Relationships in changing times. See the Stories>>

Working women talk finances. See the Stories>>

Culture and Conflict
Are we destined to disagree? See the Stories>>

The Future
Envisioning the next 30 years. See the Stories>>

Highlighted stories in film, art, music and more. See the Stories>>

War & Dialogue
Speaking from war. Advocating peace. See the Stories>>

Young Men
Our generation: young men speak out. See the Stories>>

Women get candid about pregnancy, parenting and choice. See the Stories>>

Image and Identity
Appearances aren't everything, or are they? See the Stories>>

Online Film Festival
31 films from women directors around the world. See the Stories>>

A Generation Defined
Who are young women today? See the Stories>>

Best of Contest
You came, you saw, you voted. Here are the winners. See the Stories>>
What Defines Your Generation of Women?
selected theme

REGISTER  |  LOGIN Change Language»    Invite a friend »
Custom and Costume
You’re out on the street and see a young woman walking towards you. In a split second, subconsciously, you immediately classify her--class, ethnic group, religion, age, politics.
Are you correct?

Watch a clip of Liz Mermin’s film “The Beauty Academy of Kabul” where she shows us the fashionable world of Afghan women—a stark contrast to how they are portrayed in western media.

Sandra Valencia Sebastian Pedro from Guatemala presents the beautiful clothing of Mayan women in her series “The Women of Abya Yala”. Colors and shapes in these fabrics act as silent symbols and markers of local and regional ethnic identity.

Iz Oztat takes the headscarf out of the debates of Turkish politics—and associates it instead with personal freedom, in her series, “Sisters.”

Do you identify yourself with a particular group or culture through your appearance?

Join the conversation!

Jessica Lagunas
United States
Lately I’ve been questioning the way I dress. I don’t feel the stores have the clothes that I’m looking for, the ones that will represent who I am. Nor I know exactly what I am looking for...

I don’t belong to any ethnic group that uses a traditiional costume on a daily basis, like a “sari” or a “huipil”, and since I work at home, nor do I have a “dress code” or have to wear a “uniform”.
How do you decide what to wear?
Post a Comment
Conversation Login to Post a Comment | Not a user? Join Now!
26 - 7 of 26 Next | First
Brenda Jiménez
Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2007 12:17 PM
I read a few post and they all got to me in different levels, some made me smile, some think about the culture and country i live in: they made me realize how every day mexican woman try to look more and more americanized or european, but less traditional or authoctons, they are even embarresed to be seen in an indigenous outfit. usually when we see a woman dress in that outfit, specially young woman and teenagers react by calling them names like "india" in a degorratory manner.
the wronlgy atributted denomination to an indigenous person, in all our folkclore and mexican jokes are as been ignorant and slow thinkers.
about a month ago, i wore a traditional mexican dress to work and i knew i would get some reactions, surprisely i didn't, but the moment i went out to my lunch break and a near by cafe the story changed, the only reason they stoped looking and giggle was when i brought out my macbook.
Post a Comment
Deneth Wedaarachchige
Sri Lanka
Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 5:09 AM
I am Sri Lankan artist but a traveler and mostly live in my culture girls mostly wear frocks, there are some girls where trousers but still the way I dress, I know when ever I walk or standing in a bus stop everyone else just staring at me. now I am kind of getting use to it.In Nepal its appropriate for women to wear clothes covering the bum. some parts like modern develop area's are fine. but mostly you can be respected if you have clothes on cover your bum on top of your trousers or skirts. I design my own style clothing with very cheep textile in a way I can use in Nepal as well as in Hot Sri Lanka and also to suit for going out, exhibition openings and meetings and work, witch now has become my traveling wardrobe! but when I wear this in Sri Lanka, for people its bit different.
As I am a artist I always wear unique accessories and bags.sometime in Sri Lanka people asking me weather I am Tamil or where are you from? or why are you dress like that?
for me it doesn't matter weather I am Tamil or black or orange or white.but the people's mind in this side of the world is alway about where you coming from and are you Tamil or Sinhalese.

I think when you decide what to wear, it has to connect with who you are! and also more than that, what you wear, its all about how you look.. if you can show your pure heart,honest eyes and how you really feel about life with confident with a Big and the best smile that all will explain and people won't even care what you are wearing.
That what I have learn living in this side of the world.
I have gain comment about the smile on my face from so many different people all around the world. Make sure you choose you cloths not for the brand but for the unique style and to present yourself truly. Anyone can design their own just have to give it a try!

