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Regional Dress across Europe

Drawing from the rich collection of Kent State University Museum, this exhibition showcases common features shared by regional costume across Europe. In its original context in villages, regional dress carefully marked social and cultural differences. Religious affiliation, gender, age, and marital status were all instantly recognizable at a glance by members of the community. A person’s outfit signaled which village or region they came from. Focusing on these signs of difference obscures the common vocabulary that rural residents across Europe used to shape their clothing. By organizing the pieces on display according to shared features, this exhibition highlights the commonalities across the continent rather than their differences. Some of these similarities evolved out of the inherent properties of the materials and techniques used. Stripes naturally develop out of alternating color when weaving and beautiful, colorful designs developed in hand knitting. Other features actually developed out of technological advances that occurred by the late nineteenth century when regional dress reached its apex. Elaborately jacquard-woven textiles including ribbons were widespread across Europe and reflected the penetration of modern innovations and consumer goods into rural communities. The development of elaborate regional dress was not a result of the isolation of their wearers but a signal of their integration into broader European society.

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