Should Western Women Try To Wear Sarees?

January 15, 2016

For a long period of time, the Duchess of Cambridge and Great Britain’s future Queen has set the benchmark for sartorial fashion and the media has also not been lacking in threadbare analyses of every aspect of her apparel. However, it does seem that she is lagging behind when she made an appearance in a rather mundane coat before the poppy sellers in Kensington recently. This is in a context of an increasing number of high profile ladies finding inspiration in Asian styles. Recently even the prime minister’s wife discarded her usual urban western wear in favor of a stunning russet silk saree featuring a border design of ornate jacquard weave when visiting a Hindu temple on the occasion of Diwali, the famed festival of lights.

For people unaccustomed to the saree, draping an unstitched seven yards around the body elegantly may quite be a challenge, but to millions of Indian women it is second nature as they go about their daily lives with complete aplomb. Mrs. Cameron’s brave attempt to wear a borrowed saree went off quite well and she carried herself with her usual panache. The Indians naturally were quite pleased to see the effort she had made to conform to Hindu customs to display the value she puts on the culture, tradition, and religion. Detractors, of course, are accusing her of trying to grab the limelight in a copycat endeavor. The criticism does not seem to have deterred the Duchess of Cornwall, as she too sported a number of salwar-kameez dresses, another very popular form of Indian attire, as she visited India along with Prince Charles.

Not Exactly A New Thing

Mrs. Cameron and the Duchess are only among the many other illustrious ladies who have chosen to find inspiration from other cultures. Among the earliest advocates of eastern costumes was Lady Diana, influenced by Jemima Goldsmith’s donning of the salwar-kammez as she went on to marry the cricketer, Imran Khan. The world has also gaped at Elizabeth Hurley as she paraded in glitzy silk sarees during her wedding to Arun Nayyar, an Indian businessman. Others who have had a fling include: Cherie Booth, Theresa May, Helen Mirren, Tori Spelling, and Katie Derham. With celebrities wearing Indian apparel in high-profile event and occasions, there is now quite a big interest in buying Indian sarees online.

The Complex Coding Of The Language Of Apparel

The way we dress is a product of thousands of years of religious, social, and cultural influences besides our own unique desires to make a statement or to fit in with the rest. The unique identity of each culture is reflected in its appearance, part of which is undoubtedly attire, and it is very common for individuals to make judgments about any person based on these attributes quite instinctively. While we may feel extremely uncomfortable in forming opinions based on such superficialities, we need to appreciate that these come from within the deep of our subconscious.

Even though it may appear so, our choice of attire is not purely random, but a consequence of the traditions of the society that we are a part of. While persons from other cultures can always attempt to mimic the apparel, appreciating the significance of the dress codes can invariably be a very tough job. There are multiple parameters that need to be reckoned with before making a choice regarding traditional clothing like sarees; these include, color, fabric type, design, stitching, sleeve length, and even the way it is worn.

The Unwritten Language Of The Saree

While many Westerners love the saree for the myriad ways it can be draped and the multitude of fabrics and designs that are available. They also need to appreciate that despite it being an extremely democratic apparel embracing figures of all types, lifting it out of the context may make it look and feel awkward. However, many Asian women like to continue wearing it despite its obvious impracticality in European climates, because they would like to retain their cultural expression and individuality. It is because the saree is so deeply entrenched in the Asian ethnicity, casual adoption of it by Westerners may perhaps send out the wrong signals about the respect they have for it and the culture it represents.

The saree is an incredibly complex piece of attire requiring innumerable details that can easily flummox people from other cultures who are not aware of its language and grammar. Many Westerners who are far more familiar with the saree and the Indian culture prefer not to wear it at all to Indian ethic occasions, instead preferring to show their respect by wearing jewelry or scarves with appropriately ethnic motifs instead.

Nandini Dasgupta is a social historian who also writes prolifically on evolving Asian fashion trends. She has written a number of commentaries on the renewed interest in purchasing Indian sarees online by western customers and recommends Jomso.com

One thought on “Should Western Women Try To Wear Sarees?

  1. Pingback: Living Large: Accentuating Your (Small) Apartment Space | My Beautiful Adventures

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *