Material Monday- ancient burials and the advent of Fashion

New post segment coming your way.  This will probably be a friday post but as it’s the first one I just can’t wait and your getting it on a monday.  In the last few months I have been getting more involved in fashion.  Exploring my own style and realizing that expressing my personality through dress is the same as expressing through paint or photography or any other art medium.  With shows like Project Runway, it is becoming increasingly apparent that fashion is art, and not only art but also a part of culture.  So it only makes sense that this blog should explore fashion from a cultural perspective.  These posts will not necessarily be in chronological order, but I felt that it would be fitting to begin with the beginning of fashion.  Namely the first burial site that included personal articles such as beaded necklaces and clothing.  We all know that the ancient Egyptians were buried with their clothing and jewelry along with other things.  But before the Egyptians we go back even farther.  One of the earliest example comes from a burial of a female from 300BCE was buried with a head wreath and a few other personal items.  This is one of the first indications of human status displayed through adornment.  While fashion today may seem very different from a head wreath at a burial site, it is the precursor to fashion today.

female burial with beads
necklace in female burial site

Let me explain.  early humans began using jewelry and clothing to indicate status, to visually represent their place in society.  This has carried on through the centuries, the wealthy and powerful can alway be found in extravagant and expensive clothing, wearing all the top designers.  Today it may not always signify royalty, but it conveys to others that they are important and powerful people.

personal adornment not only signifies status, it can also be used as a way to connect people.  The Kula Ring of the Trobriand islands gives us an example of how material culture in the form of personal adornment items maintains cultural exchanges between multiple societies within this island ring.  Pieces are traded within the ring in an extremely ordered way.  The way it works is such, this example will be an extremely simple one, you can read more about the actual kula ring here.  imagine we have 5 tribes we will call them T1, T2, T3, T4, & T5.  Each tribe lives on one of 5 islands that are located in a geographical ring.  During ceremonial exchanges T1 will trade beaded necklaces with T2 and T5.  T2 will trade with T1 and T3, T3 will trade with T2 and T4, T4 will trade with T3 and T4 and T5 will trade with T4 and T1.  The exchanges items move in a ring around the islands.  The trading of these items legitimizes member status and power within their own community as well as those of trade partners.

Kula Ring
Kula Ring

Personal adornment, material culture, fashion, whatever you want to call it, has been part of human life for thousands of years.  It has grown and evolved into something that is in some ways very different, and in other ways very similar to the head wreaths of ancient burial sites.  This segment will explore fashion through the ages mostly as it is seen through art such as painting, photography and many other mediums.  Though I am sure there will be times when the post will highlight fashion in its own independent realm as well.  When developing this idea I wanted to explore fashion through paintings, so that will more than likely be the majority of posts.  Mostly I hope to build my knowledge of fashion both artistically and anthropologically.  I want to explore beyond the fabrics.  Hope you enjoy.

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