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Chapter i

accessorize!

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hat is fashion? This sphinx-like riddle can be answered on so many levels that great couturiers eternally wrestle with it—as do fashion editors. Every year, designers strive to make their mark, trying anxiously to set a trend for the “beautiful people.” An industry eagerly awaits for reactions to its shows, hoping masses of women will buy their designs, trying to feel included among the elite. The vision of fashion as a chimera created with mirrors and press agentry buzzing around models parading up and down runways exists only in the great capitals of the West. However, more fundamentally, fashion is an exercise common to any group attempting to establish and maintain its identity, against the backdrop of a whole society. Within a given group, fashion helps in establishing the pecking order among men and women, and in defining its boundaries. These boundaries are always blurred, for social groupings and social standings are forever shifting. What is inclusive this year, may be exclusive the next, as groupings form and reform. Fashions assist, as barriers are raised and leveled, in rotating the infinitely varied kaleidoscope created by all dynamic societies. Fashion encompasses not only fabrics, but also “accessories.” Together with the gown, shawl and coat—the assorted tiara, necklace, bracelets, brooches, earrings and rings—have to be viewed as composing an integral whole. We must examine: not only the garb, with its many petticoats and the blouse with the bouffant sleeves, but the headdress, torque and anklets that complete the ensemble. Thus, fashion is the all-inclusive consideration of wearable art.

fig. 9-1: Ea r r ings :

Similar to those worn by Rabari woman in photo 27.

To restate: Fashion defines the image we project to our group and to the world at large. To the famous dictum of male sartorial elegance: “Clothing makes the man,” we must add “and jewelry defines the woman.” One only

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p h o t o 1 1 : Tara models a H’mong bracelet from Burma and a pair of Rajast-

hani earrings from India. See Chapters XI and IX.

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C h a p t e r IX i: Accesso : t h e indian r ize !subcon tin en t

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Pho to 3 1 : B h il Wo m an : Bhils are the second largest aboriginal group in India and favor this type of necklace. Photograph courtesy of Fred Kohler: Rajasthan, Terre des Seigneurs.


Cha pter IX: the Chainpter dia n i:s uAcc bco e snstoi nrei znet!

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f i g . 9- 25 : Nec k R i n g : This bold neck-ring comes from the westernmost

tip of Gujarat, the Ran of Kutch, but also is found in Rajasthan. Photo 31 opposite shows a Bhil woman wearing this necklace. This torque of coiled silver, probably made at Mundra, is fastened by a hooked catch in the front. (SI88.37)

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fig. 9-26: Cu ff B rac el ets : This pair of heart-shaped bracelets are held

in place by a screw at the very tip. When closing an open bracelet, a piece on the side snaps into place after the five tubular rings have been engaged. The fit is so tight, that the screw (a left-handed one) just secures the piece redundantly. (SI88.12ab)

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fig. 9-27: B rac el et: This hollow bracelet is hinged on the side and held

in place by a pin inserted between the end knobs. Although its boldness is unusual, its origin has not been determined. (SI88.25)


Cha pter IX: the Chainpter dia n i:s uAcc bco e snstoi nrei znet!

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f i g . 9- 28: B r a c e l e t : This bracelet from the Punjab, with pearl-sized

beads on a cloth backing is reportedly made in a single village. The beads being hollow, oftentimes develop holes due to wear. (SI88.26)

f i g . 9- 29 : B a n g l e s : These hollow bangles originate in the Rajasthan.

Were it not for the rosettes along the side, they could be from the Shan plateau of Burma. (SI88.38; 39)

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C h a p t e r IX i: Accesso : t h e indian r ize !subcon tin en t

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fig. 9-51 : To rq u e: This type of hasli is worn frequently in Western Rajast-

han. It can be seen on the woman who appears in photo 35. (SIY04.14)


Cha pter IX: the Chainpter dia n i:s uAcc bco e snstoi nrei znet!

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P h o t o 3 5 : Village woman shopping in the Jodhpur Market. Photograph by

Serga Nadler.

