Indian vs western fashion: what should Mumbaikars wear?
I went to an interview this morning in a Mumbai hotel basement. A young Indian woman in a sari greeted me. I presumed she was one of the hotel staff, as at these high-end hotels, they often dress in saris, so I smiled and walked past. She shouted out my name and it turned out she was the PR woman waiting to meet me. So I thought to myself, “Am I at an event about or promoting saris?” “No, this is the launch of India’s first gay book shop.” No connection to saris, then. How come this modern woman is in a sari? Every PR woman I meet is always in trousers or a western dress.
“Wow, you look stunning. You rarely get to see young people wearing saris in Mumbai,” I said, complimenting her.
You see, every young woman you see in Mumbai nowadays is dressed either in tight jeans and a strappy top, or in a western-style flowing dress. Shorts and skirts do not appear to be in fashion. Nor are saris or Punjabi suits. Yes, some people wear saris in the evening to five-star hotel functions, but you rarely see people dressed in them during the day, and they are never ever seen inside the city’s trendy bars and clubs. The young Mumbaikar’s penchant for jeans strikes me as odd, since Mumbai is baking hot all year round. The seasons drift from hot, to very hot, to painfully hot, to humid and wet hot, back to plain hot.
Saris and Salwar Kameez are ideally suited to such weather, are they not?
On the contrary, denim jeans make you sweat, and are better suited to cold climates. Moreover, they are also not at all feminine, unlike saris. Women, western or Indian, look a dozen times more attractive in a glittering sari, than in a masculine-looking pair of jeans and T shirt. In the hottest months of India (March to June); I avoid jeans, instead opting for linen or cotton trousers, yet most people around me, young Indian men and women, continue to go around in jeans. Weird.
Indian men, too, look strikingly dashing in Indian dress. They do not in flip flops, jeans and a shirt.
I adore the Kurta Pyjama look, as well as the Nehru shirt. When an Indian man wears them he comes across as intelligent, spiritual, Indian, interesting, all at once…I especially like the pointed Aladdin-style shoes that go with the former. I also don’t really like the ‘jeans, and V-next tight T shirt look’ that so many young Mumbai guys are into…It makes them look a tad gay.
I’m not sure that Indian clothes look good on a western man though. He tends to look more like a hippy trying to find himself.
“I always wear saris everyday, have done since I was at college. I’m only 25,” the PR woman told me. She then asked me if I wore saris. I said that I didn’t but would love her to teach me how to wear one.
She then said: “In a sari you expose your back and stomach, so you have to be thin. In a Punjabi suit, you can cover it all up.” Very true. Hence, I have two in my wardrobe, which comes in use when I am feeling fat.
I told her that though I had two Punjabi suits I really liked wearing, I wasn’t sure people liked them at the P3 parties and posh Breach Candy events in Mumbai, where, if at all, saris seemed to be preferred.
We then went on to discuss how weird it was that so few young men and women in Mumbai dressed in Indian dress. Weird because Indian dress is so much better suited to the climate here and also makes anyone look so much more attractive. One of my most vivid memories of coming to India aged 19 is of floating around Rajasthan and being bewitched by all the dazzling colours of the women in their various stunning saris…bright pink, red, green..I got some amazing photographs on my SLR camera, now in a photo album in Somerset.
Luckily western women can look as good as Indian women in Indian dress (unlike our male counterparts).
I have noticed that sometimes in my kurta fusion outfits (kurta above jeans), Indian men appear a tad confused, as though they ‘expect’ me to be in western dress, like the Indian women. But then when I wear a particular gold and bright green kurta of a Punjabi suit, it gets all the men looking at me…without fail…(a nice little weapon in my wardrobe, alongside my knee-length black leather boots.)
In an interview on YouTube recently, Akshay Kumar was asked what it was like playing a British Indian in his upcoming flick Patiala House, due for release after Diwali. The film is about a British Asian who wants to play cricket for England but his family are opposed to it.
(Incidentally 12 professional cricketers from across the world are appearing in cricket matches in the film. They include Kieron Pollard, Nasser Hussain, Herschelle Gibbs and Greame Hick. It sounds like the perfect masala – Bollywood and cricket – guaranteed box office returns, even if rubbish. I would invest in this film if I could)
Kumar says: “To play a British Indian I had to be more Indian than I actually am. In India we always try to copy the West, but what I have noticed since travelling to the UK and Canada, is that they tend to copy us.” So, maybe this explains the young Indian penchant for jeans.
It’s funny how clothes can turn on or off the opposite sex. I was reading about this on the web, where various people were saying their top turn-offs and turn-ons.
Turn-ons (in women) for men (according to these western web sites) were apparently short skirts (esp with high stockings), tights and stockings, long backless dresses, tight T shirts, heels, leather jeans, and petticoats.
Here’s my top turn offs and turn ons (in men):
In men I adore any kind of Indian dress (only if the guy is Indian; not if he is western); cords (especially beige); any soft material trousers, esp in pale colours; collared formal shirts (but never over jeans – jeans need to be with a T shirt or very casual shirt); a man looks sexiest in a smart causal look eg tiny polka dot black shirt over cords; I love pointed shoes, trainers, canvas shoes; jeans (not black) – need to be a cool brand though, and not too worn and old.
I detest shorts (I’m sorry but men’s hairy legs are not attractive), tight gay-looking T-shirts over jeans (most men in Lokhandwala sadly dress like this); backpacker dress (this is gross and the biggest turn off – for example a man wearing three quarter length cotton combat-style trousers and backpacker shoes makes me want to run a mile; as does a man in shorts and a tight T shirt); caps and hats (sorry they do nothing for me); braces (yuck); western formal suits (not sexy); black trousers with a white shirt (bad taste); black trousers with a black shirt (shows zero imagination and suggests the guy is fat); white socks (get black or navy, please!); overbranded designer T-shirts (makes you look sad and like a loser) backpacker sandals, open-toe sandals, flip flops and those weird coloured plastic sandals (just to emphasise a point – avoid the flip flops, blue jeans and formal shirt look – the classic Mumbaikar’s dress – A.V.O.I. D..Get a kurta pyjama on instead); tight cycling shorts. (Need I even comment.)
Phew, that’s my list. So, please let me know how you like to see a man or woman dressed. And do you prefer Indian or western clothes on them?