BY: Hawa Stwodah

Adornment and Modesty: A Symbiotic Relationship between Surface Design and Social Behavior



The impulse to beautifying clothing through acts of adornments or embellishments is an innate characteristic of humans. The added decorative details are used for identification and visual communication by the wearer and comprehension and visual appreciation by the viewer.

This thesis investigates the recent attention to female modesty, labeled as the Modesty Movement--the community that has developed around the apparel segment of the Movement and the framework of the behavior encompassing the participants within Movement. Additionally, the thesis focuses on adornment through the lens of textile/surface design (embellishment) specific to the Greater Middle East and the northern provinces of India and its application to modest apparel. Surface design is defined as manipulation of a textile beyond the woven construction, in this context it is applied to women’s apparel that covers the head and chest. Through a series of experiments using light, sound and motion the thesis examines how the use of of adornment simultaneously conveys identity and conceals the wearer.

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