On Garments and Gender

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Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East

When my son was 4 years old, he loved to dress in skirts. Reactions from the surroundings varied a lot: from the daycare assistant who laughed and said he was funny, to his great grandfather who exclaimed that skirts were for girls only. Not to mention the friendly woman San Francisco who called the child “a cute little trans-person”. But who said boys and men should wear pants?

In the ethnographic collections at Moesgaard Museum, categorical ideas of relations between gender and certain kinds of clothing are being challenged. Around the world, garments are being used in different ways by different people, demonstrating that there is no natural connection between our biological gender and what we wear. Take a look beyond and dare to be inspired!

The South Indian dhoti is wrapped tightly around the waist, and there is an array of different techniques for the wrapping. This blue chequered dhoti is collected in Tranquebar (Tarangambadi) in Tamil Nadu, where fishermen wear the dhoti folded in half. It is made of thin cotton, which quickly dries in the sun.

The traditional Same suit for men includes a kofte. This beautiful example is collected in Lapland in northern Norway:

In Egypt, the Galabya is a classic mens’ garment. The white one is worn under the colored galabya. EA726-0228 is for a young boy.

// Cecil Marie Schou Pallesen


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putting thought to things

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