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“Resplendent Dresses of Southeastern Europe:

A History in Layers”


Dr. Elizabeth Wayland Barber

Professor Emerita of Archaeology and Linguistics,

Occidental College and Research Associate,

Cotsen Institute of Archaeology

The traditional rural clothing or “folk costumes” of southeastern Europe result from millennia of accumulating new textile technologies and ideas of dress, and blending these with local necessities and beliefs.  As a result, these outfits are literally layers of walking history—especially the apparel of the young women or “brides”, whose outfits were thoroughly scrutinized by everyone around so as to assess her worth as a worker.  Men were basically clothed for work, women were costumed for appraisal, and also for magical protection till the birth of the first child.  In this talk Dr. Barber will peel those layers, discussing the cultural meanings and demonstrating the extreme antiquity and eclecticism of the European clothing tradition as it shows up in the costumes of the exhibit at the Fowler Museum, “Resplendent Dress From Southeastern Europe: A History in Layers”.  Dr. Barber will linger in the galleries following the program to answer questions.  

Dr. Elizabeth Wayland Barber, Professor Emerita of linguistics and archaeology at Occidental College, received degrees from Bryn Mawr and Yale, and is well-known for her writings, “Women’s Work: The First 20,000 years: Women, Cloth and Society,” and “The Mummies of Urumchi”.  Her lifelong favorite hobby has been European folkdances and the costumes that go with them, and it was this intimate knowledge of folk textiles that long ago started her working on reconstructing archaeological cloth and clothing, for which work she is best known.  Her most recent book is The Dancing Goddesses: Folklore, Archaeology, and the Origins of European Dance (Norton, 2013).  With Barbara Belle Sloan, she also served as co-curator of the Fowler’s current exhibit, Resplendent Dress from Southeastern Europe.  


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