Dress to Express: Exploring Culture and Identity

Journal of Folklore and Education

2014: Volume 1
Paddy Bowman and Lisa Rathje, Editors

About This Volume

Dress and adornment embody both the most personal and the most public ways in which we create and express identity. Clothing shields us from heat and cold and protects our modest, yet its cultural significance goes far beyond basic necessity. Dressing is a daily experience that creates the boundary between the intimate self and the wider world and requires knowledge, techniques, and aesthetics that are not often acknowledged yet hold complex meaning. Decoding, documenting, analyzing, and interpreting research on clothing and adornment is engaging and adaptable for any age or setting, teaches important literacy skills, calls upon all the senses, employs a variety of media and modes of inquiry, and renders diversity uniquely and authentically.

Articles

Introducing the Journal of Folklore and Education

Our Dress to Express theme supports young people in the study of dress and adornment as cultural markers—aspects of visual culture through which people communicate their identity.

Expressing and Reading Identity through Photographs

Photographs, like identity, hold multiple truths and illusions. Teaching visual literacy creates nuanced readings of meaning for, and about, the photographer, the subject, and the consumer.

National Heritage Fellows Portrait Gallery

The highest honor for a folk and traditional artist is the NEA National Heritage Fellowship. Four portraits of award winners and activities provide tools to read photographs as text, address cultural assumptions, and discover new traditions and artists.

The Little Things: Uncovering Identity on Campus through Dress and Adornment

Every day we creatively communicate both our individual tastes and our social affiliations through the way we style ourselves. College students explore the methodological, ethical, and theoretical implications of representation in building an exhibition.

Clothes Encounters: Ten Days in Our Perpetual Study of Everyday Life

Creating a more complex, sustainable teaching and learning environment allowed students and teacher to study not just clothing but a myriad of family and community expressions and interactions, creating a perpetual and close cultural encounter.

Performing the Personal in a State of Transition: Decorated Mortarboards

This essay explores the ways in which individuals use a reflexive and playful genre of creative expression to fashion (quite literally) their personal engagement with the ideas of self, community, education, and the unknown future.

Exploring Dress, Exploring Identity: An Assignment in Learning to See Cultural Identity through Aspects of Dress

The dress and identity assignment can prove one of the most interesting and thoughtful of the semester. It combines both detailed microanalysis of a single object in one single moment and larger, macro-­‐level concerns of cultural structures and norms.

On Tattoos and Tangents: Discussing Research in the Classroom

One of the most powerful aspects of teaching tattoos is how it opens up many avenues for discussion and allows for a variety of approaches to research.

The Smithsonian’s Will to Adorn Youth Access Project: Engaging and Connecting Youth through Community Based Cultural Research and Presentation

This article is part of the The Will to Adorn project.
The Will to Adorn is a project that began with the idea to work with scholars, educators, students, and cultural practitioners to document the arts of everyday dressing. Dress represents a multifaceted aesthetic tradition closely related to identity, but not often recognized as an art form. Yet, we asked ourselves: What art could be more intimately related to our social and cultural identities then what we wear, how we choose to style our hair, and modify our bodies.

The Will to Adorn Youth Access Program

This article is part of the The Will to Adorn project.
Dress represents a multifaceted aesthetic tradition closely related to identity, but not often recognized as an art form. The Smithsonian Will to Adorn Project asked: What art could be more intimately related to our social and cultural identities than what we wear, how we choose to style our hair, and modify our bodies? What art could be more accessible? The five articles in this special section include case studies, classroom connections, and more.

Art of Style @ JazzFest

This article is part of the The Will to Adorn project.
Afterschool 5th‐ and 6th‐grade students in KID smART classes at Akili Academy in New Orleans were part of the Smithsonian’s Will to Adorn Youth Access Program during the 2013–14 school year. Over the course of the year, students studied adornment, style, and culture through the lens of the visual arts.

A Closer Look at AS220 Youth

This article is part of the The Will to Adorn project.
AS220 Youth is a free arts education program in Providence, Rhode Island, serving young people ages 14 to 21. This article looks at what happened when AS220 integrated The Will to Adorn folklore curriculum into existing photo and video production classes.

Behind the Lens: Girls of Color in the Media at the Museum of the African Diaspora

This article is part of the The Will to Adorn project.
Our hope with Behind the Lens is that we inspire our girls not only to look at social media, reality television, magazines and other media with a critical eye, but also create or share content that they want to see and that they want others to see.

Exploring Culture and Identity through Folk Dance Costume

Examining folk dance costume materials, designs, symbols, colors, patterns, along with the goals of the makers, and the beliefs of those who wear it, can provide a methodology for exploring history and folk culture.

Marks of Distinction in an Afro-­Brazilian Martial Art

Distinctive martial arts clothing marks one as a practitioner to the broader world, and within the world of that sport, identifies levels of expertise.

The Guayabera and Cultural Research

Researching the traditional shirt known as the Guayabera demonstrates that clothing has a history and often serves as a cultural marker.

Overheard: Dress Sayings and Proverbs

"Dress slowly, we’re in a hurry." How might students analyze their own common phrases that include dress‐related expressions? By giving them a couple of examples, what other phrases may they discover?

Key Themes In this Issue

Identity, History, Community

The Journal of Folklore and Education (ISSN 2573-2072) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published annually by Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education. JFE publishes work that uses ethnographic approaches to tap the knowledge and life skills of students, their families, community members, and educators in K-12, college, museum, and community education.