Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The ABC’s of Indian Women’s Fashion (Adornment, Bling, and Color!)
Most Indian women, no matter what their station or profession, love to adorn themselves in brightly colored clothes accented by plenty of jewelry and kicky sandals. Although there has been a recent shift to more modern, yet traditional fashions, the silk sari is still the status garment, to be worn on special occasions by most and on a daily basis by some. It is one of the preferred gifts (along with gold) if you want to give someone something really special.
A sari (or saree) is a strip of unstitched cloth, ranging from four to nine meters long that is draped over the body in a choice of styles. Most commonly the sari is wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder baring the midriff. The sari is usually worn with a blouse known as a choli or ravika. This cropped form-fitting garment has short sleeves and a low neck. Once a sari is selected, the choli fabric is chosen to compliment it, and a tailor custom sews the garment to the wearer’s measurements.
There seems to be no end of gorgeous saris in the shops. The textile industry constantly rises to the occasion in providing new patterns and colors to women who always want something new. New isn’t really necessary, of course. With this garment, style is constant and it easily compensates for the wearer’s size changes, no matter how extreme they may be (with the exception of the form-fitting choli.)
The garment that is replacing the sari for everyday wear is the salwar kameez (also spelled shalwar kameez or shalwar qameez.) Traditionally it is a dress worn by both women and men. Salvars or shalvars are loose pajama-like trousers. The legs are wide at the top, and narrow at the bottom. The kameez is a long shirt or tunic with the side seams left open below the waist. This outfit was originally confined to the North India.
Today, however, it has become the garment of choice for those who want to make a fashion statement. The fabrics are often colorful and the entire ensemble, including the long scarf or shawl called a dupatta worn draped around the head or neck, color coordinated perfectly.
It is a modest alternative to a sari, and one that flatters practically any body-type. By varying the fabric, color and the level of embroidery and decoration, the salwar kameez can be formal, casual or dressy and it can be made to suit practically all climates.
Many women also mix traditional and modern styles, often wearing tunic-like tops called kurta (originally these fell below the knees but now they are available in all lengths) with jeans or cropped pants. When they throw a shawl over that, (borrowed from the salwar kameez ensemble) the look is stunning: comfortable, casual, modest, modern, and traditional all at the same time.