Societal Normalities Throughout the Years Maintained and Dismissed

Social normalities can be defined as the behaviors typically seen within the environment or society one was brought up in. When one goes to another country the way people act in society can be very distinct from how it is in their own country. As people have evolved differently in different parts of the world, societies will very likely value and appear differently to each other. The influence of other countries or significant events can influence the overall evolution of one’s culture.

The societal normalities we know and see in place these days may be widely contrasting to what they once were centuries or simply decades ago.

When we look at the 1900s and go backwards we can see how the societal normalities and standard etiquette of women influenced their dress style. In such times it was deemed inappropriate for a woman to show her ankles and it was scandalous if they showed even a glimpse of their bare legs.

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The revealing or the emphasis of the d?colletage was deemed more accepted in French society than the legs. In many European countries, the tanning of the skin was seen as a sign of lower class and fair skin was seen preferred among the nobility. It was a sign of status. Similar to many European standards, many Asians saw fair skin as a sign, one was not a peasant and had not been outside working in the fields. If a female was to reveal their shoulders or any glimpse of their bosom they were considered prostitutes.

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Societal normalities tend to have a wide effect on how we present ourselves especially the clothes that wear bear on our backs.

As we go forward in time we can see the changes these two once alike societies had. In order to provide a greater understanding of the culture of Asian countries and how they came to evolve to present day the Smithsonian partnered with a fashion brand in order to present Asian culture in the form of a festival called the “Silk Road”. In Japan, the overall idea is that the people are very conserved and modest within their society, but as time has gone by Tokyo has become a fashion capital in the world with its creativity outlook on fashion and innovative contribution. They continue to bring more and more trends and different styles and silhouettes to the fashion world. When it came to showing the evolution of culture and fashion within the country, the Smithsonian expected the designers to create clothing that paid homage to the traditional clothing. In the past, many Asian designers were ridiculed because they wished to pay homage to their culture visually, so in order to come ahead in the fashion society, these Asian designers had to find another way to implement their fundamental values without visually incorporating them. Many came to realize that the process and how they presented themselves as designers as an underlying concept of expressing culture would be the way to continue. This leads to many conflicts during the festival because of outsiders expectations. Visitors perceive the Japanese designers as disconnected from the rest of the festival, but in fact the designers were being consistent with their cultural mores and fashion philosophy, which challenged established notions of nationhood. ( Combs, 2008, p.112).

Although the Japanese did not follow the rules they still displayed a form of how their culture was present. The festival was to show how the fashion identity of Asian culture has changed. There is a clear picture of how traditional clothing should look and many of these designers seek to make their own trends or create new styles and in order to show how culture is maintained not just visual but spiritually. Similarly to other countries with their visually historical clothing, there is a wide distinct change in style, but there are some who embody the spirit of their culture and social norms of the old times into what they wear and how the children are dressed. We place judgment upon the Asians for being so different from their traditional clothing when in reality the clothing they tend to wear still reflects who they are and how they have become over the years. Many Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea still tend to place importance in fair skin so many tend to wear long sleeves and long skirts as to prevent sun damage as well as the society of which they have to tend to be very modest in how they dress unless you are a celebrity. Old European clothing holds no correlation remotely to today’s present wear of Western clothing and no principle of the old ways unless one is of strict religion.

Human Clothing values are defined as “[t]he wishes, desires, interests, motives, or goals which an individual considers worthwhile and thus are influential in determining his or her attitudes and behavior in the use of clothing” (Lapitsky, 1961). People buy clothing based on the society that they are raised in. American females are more likely to buy well-fitted clothing to accentuate their figure than a female in more modest Asian countries due to societal normalities. In countries run by Islamic people, the Muslim woman from head to toe (Craciun,2015) is covered in cloth. When westerners look upon Asian fashion many have called it “old lady fashion” due to the modesty clearly visually present. Fashion differs in what limits your society has placed upon you and how you choose to let them affect you. In the U.S. during the 20th century as society began to change the skirts shortened, the amount of cloth used lessened. Dress encodes and displays various social elements including class, gender and material subculture (Barnard, 2002). Society changed with the Enlightenment, the spread and contribution of new ideas, due to new values and concept of liberties and the role of the woman in the world beginning to change. What woman began to wear was to empower their beliefs and make their mark and place within a society that believed men were superior.

