Cultural Appropriation in Fashion

Each culture puts its unique stamp on the fashion world. Many people tend to regard fashion as "just a bunch of clothes," but if you really take some time to research the history of fashion around the world, each culture throughout their history, has put itself into every fiber of the fabric that represents them. The history of kings, queens, wars, poverty, power, love, religion, historical movements, holidays, everything is right there in every button, rivet, thread, zipper, and ribbon. So what happens when someone outside of a culture decides to take many of these intensely personal, religious, or culturally significant pieces of their history, and parade them around in a what some feel is a racist, cultural inappropriate, or insensitive way for so called fashions sake, or as Halloween fare?

What is cultural appropriation? It is the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation is sometimes portrayed as harmful, framed as cultural misappropriation, and claimed to be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating culture. Often unavoidable when multiple cultures come together, cultural appropriation can include using other cultures' traditions, fashion, symbols, language, and cultural songs without permission. According to critics of the practice, cultural (mis)appropriation differs from acculturation, assimilation, or cultural exchange in that the "appropriation" or "misappropriation" refers to the adoption of these cultural elements in a colonial manner: elements are copied from a minority culture by members of a dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context—sometimes even against the expressly stated wishes of representatives of the originating culture.

To the people affected by such misuse of their culture, it is someone making a complete mockery of things that many consider sacred or personal to their culture usually by someone seeking to make a quick buck off of their culture, without understanding any significance of what they are wearing. Typically, from the outside looking in, it's hard for people in disagreement to understand how this makes those affected feel. It would be like a stripper in a nun's habit stripping on cross with Jesus nailed to it. These symbols and the meanings behind them are sacred and to have someone, especially in a movie or music which is widely spread throughout the world and internet distorting its significance, and having people use what's important to them in a sacrilegious way, is hurtful to that culture because people tend to then treat it as a joke.

This becomes more significant because you have someone in power, saying I have the right to steal from your culture and use it for my own personal gain. These people can then mistreat and abuse it however they want without a thought or care to how it is affecting others. This is not the same as cultural exchange or assimilation by one culture of another, because the person doing it has no desire to know or learn why what they are doing is inappropriate. They simply do not care. It's yet another way in which certain cultures and people are being "put in their place," by the larger or more powerful persons in society, because it says to them, they can come in to your world, at any time, and anywhere and take what they want without your permission and what are you going to do about it.

To be clear, this is not to say an individual should NEVER where anything from someone elses culture. That would be ridiculous. It is to say, that asking for permission before you take as a designer, learning about why the clothing has it's significance for that culture, not making a mockery or racist event out of wearing them, or flat out not wearing certain things because of the meaning behind them and the inappropriate nature of wearing them all go into it. To think of it another way, you wouldn't want some random person snatching your wedding dress and go off parading in the mud with it, and then hand it back, like, oh well.


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Most Helpful Girl

  • I don't think costumes count as cultural appropriation...
    Pretty positive they don't.

    You can expect it all from celebrities - most of it isn't even their idea, but their stylists... who steal from everyone...

    But if it's not used for evil, degradation, stereotyping... then I don't understand the problem.

    Otherwise everyone should just wear their own cultural gowns, leather flaps, fight with sticks and stones and, inevitably, sleep in caves.

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What Girls Said 18

  • Cultural Appropriation is bull shit. People can wear what they want.

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    • Just because people can do something doesn't make it right.

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    • @slanlovesyou I agree, and have agreed as much in my take, however, there are plenty of people who aren't simply appreciating the fashion or are taking things of cultural significance and perverting them for profit. This is why I used the example of someone's religious icons... not too many people are keen to see those tarnished or used in an inapproriate way because of their deep religious meanings to many people... clothing that is representative of similar ideals should not be used in such a way that can be very harmful to a culture or religion because someone else is misusing it without any understanding of it's actual meaning.

    • I see, I mean honestly I think it looks ridiculous most of the time anyway, I just don't find it offensive, even when it's done to my culture or beliefs because I just consider it all an act anyway. Celebrities will do just about anything for fame and money.

