transformed the traditional wrap into a glamorous fashion statement. Many celebrities such as Blake Lively, Hayden Panettiere, and Paris Hilton have been photographed flaunting the Indo-Western design. Fashion designers such as Marchesa have been influenced by the traditional garb and have infused it into their dress collections.  Here, actress Aishwarya Bachchan can be seen wearing one on the red carpet at the 2010 London premiere of the film Raavan.

Did your favorite culturally inspired fashion piece NOT make our list? Well, join the conversation on Facebook and tell us all about your favorite frock!

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