Tuesday, November 27, 2007

don't you dare say my people are "so last year"

I've never really been into fashion. Sure, I leaf through the magazines and marvel about how fads spin back around on one big old lazy Susan of pantleg widths and sleeve lengths, making what was fugly in high school somehow cool now. And yeah, sometimes I make clothes, but sewing is more an exercise in seeing if I can pull it off than actually parading around in something that executed my "vision." Once in awhile I'll put together an outfit that makes me feel like a million bucks all day long, but most days I'd rather sleep in a little longer than put in the effort.

But Indian clothes are the exception.

For most of my growing-up years, we socialized with a whole community of Aunties and their families who gathered once a week for tea, one-upping each other and some religion. The women came dressed to impress. Whether they were sporting a cotton salwar kameez or a two-ton gilt sari, they'd always have jewelry and shoes to match. And on Christmas, New Year's and Easter? It was a virtual fashion show up the aisles.

I understand that prancing around like that defeats the entire pious purpose of worship. But when it comes to The Community, you've gotta keep up with the Singhs. And there was no way my mom was going to let me get showed up by any of those other chickadees, so every week I'd wear a simple-but-cute outfit with matching anklets, bangles and jewelry. Even though I put on quite a showy protest of being hassled, I secretly loved having the whole morning to sleep in then take my sweet time getting ready. And being fawned on by the Auntie Patrol made it even better.

I don't make it to many of their gatherings anymore, and I kind of miss those quirky people with their junior-high drama about who didn't invite whom to what and tasty tasty food. And I have a walk-in closet full of salwar kameez, lenghas, chaniya cholis and saris that rarely get to see the sun (my extended family goes way overboard with the gifts whenever we come to visit).

Spread from the October issue of InStyle magazine, featuring saris as "the look."

On one hand, it's freaking fantastic for me to see what I grew up thinking was beautiful and elegant getting mainstream American fashion attention. But on the other hand, it just takes me back to all the other novely fashion spreads from years gone by with headlines like, "Trendwatch: Bindis and Bangles" or "This season add a touch of Spice to your wardrobe" over photos of models in skirts with sari-like trim or "Indian-inspired" blouses. Don't get me wrong, I wear a lot of that stuff. And I think it's cool that other people do, too. Indian fashion is so diverse on its own that it's really very insulting to see such a big part of my identity being reduced to a fashion fad.

It seems the magazine editors are starting to recognize this, which is refreshing. In Aishwarya Rai's caption, they gave Tarun Tahilani props as designer and have chosen a variety of styles to profile. Perhaps if I see more of this stuff in the magazines, I'll feel comfortable enough to bust out my outfits on the streets of mainstream America, too.


WORDofRYE said...

Oh, you should! The streets of mainstream America could use a little more culture. And then you should take pictures and post them here :)

Radioactive Jam said...

They look comfortable, like they'd induce relaxation. Is that an illusion?

Jyllian said...

excellent post. It would be wonderful to see you in one of your saris. I love them but have never managed. I know what you mean about your "look" getting mainstream attention. I er, have been, kind of still am, of the goth persuasion and I both like and dislike it when that hits the mainstream.

Guyana-Gyal said...

You should see them at the weddings here too, and religious functions.

For years here, dressing Indian, was scoffed at...a cultural cringe thing...but now, there's pride in wearing the clothes.

Man, I love clothes, I can't lie. I don't get too, too trendy, but a little bit here and there...sometimes I add a bit of Indian jewelry to 'western' clothes.

Lia said...

They look gorgeous. A bit too dressy for everyday wear, but terrific for facier occasions. I would wear that, if I thought I could pull it off decently.

But I don't think I can agree with RaJ's assessment that they look comfortable. Do tell - are they?

cadiz12 said...

i think it depends on what you're used to. personally, i find the salwar kameez (basically pants with a long tunic over it and often a long scarf) immensely comfortable because they're usually pretty loose are made of cotton or linen or soft silk; but of course they can get heavy and fancy.)

saris are just tricky, if you ask me. it's one long piece of cloth wrapped and tucked around you. if you don't know what you're doing, it's easy to accidentally step on the tucked-in part and have it fall off you in front of a lot of people (trust me, that kind of humiliation is reserved for the truly wicked, like myself--but it'll only happen to you once). but you've got a blouse and a skirt on underneath, so really, it's not a big deal.

a few of my aunts say the idea of wearing pants/shirts sounds uncomfortable, but these are ladies who ride bicycles and clean their houses wearing saris. it depends on what you're used to. wearing them just makes me feel beautiful, so i like them for that.

Librarian Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon said...

hmmm... I still don't think I could pull it off.

Stephanie said...

Man, your culture has it down. Look trendy AND be comfortable at the same time (well, depending on the fabric, right?). That's my kind of fashion.