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Other forces helped shape traditions in dress.  Beginning in the 14th century, many European countries enacted laws to regulate the dress of rural people.  Known as sumptuary laws and first enacted in Rome in the 1st century AD such regulations were intended to emphasize the special privileges of the upper classes, prevent extravagance among the rural population, suppress certain political and religious activities and encourage the use of homespun textiles.  During one period, for example, Irish traditional dress based on Gaelic-Frankish and Norse costumes was forbidden by England in an attempt to force the Irish to conform to English ways. 

     Whether it is the deerskin moccasins of the Native American or the woven cotton of the Lowell mills girl's bonnet, the materials demonstrated in this exhibit are natural material: flax and wool from Ireland; black dye from Canadian hemlock trees; cotton and silk of Greece; gray and brown colors dyed from lichen found in Sweden; angora hair from rabbits in Armenia.

     Today, these costumes are seldom seen except at festivals, religious ceremonies or other special cultural occasions.  These unique works serve to remind us of how diverse a world family we truly are.

Azores, Portugal  1900

Azores, Portugal (1900)

Throughout Portugal, men's clothing was usually comprised of black pants, jacket, vest, and hat, all worn with a white shirt.   Women in the Azores wore full skirts bordered with colored bands over petticoats, with white stockings and embroidered slip-on shoes.   Printed cotton scarves or chita were tied around the head.   This couple is dancing the Fado Blanquita, one of the more popular dances.   Azore dancing and singing were usually saudade, meaning "in a melancholy way".

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