The old saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day.” Likewise, Eastern and Western cultures and lifestyles have developed over thousands of years of evolving religious, economic, and political values and traditions. A large part of both cultures’ self-expression involves fashion, from special occasion attire to everyday shoes. Fashion trends in both Eastern and Western societies differ based on each culture’s particular mores, the differences sometimes appearing as small variations, while other times looking like yawning crevasses.
Traditional Western Fashion Sense
- Sets global clothing trends
- Determined by comfort, convenience, and flattering fit
- More casual than formal, based on an overall secular society
- Society values individuals above the collective, thus clothing is used for personal expression
Traditional Eastern Fashion Sense
- Dominated by cultural traditions and beliefs
- Traditional clothing represents a “passing down” of values
- Often tied to religious beliefs and practices, and thus is more conservative
- Society values traditional roles, thus clothing reflects societal beliefs
The fashion sensibilities of both societies, however, are shifting. Westerners are beginning to appreciate the elaborate fabrics and rich colors of some Eastern fashions, while more Easterners are gradually beginning to express themselves with clothing and trendy accessories, allowing individualism to creep into millennia-old collective traditions.
Eastern and Western Fashions Today
- Modern sensibilities allow a blending of cultural fashions
- Eastern fashion is relaxing, allowing more trendy, individualistic clothing to be worn
- Western fashion is adopting some Eastern traditions, from recycled Indian saris made into handbags to new, Fair Trade items such as bracelets and tunics
Traditional Eastern philosophy basically says “Your future is determined by your deeds today.” In the West, however, traditionally it is held that “me” is an element—a part—of the Divine, and therefore can stand alone.
Societies have ever evolved, though, with each epoch marking the beliefs and traditions of that age. Fashion has been part of the changing cultures in both East and West, though perhaps more dramatically in the tradition-embedded Eastern lifestyle.
While, in the past, differences in fashion between East and West differed widely, today these societies are beginning to blend some of their fashions and clothing traditions to create a new, more globally-conscious fashion sense. The most up-to-date fashionistas today will be those who embrace and appreciate the cultural blending of East and West, making the new global style their very own.