Post a Comment
karima zuhair
Posted on Monday, August 13, 2007 12:46 PM
I idealized thoughts and method living method who becomes him. I don’t belongs
to group nor designating culture. Im conceptual
I is serious that big information appears the human in him practiced his humanitarian and her thought he his appearance
That my scene of wearing necklace in him crosses and Im Muslim and I wear the scarf intestine differs all different. But I is believer in what guarantees in him

Post a Comment
Paula Goldman, Director of Imagining Ourselves
United States
Posted on Monday, August 13, 2007 8:58 AM
Last weekend my dear co-worker arranged for me to get my eyebrows waxed for the very first time. "It will revolutionize your face," she said, over and over with the most endearing and slightly devilish smile on her face-- so after weeks of nudging, I finally agreed.

I drove across the Bay Bridge to Oakland, met her at a lovely little salon where she trusts the expert waxer, and laid on a bed in the back room as a young woman about my age stared over me with a special light and a ruler to measure whether my eyebrows were symmetrical enough. Strangely, the waxing didn't hurt. I walked out of the salon rubbing the newly soft areas around my brows where hair used to be... and I had to admit, they did look pretty good. Not a revolutionary change to my face, but pretty good.

The next day I went kayaking with friends, a mixed-sex crowd. No one noticed of course. But when I brought it up in conversation, the reaction was telling. My dear guy friend immediately said, "So, that's, what--fifteen dollars a month, so 200 bucks a year, so thousands of bucks over a lifetime?"

My female friend, by contrast, told me how she's been waxing her eyebrows forever and that basically every woman does this-- eyebrow grooming is an essential part of beauty. I later went home and asked other girlfriends and they all enthusiastically agreed and started sharing their different tips and secrets for the perfectly arched eyebrow.

Which made me wonder, bemusedly-- How did I get to my early thirties without ever learning about correct eyebrow care? :) Have I just been wandering around in the ether, not noticing things? ... And do I really want to commit thousands of dollars over a lifetime for this practice that perhaps no one really notices?

All you fine people out there outside the US-- are you also rushing out to mold those fine eyebrows of yours?
Post a Comment
lucy byaruhanga
Posted on Monday, August 13, 2007 7:41 AM
its funny, this morning i tried to think of myself wearing a chitenge outfit, i am afterall an african woman and mature enough to look good in a chitenge......i just coulcnt identify myself with that particular outfit.
i am proudto ne african but saw myself in jeams and sandals or eben in an office suit. irealised that the selfaware neo african woman i would like ti think i am is afraidto be seen as an african woman period!!!!!! the more that i learn about myself the more i uncover my idnorance and fears.
Post a Comment
agi t
Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2007 3:57 AM
Hi friends.. Its nice to c ur comments on dressings.
I agree with Assabah-ul-Arjamand Khan, that men has no rights to oppose the way we dress n our make up works. But v also should dress in a manner tat boys r not disturbed. Bec in indian culture dress plays an important role. In our country our ancestors have given some rules in dressing which makes an indian gal very beautiful n gains self respect n security.
But nowadays western dressing mode had influenced India very much. Even i myself feel easy wen i'm dressed in salwars, jeans.
There s no harm in wearing those if we feel confident n we will not be humiliated by others.. n there comes Security.
Also i'm very surprised on seeing nicholes comment. we should for our sake. Even there s dress code for specific areas(office, temple etc.,) we cant give up our style. That will make us diffrent and also because of dressing we can get an identity. Always we should not worry about others comment.
Dressing s not a big issue in daily life. Only on some occasions we like to be in well dressed manner and that also will become easy if had nice taste and intrests. but when compared with our life its s a tiny part. It'll play a great role only in those who were in fashion technology field.
Post a Comment
Marame Gueye
Posted on Friday, August 10, 2007 11:22 AM
In Senegal,fashion is a very important thing and Dakar has become the African Paris where all kinds of styles can be found. I have to admit that I love to dress up like most Senegalese. When I came to the US eight years ago, I was shocked at how casual American women are and was always frustrated when people asked me if I was going to a party because I wore my African clothes. I found myself having to explain that in Africa, dressing up is a sign of self-respect and respect for other people and that most of the clothing I was wearing were considered casual in Senegal.
One other thing that frustrated me was that people would associate their steretypes of Africa as a poor and downtrodden continent with my appereance. To many, I should be wearing rags because I come from a country where most people cannot afford food let alone fancy clothings. They also would expect me to wear African clothing all year round and made it sound like I was less of an African when I wore European attire.
I think we live now in a world where fashion is a mixture of many cultures and styles and that what you wear should not determine who you are or where you come from.
Post a Comment
Judith Watkins
United States
Posted on Friday, August 10, 2007 9:02 AM
Reading the comments on dress by Assabah-ul-Arjamand Khan, and pondering the Kabul women, I fully realize how small my daily dilemmas are in comparison. You are very courageous, I will pray for your safety.
Post a Comment

