Adding some international flavour
Have you ever looked at a national or cultural outfit and wanted to borrow parts for yourself? Not that you want to encourage commercial cultural appropriation, but something caught you eye. The colour, the lines, the pattern, the fabric – something made you feel good and you wanted to be able to feel it again.
It’s easy to take inspiration from something without thinking about or acknowledging the history that may be behind it. Fashion choices such as ladies arm bands or dreadlocks have caused tension, not just in fashion circles but also in society in general. Certainly in the blogosphere!
Here are some tips for taking inspiration without giving offence:
- Know what the item/choice actually is and why you like it.
- Find out a little about its use in its country of origin.
- Work out what element of its significance inspires you so you can share that knowledge and positivity with others and acknowledge the significance.
- Honour and respect it.
For example, here is me in a kurti.
Why do I like kurtis? Well, I didn’t always. Before I tried wearing one I thought they looked like nightshirts, which I’m not fond of because they feel restrictive. But then I visited family in India. They all were wearing them as standard day-to-day attire and gave me some as a gift. As soon as I started wearing them, I loved them! The giant slits up the side mean they aren’t restrictive, they are as light and comfy as a t-shirt, but they don’t ride up at the back, and they always have a pocket. Plus, they colour and pattern choices are endless! But I particularly liked the plain tones on myself. I felt like I was wearing it as it was meant to be worn – a regular outfit, not a souvenir. The closer I got to my friends and family, the more comfortable I was wearing their clothes (literally wearing their clothes, I’ve been known to borrow outfits on occasion!). Kurtis are normal clothing, and I still wear them this way. Not as a gimmick.
Sometimes when someone sees me wearing one for the first time they ask about it, usually by asking if I got it in India. I tell them yes, and about how great it was to live like a local there. In general, people are quite curious about the world. If you have the opportunity to share beautiful stories about the world, I say “take it”.
Another cultural fashion choice I adore is a headscarf. When I played dress-ups as a kid, I loved the look of a scarf flowing down over my ponytail, like a wedding veil in reverse, or over my head like Red Riding Hood. These days I love the elegance of hijabs, turbans and head wraps. But I don’t wear them. These items have deep cultural significance that I don’t feel I can honour and respect in a way that I feel they deserve. And I definitely do want to be respectful. I also would wish that headscarves of any kind were seen as a positive personal choice, which sadly is not always the case.
But scarves themselves are probably part of all varieties of cultural heritage, one way or another. It’s the most basic item of fabric you can have. So I wear mine in hybrid ways and happily tell people why – whether it be me once again tapping into my eastern side, or showing support for friends whose clothing choices are inspired by their faith, or sometimes, just sometimes, literally just wearing a scarf.
In any case, respect is always good look.