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#128204 05/05/04 03:28 AM
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I have been searching for this word for a long time. It is a word that names the dress system in some cultures as in imperial China where every detail of the garment is purposely placed to signify something like rank, nobility, etc. Can you help?


#128205 05/05/04 11:06 PM
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Sorry wordmatters, I have no idea but I'm sure one of this fine crew will be able to help you out.

Welcome to the Board.


#128206 05/05/04 11:20 PM
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welcome, wordmatters

I can't even figure out where to start with such a search... this one is a tough nut to crack...



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#128207 05/05/04 11:45 PM
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this might be a place to start:
http://www.lib.unc.edu/reference/instruction/costume.html
I apologize if you've been there already...

this is also an interesting short article:
http://www.iht.com/articles/124252.html though it doesn't give a specific name for the study of such garments.


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#128208 05/07/04 07:29 PM
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Welcome, Wordmatters.

Perhaps the word for which you seek is "sumptuary."
Strictly speaking, the word means "Regulation of Expenditure," but the Sumptuary Laws regulated the sort of clothes that certain classes of people were permitted to wear. Many different countries and societies have introduced such laws at one time or another, with varying success: they were never very effective in Britain, but Russia, under Peter the Great, introduced quite successful laws regulating what sort of clothing different conditions of society were allowed to wear.


#128209 05/10/04 12:26 AM
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Hierarchical dress comes to mind, Wordmatters.

“Dress for a Roman often, if not primarily, signified rank, status, office, or authority. . . . The dress worn by the participants in an official scene had legal connotations. . . . The hierarchic, symbolic use of dress as a uniform or costume is part of Rome's legacy to Western civilization.” (Larissa Bonfante. "Introduction.” The World of Roman Costume. Ed. Judith Lynn Sebesta and Larissa Bonfante. University of Wisconsin Press, 1994. Pp. 5-6)

http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/clothing.html


#128210 05/11/04 03:46 AM
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Thanks, all, for your input. I encountered this word a few years ago while whittling the time away waiting at my dentist's office reading a magazine having this word in it. Needless to say this word has slipped from my memory and now I chased down the magazine editor and found a back issue of it which is on it's way to my home now. I will keep you all posted when I receive it. I hope it is the right magazine!





#128211 05/11/04 11:42 AM
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Doesn't that drive you crazy, knowing you know something but can't bring it up? We've all been there.
And Dave Barry says that once you hit 50, the nouns are the first to go.


#128212 05/11/04 02:10 PM
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as Tang pointed out, the idea of the clothes making the man (or at least hinting at social status) is not unknown in western european culture.

stripes, or striped fabric, were required dress for 'unsavory' characters, (non christian, thiefs, and other criminals)in the middle ages. the idea has persisted right down to the idea of prison garments being made from striped fabric.. this common icon is no longer true for most prisoners, but any cartoon image of a prisoner will portray them in stripes.

the use of colors too, is an other aspect of dress that connotes 'social status'. the bride wears (in most of north europe and english speaking countries) white, the widow wears black. The queen wears a crown (nowdays, in informal settings, the queen wears a hat instead of a crown!)and while we might sometimes mock her taste in headgear, they are effect!.

the history of garments, and there meanings, has largly been lost, though a few isolated segments of the population still use clothing as political statements.

(the 'pilgrim fathers' of NE, like the amish of pennsylvania, rejected buttons as ostentatcious displays of wealth. the Pilgrims made a point of fastening their clothing with buckles, --and buckles can be found on every garment, from shoes to their hats!)

The millitary use of buttons as decoration, is reputed to be napolean's idea. he insisted the sleeve edges of army uniforms be decorated with buttons, to discourage uncouth officers from wiping their noses on their sleeves!

Buttons use to be very expensive, and large, decorated buttons were a way of displaying wealth. a country that had the resourses to decorate army uniforms with buttons was a country that has riches to spare!

we have largely forgotten that, but we still use the old descriptions of the US revolutionary forces as being 'rag-tag'. their clothing was often tied on (rag-tags! literaly!) and not decorated with shiny brass buttons, as were the royal forces.

there are many idioms in english about clothing. (who wears the pants in this family) sort of thing, that betray some past meanings. ('people of every sort of stripe' attended)..


#128213 05/18/04 11:40 PM
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Thanks again, all, for your contributions. RhubarbCommando - I guess you aren't called a pooh bah for nothing. The word I was seeking for indeed was "sumptuary" and here is how it appears in a caption above a vintage photo (circa 1861-64) of an elaborately dressed Chinese couple - a Cantonese Mandarin and his wife, in an article, Images of Old China, found in Architectural Digest, May 1999:

"China's complex sumptuary laws, in wich rank dictated every detail of costume, are reflected in a portrait of a couple wearing their official robes." John Cuadrado



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