Every little girl loves to play dress up with her mom’s clothes, makeup and heels.
In that sweet and simple moment there is a cathartic evolution of that baby girl’s future sense of style that is profoundly impacted by her ethnicity and culture.
While little girls in western countries might wear make believe veils and tiaras, those in India or from Indian families will wrap themselves in their mom’s saree and clumsily trip all over themselves.
Fast forward to a few years later and the same little girls won’t look as endearing as grown up ladies with messily draped sarees and crooked veils. A wonky veil and tiara is easily fixed with one small adjustment but an immaculately draped saree is a testament to patience and experience.
Western silhouettes are by no means simplistic but Indian clothes have a complexity of their very own. Indian fashion maybe evolving too fast for a few who relish their traditional weaves and ethnic style sensibilities but it is a subtle and beautiful art to really wear Indian fashion like you own it and not the other way around.
Just because that anarkali kurta is supposed to be roomy doesn’t mean it needs to be so flared that no one can find you inside it. Neither is it acceptable for the blouse and petticoat that matches your saree to be 2 sizes too big or small since it will be covered up anyway.
Don’t reserve your fitting nit picking only for those bodycon dresses and pay no heed to glaring size issues with your Indian clothes. A well-fitted Indian ensemble can completely make or break the final look and how you feel while wearing it. Massive sleeves, falling necklines or too-tight creasing backs make you look like a fashion victim of epic proportions. Take time out to find or alter clothes to fit your current shape and size and run far far away from lazy seamstresses, tailors and sales people who expect you to wear something ill fitted to make their own job easier.
If you absolutely adored your bestie’s lehenga at her cousin’s wedding, have been eyeing your cool aunt’s designer saree or if your parents are making you wear your elder sister’s hand me downs because ‘its just another Indian function’, then proceed with caution and never ever forget Rule #1. Not all women are created equal and while you may share the same dress size as your sister or best friend in jeans and tees, Indian clothes are a completely different ball game.
Indian clothes are all about proportion and the way they ‘sit’ on a person’s frame. That high-waist lehenga might make someone 5 feet 7 inches look like a goddess but won’t work for someone at 5 feet 2 inches. The same goes for kurtas and blouses when borrowing from more or less endowed relations and friends. Sarees are easier to borrow if you already posses or are willing to spend on a new blouse to suit your style but always drape them properly on yourself to get a complete idea.
Every Indian girl knows atleast one other Indian woman whose saree is draped to perfection and never comes undone. If you have vowed to make Indian clothes your style statement or are simply required to wear sarees at countless formal and religious occasions then make this woman your mentor at the earliest opportunity. Draping a saree is a skill that is honed over time and with lots of practice. Think of it as an investment in your India fashion future where you never have to struggle with messy pleats, bent safety pins and looking for people to drape your sarees ever again.
If saree draping wizard status still eludes you or you simply can’t be bothered then seek out nifty Indian fashion designers who can help you cheat your way into the good graces of all those judgemental saree draping geniuses. In a world of short cuts and easy ways out, Indian fashion designers have created pre-draped and pre-stitched sarees that look and fall exactly like the real thing. Pull one on just like a skirt or gown and dance the night away without a care in the world.
Lets face it, we’ve all witnessed that one lady at an Indian gathering that looks like she’s wearing every colour known to man. It’s easy to get carried away with all those luscious fabrics and bright colours on offer at Indian clothing stores. It’s even easier to get backed into a corner when your Indian fashion designer proclaims that this is the season of bold contrasts and rapidly proceeds to attack your senses by suggesting an outfit that looks like a circus tent. Moderation is key even with Indian clothes so work with colours that you love but keep it chic.
Another common Indian fashion faux pas is falling into the trap of over the top bling. Victims of this tragedy are most often brides-to-be who are assaulted with unwanted advice from every ‘well-meaning’ Indian female in a 10-mile radius telling her that as the bride she needs to out-shine everyone on her big day. Statement-making Indian clothes are the result of rich fabrics, fine tailoring and elegant craftsmanship, not so much embroidery that astronauts on space stations can spot you.
It’s very common for Indian clothes especially gold woven sarees to be passed on to future generations. You might feel that your grandma’s bright gold and silk sarees will never be your aesthetic but there is always a way to reinvent the classics. Structured drapes with strappy blouses are just one way to refresh dated sarees. Alternatively silk kurtas and anarkalis can be styled with interesting accessories for a wonderfully modern look. Always invest in 1 or 2 classic pieces that speak to your own style and you will never regret the purchase.
Quiz any Indian fashion designer and they will be able to tell you stories galore of women who want to copy looks of their favourite Bollywood celebrities. It’s not uncommon for these style inspirations to have catastrophic results if the outfits being replicated are not tempered and adjusted to suit the wearer. Be realistic and emulate the style of celebrities who have a similar body shapes and keep in mind the occasion for which you need the outfit.
It might seem completely opposing advice to investing in classics but experimentation doesn’t have to mean Lady Gaga inspired crazy creations. Indian fashion designers have come leaps and bounds in creating fusions between ethnic and contemporary styles and cuts. Pop art printed sarees, embroidered jackets with peplums and shoulder pads and dhoti pants are just some of the dazzling new concepts in Indian fashion to keep your style on point and uber cool.
Lastly and most obviously let your own gut be your style compass. Forget about modern trends and fashions if you’re an ethnic girl at heart. Go forth and choose to wear pastels even if jewel tones have been deemed the colour of the season or opt for basic styles of Indian clothes even if cut outs are all the rage. Stretching your style limits too much will only result in you being awkward and uncomfortable in your ensemble and there is nothing stylish about pretending to be someone else.