The Kaleidoscope of Textiles: Dress as Multidimensional Cultural Documents


Clothing and Dress


The Kaleidoscope of Textiles: Dress as Multidimensional Cultural Documents


"Show me the clothes of a culture and I can write its history" - Anatole France (1844-1924)

Material culture is the world of things that people – all of us – purchase and possess. Our possessions provide information about who we are and how we live. Clothing and textiles constitute the widest category of material culture rich in symbolic communication. The University of Rhode Island’s Historic Textile and Costume Collection has approximately 25,000 objects, including roughly 285 ethnic garments.

The garments in this exhibit represent clothing identified with various ethnic groups present in the United States. They represent the ethnic diversity and sociocultural richness of our population. By examining the relationship between ethnicity and dress, viewers can gain an awareness and appreciation of the kaleidoscope of ethnicity that makes up our population and conceivably the experiences of those who have immigrated to the United States.


Funding for this exhibit was provided by a URI Center for Humanities Winnie Grant

Thanks also to the URI Alumni Foundation for their support


The following students contributed to the production of this exhibit: Christina Adamo; Mariela Aguero Barrantes; Aymar Ccopacatty; Susan Day; Erika Holshoe; Michelle Leung; Cordelia Mueller; Samantha Myette; Alyssa Opishinski; Katy W. O’Donnell

All photographs by Connor Steere

Faculty and staff: Jessica Strubel; Rebecca Kelly; Susan J. Jerome

Collection Items

Woman's Huipil, Guatemala
Huipils are precolonial garments used by indigenous people within the Mayan region in Central America. The Maya civilization developed thousands of years ago, with descendants living today in an area that incorporates southeast Mexico, all of…

Textile Fragment from Chancay People, Peru
Andean textiles are some of the most intricate and technically complex textiles in the world, reflecting development over thousands of years prior to Spanish contact and continuing through modern times. Textiles were used in Andean culture as a form…
View all 19 items

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