  • The weekly free yoga at my University was cancelled because a bunch of protestors deemed it to be "cultural appropriation", so I feel like it's safe to say that this whole SJW thing has gone a little far. Being Native American, I don't necessarily care if someone wants to wear fake moccassins from Urban Outfitters, if they want to wear a fringe vest, beaded accessories, or items inspired by my culture. The only thing I have an issue with is headdresses, because of the deep spiritual and cultural significance it has. That's where it becomes disrespectful, because it shows the ignorance of the non-native person wearing it. In my opinion, people should feel free to wear clothes inspired by other cultures, but not to the extent that you're desecrating a sacred object or practice.

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  • Sooooooooo I'm Indian in India and if I wear evening gown or something like this
    s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/.../...cbcbd162c6.jpg

    Is it cultural appropriation?

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  • If it isn't done i mockery or in an insulting way, why not if you like the clothes. Morocco got beautiful kaftans, Arab countries got beautiful abayas, African countries got beautiful prints and colors and deesses and kaftans, The Asian countries also got beautiful fabrics and hey we got the kimono from there, the indian clothes and saris are beautiul and so is the jewelry. From the west we got the suit, jeans, etc. can't non-westeren people wear these. Wear what you want, listen to what music you want, dance what you want, cook what you want, this is close to getting ridicolous. Xo from this colored girl who loves being west African and north european and have lived in an arab country.

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    • Sometimes thpugh it can look foolish if it's over the top and done in an igonarant way but that's not my problem.

  • Im going to culturally appropriate the shit out of all cultures, because that shit is beyond ridiculous.

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  • If it isn't used with the intention of being a mockery or isn't done without any understanding then cultural appropriation is actually good. It's saying "Hey your culture is pretty awesome. Your clothes are awesome. Your music is awesome. Your food is awesome. I want to experience it as well". Sharing and learning about different cultures isn't a bad thing.

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  • I feel like white people over focus on this. No one would care if you dressed out of your culture if their cultures weren't seen as inferior when they practiced it, if their cultures weren't used as reasons they are inferior.

    For example, I never wanted to straighten my hair. That shit hurts. But I had to use heat and chemicals on my hair as a kid , and now when I go on interviews. My kind of hair is seen as dirty because people who don't have it don't understand it. It wouldn't be so annoying that white people can pretend to have hair like mine to be edgy and then just shed it when its convenient to be white.

    If you wanna have dreadlocks in the mean time, you're either gonna have to suck it up and understand that it will seem like you care more about your "personal freedom" than racism, and that pisses some people off, or just... Don't?

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  • I really think they took it too far with it. First it was the nazi war germans who used the Indian spiritual symbol swastika to represent Nazism, then the native indian feather headwear (used to denote spiritual maturity) for sensuality instead lololol. The singers using ethnic costumes for their own music promotion, well it's good for laughs in the end. They tried to make it look sexually appealing.

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  • People go so far with 'borrowing' I really don't understand the wearing of Native American headdresses for no reason, seems silly.

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  • Who gives a fuck about cultural appropriation?

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  • I don't think that you should be dressing up as someone of a different culture under any circumstance. People aren't costumes. Especially when most of them them don't get much exposure anyway.

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  • For another point, a lot of this symbols are of religious/spiritual origin. So assuming that someone is not a certain religion or following a certain spiritual path based on skin color is much worse than this made up issue.

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  • The worst is that Native American one and then BeyoncĂ©'s Asian prayer thing lol

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  • Wouldn't say any of these images constitute as mockery

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  • We are slowly segregating ourselves again. SJW's are the freaking worst thing to happen.

    Maybe white people should stop supporting rap/hip-hop music and buying merchandise from black entertainers so we won't appropriate their culture.

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    • Black music is much more than these fake rappers. Try listen to some real African music, kora music, afrobeat, assiko, makossa, djembe, etc.

  • So I'm white and I live in a country that has mostly Indians... so does this mean I can't wear a Sari? Does this also means I can't celebrate Diwali or go to a temple to worship?

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  • I don't understand the big deal that people make out of cultural appropriation, i'm a white American and I wouldn't care if someone of another race/culture/country wanted to watch the Superbowl, wearing blue jeans, drinking a Coca Cola, good for them. Not everything in the world has to be offensive.

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  • Gwen. Lol

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