Posted on Friday, August 10, 2007 12:24 AM
Recently I was in Delhi for a Conference on Women organised by one of the groups called THE OTHER MEDIA ON 8TH JULY, 2007 and we were discussing about the Human Rights voilations by Armed Forcs in Seven North Eastern States of India and Kashmir.On the second day of the Conference I talked about the atrocities by non-state actors like certain millitant groups who have in the past thrown acid on the faces of girls in Kashmir and I mentioned the point because if we have to be balanced we have to quote the atrocities of both sides. The Conference was in Delhi and after some time one of the journalist who was also attending the conference and was part of delegation from Kashmir came to me acuusing me of religious blashphemy. I could not believe how the dress code of women and the methods of implementation by millitant groups whether under the pressure of gun or throwing acid on the girls faces means blashphemy to religion. This is how people start maligning things. My simple point was that women should have the choice to dress up the way they want. Nor the State actors or non state actors have the right to implement dress code on them. I want to quote one more example about the power of men to implement dress code on women. My brother is a lawyer but he feels offended whenever I put make up on my face whether it is eyeshade or lipstick. Many a times he would tell my mother that he will not give me a lift in his car till I do not rub off all the make up on my face. In Kashmir most men dictate in this manner to their women in the families and my brother is no different. So these are our so-called educated journalists and lawyers so what can you expect of uneducated and illitrate lots?
Post a Comment

Posted on Friday, August 10, 2007 12:03 AM
I really want to join this conversation because I guess I have to narrate to the world my first hand experience. As an Activist of Women's right I always believed that women should have the right to dress they way they like. But Unfortunately we live in that part of the world where even men in society want to decide how we should dress. I am putting up at Sopre one of the hardliner Islamist belts in Kashmir and have to travel some 11 Kms everyday to go to my Office at Wadura. I guess you will believe me I never cover my head with scarf.Thrice I have been asked by stranger men to cover my head. They think that it is quite unislamic of me not to cover my head. To the first one i said, I am not into all this. Which he could not even understand what I was saying because I could guess the man was completely illitrate. Again second time a man told me to cover my head which i ignored completely. Third a teenager boy is asking me persistently to cover my head. Then i really had to tell him "what authority he has to ask me to do all this? Second if he wants to implement discipline in society he should implement it to his family. All men in the bus were aghast with my reply. they can't imagine a girl answering back.What forced me to do all this is that if I had covered my head under pressure, tomorrow they will ask ten more women to cover their head whether willingly or unwillingly. Then some men started ridiculing me for the same but I started reading the newspaper and ignored them all. But what was haunting me at the back of my mind is how these ignorant fools can rip of the dignity of any young woman. And they are also aware of the power they have in society. but I was contented with my decision to resist rather than succumb. To fight even for the way you have to dress is really frustrating but this is how certain contexts function. Men feel their sensibilities are offended and sometimes these things lead to exterme cases of throwing acid on girl's faces. I wonder how we are going to fight all this?
Post a Comment
United States
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2007 11:46 PM
Its truly amazing to read feedbacks from women of different ethnicities and nationalities about dressing. Clothing was originally designed to cover up our nake bodies, but the media and fashion industry has successful made it into a multi-billion empire. At the end of the day, its up to each of us to decide what the meaning of clothing means to us.

Personally, I love dressing up in only African attire during the summer months and wearing skirts during the fall season and pants/trousers during the winter/spring season. I will also be a Cameroonian although I have naturalize to be a US citizen. I refuse to let myself become involved in the fashion world. I rather prefer to spend my money on my education, investments, giving to charities and buying my basic needs.

I live my life on this principle:
Never spend money buying clothes you can't afford to impress people you don't like.

Clothes will never make you a better person because true beauty comes from within. So don't cover your insecurities in expensive clothing you truly can't afford. Be YOURSELF and have fun in doing it.
Post a Comment
Judith Watkins
United States
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2007 10:45 PM
I was very moved by the Beauty Academy of Kabul, for all the obvious reasons. I also felt validated by it. You see, every day contains an element of painful internal conflict for me over what to wear, how to present myself. I truly enjoy beauty of all kinds, I make art and decorate everything I touch. I love beautiful clothes and making up my face to look as beautiful as I can. I consider it an expression of me and what I love.