In the designer world, it is not the job of the designer to create pieces that are copies of other pieces simply because it is plagiarism as well as successful designers are the ones that have enough creativity to keep creating new and interesting pieces that could soon appear as trends. Many designers are influenced by society because what appeals to society, will sell. Social movements continue to appear and play a big part in how people dress these days, which changes the target designers have or broadens it allowing for a larger audience to be represented in the fashion world or appealed to. Culture plays a big part in how the designers or people present themselves to the outside world and what they seek to convey in their work. For a designer to show their culture within themselves and their work, they must be given liberties to pursue their ideas and expand them. It can be quite a private matter if the designer is asked to elaborate before they have completely put out all that have. All designers work in a different manner based off of how they were raised and the society in which they live. The type of clothing one creates depends on who it is for. The Smithsonian had acquired many misconceptions about the process of designers and should have realized then that all designers develop ideas differently. The ideal fashion designer at the festival would work diligently on styling clothes and would be available to answer questions all day long, for ten straight days( Combs, 2008, p.112). The process of constructing a piece is very technical and is not a show itself unless it is scripted and rehearsed, therefore making it unrealistic to the real process that the outside people wish to see. People tend to hold expectations and stereotypes accountable when traveling to another country that is why many tend to get shocked because the scenery was unexpected

Traditional Stereotypes of Cultural Taken and Misinterpreted

Traditional is the clothing that the ancestors of the respective culture wore when they began to become a distinguishable people within the world. It displays at many times their virtues or values serving as a form of representation that although may not be recognized spoken or written, can be seen with the eye without difficulty. Traditional clothing is a form of identification that is not meant to imprison the people within a structure but to unite the people as a whole. When most people hear the world culture they tend to think immediately of the traditional garment of such country or religion. It can be seen that many traditional garments have been influenced heavily by religion. As we recall from earlier religion is a part of one’s culture, the beliefs of the people who came generations before us influence our values. In times of oppression or change in society, the clothing that represents the people may be forced to change in order to fit into the new world, but most of the time it is influenced by foreign invaders as time went by emperors and kings sought to attain the most land and conquer other empires. After taking over such empires many sought to assimilate the people to their way, while others assimilated themselves the people’s ways, or took ideas and created an entirely new culture or identity for the people as a whole.

After the Chinese invasion of Tibet, like many other Asian countries sought to impress their values or spread their values and ideas among others to create a larger empire. The people of Tibet sought out to do whatever they had to in order to retain their identity and culture, so they do not lose what they believed and the legacy their ancestors wished for them to carry on. When someone tries to make another do what they wish by force, the majority would instinctively attempt to fight against any method the attacker used in order to maintain one’s freedom and identity. In order to create a symbolic boundary, Lhakar activists use their ‘traditional’ clothes to resist assimilation ( Yangzom, 2016, p.622-633). Many children of this generation view culture as a trap, a prison, shackles that prevent them from keeping up with the world. There may many things present within one’s culture that one may go against, but it is understood that as time goes by, the world is changing. Culture is the foundation of your identity atop of which you can build whatever overarching personality you wish to create. Tibetans place so much importance on their culture when they realize that although others may take their country or lands, that spiritually their culture is who they are and no one can physically or mentally rob you of. Clothing throughout the years has been used to make points, to represent ideas or philosophies as it represents culture. In China, during their revolutionary period, the more humble your clothing was the more revolutionary you were seen as a person.

