Exhibition: Clothing, Culture, Context in South Asia – Selections from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection

Design Gallery - Clothing, Culture, Context in South Asia

Exhibition dates: 8 September – 20 October 2013

Clothing, Culture and Context in South Asia will explore the intricate, intimate connections between clothing and culture on the Indian subcontinent. Textiles and apparel from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC) illuminate how the threads of craft, aesthetics, ethnicity, religion, gender, and politics weave together to create a complex cultural portrait of the region. While the exhibit is by no means a comprehensive survey – an impossible undertaking – it attempts to convey something of the extraordinary masala (spice mixture) of South Asian clothing as an expression of the lives of the people who make and wear it.

There has always been a fertile exchange of reciprocal influences between Hindu and Muslim dress in both technique and style. The most obvious example of this is that many Muslim women wear saris and many Hindu women wear salwar kameez. Parallel cross-pollinations occur between mainstream South Asian dress and tribal apparel, as well as between urban chic and rural folk wear. Alongside these dynamic networks of exchange, however, there remain distinctive and vibrant traditions that preserve cultural identity relatively intact in more isolated parts of the subcontinent. Influences have also spread from this region throughout the world. In particular, the exhibition displays intricately embroidered Kashmir shawls worn by fashionable European and American women in the 19th century. This exhibition celebrates the complexity of the cultural contexts of these textiles, their creators, and wearers.

For more information, visit the website of the Ruth Davis Design Gallery, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

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