In analyzing the
contemporary adaptation of Indian fashion, it is important to acknowledge its
history and primary contentions with European dress. The earliest forms of Indian dress consisted
primarily of “cloths draped around the body and held together by tucks and
folds” (Tarlo, 26). According to Tarlo,
Europeans labeled these forms of Indian dress as ‘disgraceful,’ which
“confirmed their notion of the evolutionary inferiority of the Indian race – of
its backwardness and barbarism” (Tarlo, 34).
The Europeans’ labeling of Indian dress as uncivilized began a system of
colonialism amongst the Indian population; a dynamic instigated and
precipitated simply by clothing.
Conversely, Indian perspectives of European clothing
revolved around their preoccupation with what the garments “represented than to
either their practicality or their aesthetic appeal” (a concept relatable to
our earlier class discussions regarding brand name fixation and aspiring to
achieve the purported status which the brand names represent) (Tarlo, 44). In attempting to adopt European dress,
Indians not only relinquished their native clothing style, but also surrendered
many of their cultural values as well.
This notion is epitomized in the Indian practice of changing their
clothes to fit the occasion, whether the occasion was Indian or European. As Tarlo describes, “some men confined their
European image to a work context only and continued to wear Indian dress in
private and in other public contexts not related to work” (Tarlo, 53). Amongst other hybridizations of Indian and
European dress, Indians’ situational attire established their native garments
as unprofessional and inappropriate for navigating through the professional
world, even though to them it represented modesty and respect as with the
traditional turban head covering.
What do you make of the colonialism imposed upon Indian dress? How does this history relate to our practice of ‘dresssing for the occasion’ in the modern day? To what extent are both males and females perpetuating the cycle of colonialism and westernization by wearing ‘suits’ for professional occasions, when the suit finds its origins in European dress?