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A tale of two centuries: The körtti movement and dress in battles over Finnish politics and identities

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This article interrogates the transforming sartorial styles of the Christian Protestant revivalist körtti movement in Finland in and around two very specific historical moments: Finland’s independence from Russia in 1917, and the amendment of the Marriage Act in 2014 that saw the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2017. The analysis covers crucial periods before and after the independence: late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when Russia sought to tighten its control over autonomous Finland and the Finnish intelligentsia organized to resist such attempts; through the civil war of 1918, to the turbulent right-/left-divided years of the 1920s and 1930s. Then, the liberalization of the körtti movement from the 1960s and 1970s onwards, and the effect of this upon the debates and battles over the equal marriage law before and after the law came into effect is discussed. I show how, through changing histories, changing garments have the capacity to play key roles. By focusing on a particular movement through different times, the article will consider how groups that go by the same name may be fundamentally different from their historical predecessors; how they may yet recognize a similar kind of garment even if they attach different associations to it, and how new garments are sometimes required in order to communicate the new positions of those movements and individuals. In the context of analyses of garments and cultural positions, this underlines the necessity to think of certain ‘times’ as part of a continuum in which changes and continuities in dress play out and influence sociopolitical relations.
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Keywords: Finland; Protestant revivalism; civil war; fascism; gay rights; religious dress; same-sex marriage

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000085170017University of the Arts London

Publication date: June 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • We all wear clothes. We are all therefore invested at some level in the production and consumption of clothing. This journal intends to embrace issues and themes that are both universal and personal, addressing [and dressing] us all. Increasingly, as we all become accomplished semioticians, clothing becomes the key signifier in determining social interaction and behaviour, and sartorial norms dictate socio-cultural appropriateness. Following the rise of fashion theory, on an everyday level, we all understand that our clothes 'say' something about us, about our times, nation, system of values. Yet clothing is not fashion; clothing is a term derivative from 'cloth', to cover the body, whereas fashion alludes to the glamorous, the ephemeral and the avant garde. We wear clothes, but imagine fashion-an unattainable ideal.
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