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Chapter xI

nationalities of southeast asia: Thailand, Burma, Southern China, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam

D

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welling in the northern reaches of most countries of Southeast Asia are peoples who do not belong to the majority of the population. These people inhabit the highlands, having been relegated to the uplands by the majority lowlanders. Sometimes they are referred to as “hill tribes,” at other times they are “minority nationalities,” as in China. Depending on the political and economic climate, alternately they were embraced, preyed upon, or treated as foreign entities. These relationships are complicated, and beyond our present scope. Ethnologists debate about the “minorities” origin, and parse their languages and customs to try and establish their identities. By living isolated in the broken highlands, they have been able to retain their long-standing customs. Traditionally known as headtakers, it is not surprising that they are not always warmly received by their neighbors. Additionally, their periodic dependence on opium as their primary cash crop has caused repression by their host governments. Furthermore, their “slash and burn” method of cultivation makes them somewhat less than sedentary. As someone who is not a specialist in the field, it is difficult to differentiate between these groups since they are called by different names even within the same country. For example, in Thailand where there are six officially recognized minorities, one is surprised to find than the Mien are also called the Yao. When visiting China, one discovers that the Miao are of the same stock as those to the south called H’mong, and the Thai population of Sichuanbana

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P h o t o 4 5 : A k h a M a t ro n : Peddler in her typical headdress of round

fig. 11-26: Tor que Neck-r ings:  Similar

neck-rings can be seen worn by the Dong woman on photograph 57 and also in great profusion by the Miao girl on photograph 68. (SH00.07&34)

silver balls. Photograph by Daniel Nadler.

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C h a p t e r xI: i: Accesso nat io nalit r ize !ies of southea s t a sia

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fig. 1 1 -6: Nec k p iec e: On photo 50 a Lisu woman wears silver necklaces

similar to the neckpiece shown in this figure, which was made for the tourist trade. (SS88.20)


Cha pter xI: n a tion a l ities Cha pter of so i: uAcc t heeas s sto ras i ziea!

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p h o t o 5 0 : L i s u W o m a n : The Lisu are partial to profuse and very particular

dangles with closed ends. Photograph courtesy of Richard K. Diran: The Vanishing Tribes of Burma.

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C h a p t e r xI: i: accesso nat io nalit r ize !ies of southea s t a sia ph ot o 4 7: Blue H’mong

woman.

P h ot o 4 8: Lisu women.

Courtesy of Paul & Elaine Lewis “Peoples of the Golden Triangle”.

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C hapt e r X 1 fig. 1 1 -2: neckpiece:

This elaborate neckpiece has the typical conical Lisu jangles, and is segmented into parts by a fish and a butterfly, both of which are enameled in yellow, purple and green. It further includes a grooming kit. See our Text. (SS89.05)

is called the Dai (not to be confused with the Bai.) One also learns that there are subgroups, such as the Blue H’mong and the White H’mong. Moreover, entire groups have been displaced, such as the “Montagnards” of Vietnam, who belonged to the H’mong. The vision of fashion as a chimera created with mirrors and press agentry buzzing around models parading up and down runways exists only in the great capitals of the West. However, more fundamentally, fashion is an exercise common to any group attempting to establish and maintain its identity, against the backdrop of a whole society. Within a given group, fashion helps in establishing the pecking order among men and women, and in defining its boundaries. These boundaries are always blurred, for social groupings and social standings are forever shifting.

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C h a p t e r xI: i: accesso nat io nalit r ize !ies of southea s t a sia

The Nationalities of Southwestern China

P h ot o 6 3 : Y o un g M i ao W o m a n : This

embroiderer was showing off her jewelry and costume. Photograph by Daniel Nadler.

