The Latin American Fashion Reader

In This Review

The Latin American Fashion Reader

Edited by Regina A. Root
Berg, 2005
368 pp. $89.95

Ever wonder about the cultural meanings of the loose-fitting Cuban guayabera, the Argentine poncho, or the Mexican huaraches? Thirty scholars assume that clothing is less about sexual attraction than social identity -- whether imposed by political institutions or driven by self-expression -- and examine the historical, cultural, and social origins of garments worn from precolonial times to the present in various Latin American and Caribbean settings. It turns out that long before Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) sought to bridge the Pacific, the Spanish empire introduced Asian silks and sequins into Latin designs. In turn, many Latin fashions inspire contemporary styles. Nizia Villaça's essay on Rio's beachwear is a sheer delight. Also outstanding are the essays by Regina Root on exuberant nineteenth-century Argentine hairstyles, Kimberly Randall on Mexican China Poblana embroidered blouses and skirts, and Marilyn Miller on "Guayaberismo and the essence of cool." The neo-Marxist overlay will discourage some readers, but there is much insight and pleasure to be gained from this novel prism through which to visualize Latin American history. Missing is an analysis of outsourcing in the region by global apparel brands, although the companies Peruvian Connection and Maya Traditions draw praise for their ethical practices.

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