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Originally published Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 7:01 PM

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Volumes of style

A look at the newly published Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Plus a Web link to the Berg Fashion Library.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis

In a world with Wikipedia, putting together a new encyclopedia is quite an undertaking.

Since 2003, Joanne B. Eicher, regents professor emerita at the University of Minnesota, has been doing just that.

The former head of the University's Design, Housing and Apparel Department is now editor-in-chief of the newly published Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion.

The 10-volume set, also available online, gives fashion a global perspective. The volumes are organized by geographic region, such as Africa, East Asia, the United States and Canada and West Europe, but there's also a volume that takes a cross-cultural look at everything from beads to nudity to fashion icons. "It doesn't privilege the West," said Eicher.

Eicher hopes that the encyclopedia will broaden the interpretation of fashion.

"Sometimes there are still people who like to look at fashion as superficial. It's such a narrow point of view," she said. "Everywhere around the world, people dress themselves, use body modifications and body supplements. It's not just an encyclopedia of clothing."

The publication comes at a time when fashion designers are incorporating global influences into their looks. But Eicher said the volumes will hold surprises for designers and fashion lovers alike.

"In the Africa volume, there are two articles that relate to contemporary fashion," she said. "People think they're running around like Tarzan and Jane, but there are designers with studios in Paris and big annual fashion productions held in Niger. These are contemporary fashions, out of a tradition where designers are African."

See for more information about the encyclopedia.

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