As to how all these ideas correlate to the fashion society. They do so in every manner because fashion is how you do things and the trends you set into motion with what you wear. Using clothing to create a revolution of creativity and expression most of all. These traditional garments come from an idea or a group of ideas that arose. The idea or concept of fashion has already been present for so long in the world that almost everything has been done, but only true designers and fashion enthusiasts know about it. Although many have already been tried, they might have not made a bold mark that many designers using them are viewed as using new ideas, but merely are just using incorrect interpretations of culture in order to appeal to today’s society. In other words, fashion continually poaches culturally specific traditions, arts, ideas, etc. and (re)presents them in a way that makes them exotic and desirable. Many designers who do not clearly understand the culture of others tend to incorrectly present other’s identities or use stereotypes that may be true for some, but do not entirely represent the people. Many designers who wish to represent their culture correctly tend to never be taken seriously and hardly ever praised, but foreigners who incorrectly represent other cultures received praises from those who only recognize stereotypes. Although many would say that designers are artists, designers do not have the same freedom as an artist in what art they produce unless it sells or appeals to a wide audience. Even those Japanese designers, who are famous both in the East and West, face the pressure to adhere to Western standards for gender, class, and race that capitalism creates and sustains (Kondo, 1997).

China can be seen as one with the most traditional garments that can all be considered traditional to the country, but there is still conflict over what can be called the true traditional garment to represent the entirety in beliefs and history. Many do not believe that the qipao can properly be seen as the traditional Chinese garments due to having had influence from the Manchurian dynasty within China’s historical records. It’s about which one represents fully what it means to be of the Chinese people without all occupations when they were tainted by foreigners. The styles vary from one time to another and each period indeed has its own aesthetic value and moral standard under the ideology. The transformation throughout the imperial era not only symbolizes the social order and obedience but and more important, is a reflection of the cultural fusion of ancient Chinese civilization from a big picture. That is to say, a specific style must adapt to the new dynasty and last until the end of that dynasty (Mok, n.d.). Change in style throughout the years as they experienced Mongolian and Manchurian influence as well as occupation from other countries. The culture was seemingly lost after the entrance of foreigners. Many lost sight of their identity as the Manchurian rulers succeeded in assimilating the people to their ways and ideas. For those who study Chinese history, it can be clearly seen where the occupation of the Manchurians took place if all the clothing the Chinese people have worn were to be lined up in order. Tradition is a collection of stories. Clothing can tell the story of a bearer. A psychologist can tell a lot about a person from the present state of their clothing and the choice in clothing they have made. Traditional garments tell us the values of the people and what they deemed important as well as the materials they used. From the noblemen clothing we can see what was a luxury to the people. Most of the clothing the upper class wore bore symbols that held deep meaning and represented who they were to the people.

Culture is based on symbols which have inherent relationships or specific meanings to people. Clothing, as a presentation or reflection of certain aesthetic appreciation, religion, shared values, common interests or ideology, no matter physical or spiritual is linked to identity in a meaningful way (Mok, n.d.). As countries seek to become culturally diverse we must all learn, without focusing only on the stereotypes, to see the truth and the values of the people as a whole without outside judgment from their leaders’ actions.


Culture can have a positive or negative effect on the manner in which people carry out their lives. Although we attempt to become unique many are obvious that culture is not something you can take out completely because it is not just a religion or stereotype. It is the bloodshed, the tears held back while one’s ancestors sought to protect their family’s future, the celebrations to remember the old games that made our people smile, and it is the creation of a unique people who are family.

We will not notice the effect ourselves until one has gone into a deep slumber that eternally separates one from the land of the living. At many times it is hard to find a balance between oneself and culture, but the importance lies in staying true to what you believe and who you truly are. One shouldn’t try to push away because you would be rejecting a part of themselves. Society can change every day or every hour, yet one’s culture has not changed over generations it has survived the test of time. We should not just look at the end product, but the process as well in conveying a form of a people’s culture.

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Societal Normalities Throughout the Years Maintained and Dismissed. (2019, Nov 27). Retrieved from

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