Runways of the World

by Ashley Ng, Fashion News Correspondent

What any college student would give to travel the world. There’s nothing more exhilarating than inhaling the natural beauty of a foreign land, tasting exotic foods, and uncovering every detail of an intriguing culture. Last weekend, the Wisconsin Union Directorate (WUD) delivered this experience to the UW-Madison community. Well, minus the sightseeing and food. They did, however, give us a taste of traditional and cultural dress from several parts of the world. The styles included the garb of Hmong American, Malaysian, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Indian, Mongolian, Bangladesh, Bengali, Filipino, and Vietnamese cultures.

Runways of the World proved that there are many cultural elements that seep into ways of dress. Outfits displayed showcased colorful patterns and eye-catching stitching that were clearly meant for special occasions like New Year’s and weddings. It may be unexpected that many of these cultures have different sets of traditional clothing used to acknowledge different themes and occasions. For example, in Malaysia, natives of various ethnicities’ traditional clothes look nothing alike. A feature across cultures was the use of distinct colors. Traditional Indonesian clothes are primarily black, red, and white made from an Indonesian woven cloth called Ulos1, while those from Mongolia incorporate blue, green, and purple into their wardrobes to represent certain age groups. This contrast helps draw a visual line between distinctive cultures. Lastly, besides being worn to celebrate New Year’s or other social occasions, these traditional clothes are also used to represent to an individual’s wealth, social class, and marital status. For example, Vietnamese women wear different colors to communicate their current marital status, from married and single adults to young girls.

Apart from recognizing unique cultures, the WUD also promoted Wisconsin Without Boarders at Runways of the World. This student organization is devoted to connecting with global fair trade artisans in order to share their story with the world. Its mission is to help sell goods and use the profits to benefit the artisan’s community. Several handcrafted necklaces and scarves were modeled on the runway, and during their post-show reception, the audience was able to purchase the fine pieces.

Upcoming Events

If you missed out on Runways of the World or are just looking for additional opportunities to explore other cultures, Erin Skalitzky, the marketing associate director at WUD, has kindly provided us with upcoming events! For more information, visit the Global Connections website at or feel free to contact Erin at with any questions.

Photos: Cover

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