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BorderLore, October 2016 
In the perfect ornamental backdrop of folklife... our dress has an enduring connection to culture.

Soon, the desert will cool. And then we'll add layers -- to warm and to adorn. We'll wander among the weaves in our closets, selecting a nostalgic and ethnic accent, or maybe outfitting ourselves with something that speaks to a quintessential political idea or symbol of pop culture. We also may add a signature scarf, or stack of colorful bangles, as elements of memory and our exclusive, aesthetic interest. We'll be spoilt for choice as we costume ourselves with the poetic vehicle of adornment -- one that brings us comfort, ties us to place, and celebrates identity in the ultimate intersection of ritual and art on our own personal stage.
Our dress intends to send a message, with the content of our message an important statement of culture, fashion and identity. Diverse references guide our choices -- often mingling a provenance of tradition or an abstraction of the contemporary world, with a dazzling influence of nature and street culture, even technology, added to the mix.
Clearly, heritage is one strong inspiration to fuel our costume curiosity. In taking the best of the past for the future, we see, for example, how the traditional floral crowns of Ukrainian identity stir national pride, and how the uses of ancient traditional dress too are carried over into Western cultures. Our costume is a mirror of history... "a predecessor of what has taken place in larger society, and a predictor of what will take place."
BorderLore this month explores adornment practices that reveal the broad cultural connection of costume to fantasy or everyday folklife:  
Halloween is a cultural centerpiece, with origins extending back centuries, in rituals that blend pop culture with traditional belief. But its costuming practices are not all positive, particularly when the dark edges of Halloween tricks mock ethnicity, or appropriate culture.  Learn more from Dr. Maribel Alvarez here
Through stage performance, we see inspirational examples of costume's fine arts technique -- and we admire the colors, patterns and textiles that transcend the mundane to become powerful symbols of an honored craft. Learn more about historical costuming, the ideas around which the craft emanates, and the rituals that bring together significant aspects of the costuming culture, from Kathleen Trott of the Arizona Opera, here
The All Souls' Procession is a festive ritual, a collaboration of the dramatically theatrical with the everyday. Enormous layered costume designs, in procession, express a community's essence, with the interplay of participants amplifying visual impact within intimate sacred space. BorderLore and Nadia Hagen, founder of FLAM CHEN Pyrotechnic Theatre and Artistic Director of the Procession, explore an artistic result that blends the honoring of ancestors with forms of spiritual and stage magic, here
The folk costumes of Gayle Castañeda's doll collection reflect ethnic pride and even cultural exchange, as well as exquisite ornamentation and detail. The significance of costuming, and what led her to create the Castañeda Museum of ethnic costumed dolls, here.

o   A 2016 TMY Thank You, here.

Read this month's collection of resources and calendar highlights here.
End Notes... 
There is a need to self-express through our dress. The ubiquity of costuming reminds us that our choices often make revolutionary statements, especially when we use adornment to define the influences and philosophies in our lives. Our statements "...encroach on the areas of art, politics and science, making it clear that we are talking about a phenomenon that lies near the centre of the modern world." Through dress, we ask to be considered, admired, and sometimes challenged.

Costume is a prerequisite to displaying our individual artistry. We appreciate the sheer joy of its intrinsic beauty as much as its role in designing how we want to be framed. When we allow this "second skin" to become a layered spectrum of identity, our clothing "speaks" for us and our folklife.

"...When asked what she wore to bed, Marilyn Monroe claimed that she wore only Chanel No. 5, illustrating how the body, even without garments, can still be adorned or embellished in some way. Dress is a basic fact of social life and this, according to anthropologists, is true of all known human cultures: all people 'dress' the body in some way, be it through clothing, tattooing, cosmetics or other forms of body painting. To put it another way, no culture leaves the body unadorned but adds to, embellishes, enhances or decorates the body... Dress is the way in which individuals learn to live in their bodies and feel at home in them..."

"...There are at least three levels of identity that clothing can convey to the observer: (1) personal; (2) cultural; and (3) historical. A woman wearing a hijab, for instance, is identifying herself as an adherent to particular religious and cultural norms. By negotiating these aspects of our identity by what we wear, we can either bring ourselves closer to others, or distanc(e) ourselves from them..."

Counterculture, oppositional dress: "I grew up really poor in Tucson...You became really resourceful, especially if you were fashionable. There were a lot of thrift items that were re-sewn. I did what I could to make sure I could express myself...I was into learning about sweatshop labor. Candy represented this mass production, fast fashion, and the strike is a strike against it. I like that it's a little confusing. People have to ask me what the name is all about..."
"Fashion is...an historical marker...It filters culture, expresses modernity, and symbolizes the spirit of the times..."
© 2016, Southwest Folklife Alliance. All rights reserved. BorderLore is the e-news magazine of Southwest Folklife Alliance. The study and documentation of folklife involves the accurate representation of people's viewpoints in their own terms; quotes and opinions expressed in interviews with individual tradition bearers do not necessarily reflect the sentiments and opinions of BorderLore editors, the Southwest Folklife Alliance or any specific person or entity at the University of Arizona. 
Managing Editor:   Monica Surfaro-Spigelman
Contributing Writer: Kimi Eisele 

Thank you for reading this newsletter. We welcome your feedback, commentary and any suggestions or ideas. Write to us at:  swfolklife@gmail.com

Previous issues of BorderLore Newsletter are archived  here and here.