I am also motivated by insecurity, however. I feel ugly if not made up, at least with some foundation to cover acne scars and dark circles, and a little lipstick for some color. It is hard sometimes to figure out where to draw the line between self-expression and insecurity.

Another dilemma is that I do not want for people to think I have shallow values because I love clothes and make-up. It is not the most important thing in the world to me by any stretch, and the vast part of mt time and energy go to other pursuits (my job as a physician, my daughter, to name two) and each day is informed by my spiritual sense.

I also have to strive to balance femininity and seeming competent in a masculine profession. It's a fine line. I want to be an example of very feminine and womanly competence, but one must challenge limits without way over-shooting and being tuned out.

I am deeply grateful that I can go out in just about any attire I care to. I can identify with the Kabul women taking immense risks to wear make-up: this says, "I'm here, I exist, I am beautiful, see me. I am not invisible!" Make-up celebrates the face/identity (when it is not mandatory, when it is optional, when it can be chosen or not, when it is not taken as the sum of the woman.) It can be play, art, fancy.
Post a Comment
Jessica Lagunas
United States
Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2007 5:53 PM
I was really impressed by Nichole's comment about the world of appearances and the time it takes her to get ready (1.5-2 hrs!!!). It is an honest, revealing and sincere comment. Just this weekend a friend was telling me also how she tries 3 different outfits everyday before going to work and I could sense her desperation and frustration by this daily routine...

On the other hand, I feel very much empowered by Rutendo's comment in response to Danielle Scruggs's "Good Hair" piece:
Her comment can be applied in general to all women's image and identity. I agree with her that we should be the ones who define our own styles, not other women, men and society. She couldn't have said it better than "Let your beauty glow".

But I recognize how hard it is to ignore or avoid pressures from others about how one should look. For example, I can choose not to wear make-up or do my hair, but I do have to "wear" something! Unless, I want to go to jail... :-P

Have you beautiful ladies out there have found ways to dress yourself authentically and originally, respecting who you truly are?
Post a Comment
Onyinyechi Emeruwa-Okechukwu
Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2007 4:03 AM
Recently, I noticed the huge transformation taking place in the fashion circle in my country. Before now most people are naturally inclined to the attires of our colonialists. This is common in most African countries.

In recent times Africans are beginning to find the true expression of who they really are through fashion and style. For example in Nigeria it is now fashionable for you to make a 3-piece suit, an evening dress and wedding dresses from the traditional 'adire', 'ankara' and other traditional fabrics. We now have the Nigerian/African fashion show with all traditional attire displayed on the runway. I particularly like the new trend in the African fashion world- using traditional fabrics in exciting and creative ways.

Whenever I attend international conferences within Africa I find many Europeans taking on the 'African Style' this goes to show that we all influence each other with our customs and costumes and we are all unique in our own ways. I believe all countries have their own native cultural cues to use when deciding what to wear.
Post a Comment
United States
Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2007 4:42 PM

Last week, a friend called me and asked if I was free to hang out. It was 11AM and a Friday, which means that I had just woke up. I actually had no plans for the day, but instead of saying "yeah, let's grab some lunch," I dodged the invitation. I made up some story about being busy and said that I would call him another time.

This weekend I did call said-friend back, and we hung out. We started talking about our personalities-- he's more impromptu, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants, while I’m the type that needs a plan set in stone-- and I confessed that the week before I wasn't busy at all. I told him I couldn't hang out with him then because I had just woken up and it would have taken me 2 hours to get ready before I would have been able to see him.

He was shocked (and a little appalled, I think, that it takes me 2 hours to get ready). He complained and said he would have just come over to my house and we could have watched TV. I said I wouldn't have let him in.

And I wouldn’t have. I confess that I am all too-consumed with my appearance. I confess that it takes me 1.5 hours every morning to get ready. I confess that I try on at least 3 different outfits before I find one that I like. I confess that I’m vain. But most of all, I confess that I’m insecure. The very honest truth is that I spend all this time in the morning getting ready for the world because I don’t like how I look without all that preparation. I feel most myself with a face full of make up on and least myself without it. I feel my most confident when I’m put together, when I’ve got the perfect outfit on, when I’ve done my hair just how I like it, and when I’ve lined my eyes with kohl three times.

All of this, too, comes from me and my own expectations of myself. My friend said he didn’t care what I looked like without makeup on and asked if I really thought he did. No, of course I don’t think cares, but the bottom line is I care. And I do all this for me.

