Traditional Clothing Around the World

Instructor: Chelsea Schuyler
Over 7.5 billion people inhabit the world, and with that type of number comes handfuls of different clothing styles. From the flannel shirt in the USA to the Sari in India, the traditional clothing around the world is diverse. This lesson touches on traditional garb from many cultures.

Dressing the World

The Japanese kimono dates to 800 B.C.E.! Like the kimono, many traditional clothing styles date back thousands of years. In every part of the world, distinctive styles of clothing dominate the regions, and these articles of clothing help shape each culture. Let's take a trip around the world from the Americas to Asia, and talk about the traditional clothing that makes each area unique.

North and South America



A poncho is a waterproof top that covers the upper body and usually has a hood to protect the head. Ponchos date back to the pre-Incan times. Ponchos are decorated with art patterns traditionally found in South American cultures. Diagonal designs are very popular. Ponchos are also brightly colored.

Flannel Shirts

Flannel Shirt

The United States is usually known for western wear, which includes denim jeans, cowboy hats, and flannel shirts. Flannel shirts have been, and still are, a major component of North American clothing. Flannel shirts are typically made from wool, but cotton varieties are also available. These long-sleeved shirts are popular with ranchers and folks who have to get their hands dirty because the bottom half of the sleeves can be unbuttoned, rolled up, and secured above the elbows.




In Europe, lederhosen are akin to North America's overalls. Lederhosen are a traditional male outfit made from leather and have shorts that hit just above the knee. Lederhosen grew in popularity during the eighteenth century and were often worn for horseback riding, performing hard labor, and other physical activities. After the nineteenth century, they became more popular as a costume or for everyday wear.



Did you know that kilts were banned by King George II in 1746 out of fear of rebellion? Prior to that, the kilt, which is a man's knee-length skirt, was what men and boys wore every day. A kilt is made from twill woven wool and features pleats on the sides and back with a flat piece on the front. Kilts use a tartan design, which is the Scottish equivalent of plaid. Kilts are often accessorized with ornate belts, woolen socks, and a pouch that hangs in the front.



Gakti is the traditional dress of the Sami people, who are from Scandinavia. Modern countries such as Finland, Russia, Sweden, and Norway incorporate gakti into their cultures. Gakti is a complete outfit made of brightly hues such as red, blue, and yellow. For women, gakti includes boots, a skirt, a top, and a cape. For men, it is boots, a tunic, and pants. The clothing is worn for special events, reindeer herding, and other outdoor labor. Gakti is fashioned from animal hides and fur. The pattern, color, and design of gakti tells others where the person is from, the marital status, and sometimes their economic status.

Asia and Australia



The sari is often connected to India and people of the Indus Valley region. The origination of sari goes back nearly 5,000 years and the word 'sari' translates to 'strip of cloth'. Saris are worn by women, and the fabric has no sewing on it; the fabric is simply draped over a woman's body starting at the waist and ending over a shoulder. Sari come in all different colors and can be worn eighty different ways.



The Japanese have worn kimono for thousands of years. A kimono is a dress, worn by men and women, and it is wrapped around the body, and the secured with an obi, a fabric sash. Kimono can be worn for everyday wear, but they are expected to be worn for important events and ceremonies. It takes an entire bolt of fabric to make one kimono. Silk and linen are popular fabrics used to make kimono.



Hanbok is the traditional garb of North and South Korea. A hanbok consists of a top and a skirt for a woman, while a man's hanbok consists of a shirt and trousers. The hanbok is brightly colored and allows for a lot of movement as the fabric is rather loose. In the past, the hanbok could tell you about a person's social status based on the quality of the fabric and symbols embroidered onto the garb. For example, a king might have a dragon embroidered onto his hanbok.

Maori PiuPiu

Maori Piupiu

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