This article is a theoretically-grounded experiment in social empathy involving a sartorial exchange between the national dresses of the Korean hanbok and Vietnamese ao dai. They are worn on the “wrong” bodies as a source of sartorial solicitation. The article begins by revisiting Levi-Strauss’s notion of totemic objects as social markers of things “good to think (with)” in cultures and communities that have socially important objects of which their use itself is indicative of certain social values and norms. (Lizardo 2010). Instead of animals as totemic object, it is national dress, totemically understood, that indicates all sort of notions national communities have of themselves both within the national community and outside of it. National dress is explored as deeply hybrid and much more glocally- produced than local. The paper ends by theorizing the mechanism of transference of such subjective feelings as “national soul” which the structure of the clothing itself must work though as an embodied and neurologically-based mechanism. The fact that social messages can be transmitted through clothing in such a reliable and consistent manner also suggests the existence of a sartorial-kinaesthetic empathy hitherto left both untheorized and never applied as a part of understanding the nature of clothing culture, sartorial visuality, and social empathy in social science.
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