Post a Comment
Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2007 11:09 AM
Metaphorically cocooning and asphyxiating herself in a coffin made using her loved ones’ clothes, Khadija Baker has forced a knife into my heart. This incredible Kurdish artist's installation "Coffin Nest" eloquently speaks of war and loss, of televised and surreal experience of the same, of how easy it is to lose humanity and become equated to an object that, until yesterday, simply protected you from the elements or marked your social status and class. Then, there is war, the other quotidian, and these clothes become you—a proof that you existed and once were. These clothes become evidence that a crime was committed; to your loved ones these clothes become a consolation and unbearable pain all at the same time, because finding your clothes they find you, and can bury you, at least literally.

It is incredible how you always remember what your loved one wore on the day they disappeared.

I wanted to take this opportunity and remind everyone that the twelfth anniversary of genocide in Srebrenica just took place in July. The women of Srebrenica are mourning deaths of the 7,000 men and boys and I invite you all to abandon your party lines, religious and ethnic backgrounds and narratives and put yourself in these men and boys’ shoes, like Khadija has done in this installation, and mourn the death of those who could have been your loved ones, who could have been you.

Get to know and support the incredible work of Women of Srebrenica by visiting their Web site
Post a Comment
Luz Sanchez
Posted on Monday, August 06, 2007 8:59 PM
I am from Mexico and I have to say I see this all the time. The women who look whiter dress like Europeans. Those of us that look more mixed struggle with what to look like, how to be proud of ourselves. I love Sandra Valencia Sebastian Pedro's work for this very reason, so beautiful.
Post a Comment
Sharanya Manivannan
Sri Lanka
Posted on Sunday, August 05, 2007 4:56 AM
Thanks Paula! My mother's side of the family is from Batticaloa, although I lived in Colombo as a child. I've been invited to a literary festival in Galle in Jan 2008 -- it will be my first trip back to the country in almost ten years!
Post a Comment
Roselyne Marikasi
Posted on Friday, August 03, 2007 3:13 PM
Well I hear a whole lot of interesting comments about dress, the honest truth is that I am glad that I am currently living in a country where your attire does not necessary define who you are. Well I would like to think that it doesn't. I know that there are certain things I would like to wear but I can't not because anyone is stopping me but I believe that the Godly spirit in me reminds all the time before I leave home, that I should respect my body because it is ofcourse the temple of God
Post a Comment
Rutendo Precious Mudzamiri
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 4:04 PM
Hey, I really feel that what you are saying about black hair Danielle Scruggs, black sisters with locks, we have reached a point and time where we should be proud of our own beauty as africans or not. It is okey to have the stlye that you feel good in but I feel that we have passed a satge where our own beauty should be defined by following the crowd and do what everyone else is doing. Who says that neatly smart dreadlocks in a beautiful black womans hair are ugly? Women, I think we should begin leberating our own self, spirit and soul before liberating the society. Please let us just move away from getting our identity from other people and I am sure that by so doing, we will not wait to be defined by other women, men, and society.I really think that if you have white, black, pink, green, purple or red hair and you feel beautiful in it, Right on sister and LET YOUR BEAUTY GLOW in the world. Black hair is beautiful, blonde is, straight is too. It is the inward person and what she carries inside that is important. Let us move ahead and go for accepting and appreciating the beauty of a woman based on her wisdom. strength, intelligence and beutiful warm heart.
Post a Comment
26 - 7 of 26 Next | First
Login to Post a Comment | Not a member? Join Now!
Featured Stories
"Black Hair Day"
Annette Quarcoopome, Ghana
Phoebe Boswell, Kenya
"You Bring Out the Sri Lankan in Me"
Sharanya Manivannan, Sri Lanka
"Plow Right Through"
Sumayya Maria Essack, United States
"Mayan Women"
Andrea Aragón, Guatemala
"Breaking the Lesbian Stereotypes"
Nadine M. , Lebanon
"An American in Paris"
Rupa Marya, United States
"The Women of Abya Yala"
Sandra Valencia Sebastian Pedro, Guatemala
"The Beauty Academy of Kabul"
Liz Mermin, United States
"Slip of the Tongue"
Karen Lum, United States
Iz Oztat, Turkey
Jihan Ammar, Egypt
"Miss Gulag"
Maria Ibrahimova Yatskova, Russia
"Good Hair"
Danielle Scruggs, United States
"Our Ethnic Identity"
Siti Norkhalbi Haji Wahsalfelah, Brunei
"Marie, an Iranian Transsexual"
Newsha Tavakolian—EVE Photographers, Iran
"Coffin Nest"
Khadija Baker, Syria
©2008 International Museum of Women / Privacy Policy and Disclaimer / Translated by 101translations / Change Language