Festive celebrations in India always present a pretty sight. Blended with the merriment is a wonderful sight of men and women in their ethnic wear. Women in their sarees, lehengas, salwar kameez, and other Indian dresses look so gorgeous that it is truly a treat for the eyes!
This raises questions that we certainly need to ponder upon. When we can look equally fashionable and impressive in our Indian attire, why is it sometimes assumed that only western outfits are the be-all and end-all of the fashion industry? Why is someone who only wears a saree or a salwar kameez thought to be unfashionable and old-school?
First let us abandon our double standards and get out of the stereotyping!
When Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the wife of the Canadian Prime Minister, wore a saree during her visit to India, people went gaga over her. Aishwarya Rai Bacchan teaching Oprah Winfrey to drape a saree made it big on fashion news! The saree acquires a highly coveted status when any international celebrity wears it, and the media obviously is right there to make a big fuss over it!
However, the rules change when commoners are involved. It may not always be the case, but how demeaning is it when someone who sticks to a saree or traditional attire is called a behenji?
What is wrong with wearing traditional attire?
Sudha Murthy, author and Chairperson of Infosys Foundation, asks a similar question when she recounts an incident at Heathrow airport. Dressed in a salwar kameez, she was standing in line with a business class ticket. The passenger in front of her, “a well groomed lady in an Indo-Western silk outfit, Gucci handbag, and high heels” directed her to the economy class line. The lady had perhaps thought that Murthy, who was simply dressed, could not afford a business class seat. This incident only points to the narrow mindedness of people and how they judge others on the basis of their outward appearance.
Later, it was a case of real life dramatic irony when Murthy, as a chief guest at a meeting, met that same lady who turned up in a khadi saree to suit the theme of the event.
Indian outfits can look equally hip and happening
Can you look smart in a saree or a salwar kameez? Yes definitely, without an iota of doubt. For many, the point of reference in terms of fashion is Bollywood, so let me briefly peek into that.
Style icon Sharmila Tagore is indeed a legend of the silver screen, and for over five decades, she has always carried the saree with such grace. Let’s go back to 1967. Tagore was seen wearing the saree and salwar kameez in the Bollywood film An Evening In Paris. In the same movie, she had also sported a swimsuit with equal ease. In all of the scenes, she looked every bit the chic Indian actor, bowling over her fans with her stylish demeanor.
Fashion is about having an aesthetic sense which allows one to make the right decisions about what clothes to wear and what to avoid. Draping a simple saree, you could be a headturner, and conversely, not picking the right set of western attire could make you one of those victims of wardrobe malfunction.
Each of our Indian states can boast of exhibiting sarees with designs that are so emblematic of its culture. Being from Assam, I love to wear the mekhela sador, and I have no shame in admitting that I literally love to flaunt my attire because it is so unique.
Many times I have been told: “You are wearing a lovely saree!” I immediately correct: “No, it’s a two-piece dress called the mekhela sador!” I enjoy wearing my traditional dress because it is a part of my identity..
Be it an ethnic or western outfit, actor/supermodel Dipannita Sharma truly aces!
Dipannita Sharma has always been phenomenal as a fashionista, and she qualifies for the 3 Gs. She is graceful, glamorous, and gorgeous. Be it a saree that she wears for a formal event or a jeans and shirt that she puts on for casual wear, she carries herself with equal finesse.
The actor from Assam is always proud to carry her state banner, and that is visible from her live chats, interviews, and social media posts. Whether she sends out a greeting for Rongali Bihu in Assamese or sings melodious Assamese numbers, she does it with great fondness. Dipannita carries her sentiments even into fashion as she gracefully showcases the mekhela sador.
If you look at Dipannita’s Instagram posts, you will realize that she never misses an opportunity to wear her mekhela sador as she picks from her collection of muga, paat, handloom and other fabrics. “Always happy in #mekhelasador,” she writes in one such post.
For her first appearance at the International Film Festival of India in Goa (2017), Dipannita made her appearance in a white mekhela sador with colorful threaded designs. Again at the Love International Film Festival in Los Angeles (2018), where she bagged the Best Actress award for her debut Assamese film Xhoixobote Dhemalite (Rainbow Fields), she walked the red carpet in a vibrant red and white, well you guessed it! It is indeed heartwarming to present one’s honored tradition on a global platform, and Dipannita has done that with pride.
Fashion needs to be a personal choice!
Let us leave it to a woman to make her own decisions about what she wants to wear and what makes her feel confident. Might we not influence others with what we think? I am always eager to wear a saree, and I don’t think I need any reason to wear it.
It is definitely easier and much faster to slip into a pair of jeans or a dress. If someone finds it cumbersome to wear a saree, she has the right to her opinion. But if anyone loves to wear a saree and thinks that it is not a hassle to wear one, we need to respect that individual’s point of view!
Also, let the word behenji be used only as a term of endearment for an elder sister and not to ridicule anyone who is deemed to have not dressed fashionably!
Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it because beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Tastes are subjective, so nothing is concrete or absolute. Western outfits can be classy, and so can the saree by meticulously layering grace, beauty, and elegance in those six yards.
(This article was featured in Women’s Web )