Several years ago when visiting an antique show in New York, my eye happened to fall on a small book displayed there; The Dong People of China by Gail Rossi, with photographs by Paul Lau. From the cover of this excellent booklet, reproduced as photograph 57, it is easy to understand why I was captivated by the boldly torqued necklaces worn by the young Dong woman, the likes of which I had never encountered. Whenever a friend traveled to Hong Kong, I handed him a photocopy of the cover asking him to buy such a necklace. There were never any positive responses, and even the most diligent of our friends claimed that such a piece had never been seen in Hong Kong. I must admit I found this hard to believe, for the Dong live only some 500 miles away as the crow flies. Some five or six years later, in 2000, we undertook a six week tour of Thailand, Cambodia and Burma, using Bangkok as our hub. One evening we were to have dinner at the Oriental Hotel, and, arriving early, whiled a few moments in the shopping gallery. Walking into a shop, my eye immediately fell onto a Dong torque necklace, and before we rushed off for dinner I had bought it (see figure 11-26 SH00.07&34) and another Dong piece.

m ap h

As mentioned earlier, Bangkok is the free-market emporium of the Southeast. All the wares which do not have ready marketability on home turf, find their way to its shops. At the time we visited, there was scant Thai material and the shops featured pieces from China. Several factors operated here: first, one has to remember that until recently China had been virtually inaccessible to commerce; the second point is that some three decades earlier the Cultural Revolution had raged in Communist China. All artistic pieces were purposefully destroyed with a vengeance: temples, shrines, cemeteries, porcelains, scrolls, jewelry…everything was laid to waste, including countless talented people. Tremendous confiscation took place as the entire country was stripped of artifacts and much of the booty was held in government storage. Certainly many artifacts were buried or concealed for no governmental edict, not even Mao’s, is ever complied with in totality. So there are remaining pieces, which in a way were also protected from the negative drain of the Hunt brothers’ high jinx. Much to our delight, we managed to acquire a number of interesting additions to our small collection. A year later in 2001, we visited mainland China as part of another extensive tour, this time using Hong Kong as our hub. Here, I must admit that our friends were right—there was not the slightest trace of ethnic jewelry in all of Hong Kong. Upon reflection, we believe the reason to be that Hong Kong strives to be as international and modern as possible. Margaret Duda recently published a splendid compendium of Qing Dynasty jewelry (1654 to 1910) Four Centuries of Silver, in which she differentiates the many elements of fashion prior to the Cultural Revolution, and explains the confiscation of all ornaments. But beyond the points that Duda makes, it would appear reasonable that the strictures of the Cultural Revolution applied mostly to the Han (preponderant majority) Chinese. To a

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certain extent, minority nationalities were insulated from depredations of the Red Brigades. In her book, Duda does not really differentiate between jewelry of the Han as opposed to those of the other nationalities. It appears to us that the Han used silver for minor pieces—perfume containers, grooming kits, etc.—their taste trending to jade, lavish embroidery, hairpieces covered with kingfisher feathers, etc. Massive silver jewelry was left for the minority nationalities.

Pho to 56: On holidays

Miao women wear the most exotic silver headdresses, torques, belts, armlets, etc. Photograph by Courtesy of Dragon Airlines.

As we traveled through China in 2001, we could not help but marvel at the myriad antique stores packed to the rafters with merchandise. However, upon inspection it was quickly evident that the bulk of goods had been manufactured within the past decade. This, in itself, would be admirable, for much of the wares were beautiful. They would have been even more admirable had

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C h a p t e r xI: i: Accesso nat io nalit r ize !ies of southea s t a sia

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fig. 1 1 -1 1 : Tho n g:  The great silver rope illustrated can be used as a belt or

around the neck to ornament a costume. Note the finesse with which the silver wire is woven to create a perfect tube. The hooks at the ends also are unusual in their length. (SS89.04)


Cha pter xI: n a tion a l ities Cha pter of so i: uAcc t heeas s sto ras i ziea!

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P h o t o 5 1 : Red L a h u W o m en : These women are displaying their wealth

based on the quantity and sizes of their silver pieces. The one in the center not only has bosses, but has the edge of her jacket trimmed in coins. The girl on the left displays no silver. Photograph courtesy of Richard K. Diran: The Vanishing Tribes of Burma.

fig. 1 1 -12: Boss: This

boss is a kind of button used to fasten tunics or jackets or as ornamentation. The use of such bosses is illustrated in Photo 51 of three Red Lahu girls. They also are sometimes used by Akha and Lisu women. (SH00.33)

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Silver: From Fetish to Fashion  

Silver jewelry collection that was recently donated to the Museum of Art and Design in New York

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