Traditional Indian Dress: A Purported Disgrace?

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.

Traditional Indian Dress

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?

Double Eyelid Surgery?

Although I am less conscious of my ethnicity and
would probably be considered more ‘Americanized’ than not, as an Asian American
I find the practice of double eyelid surgery to be extremely disconcerting.  I am compelled to say that I am truly
disappointed with Asians who lack such self-confidence in their personal aesthetics that
they would require cosmetic surgery that not only alters their appearance, but also
relinquishes their congenital ethnicity in order to artificially adopt another.

Double Eyelid Surgery: Before and After

As the double eyelid is an inherently Caucasian characteristic,
I am also compelled to attribute the desire to attain such an aesthetic to the
hegemony of westernization.  Though
contemporary westernization purports a universality and inclusivity of
aesthetics and style, I believe Caucasian idealization to be implicitly imposed
as is empirically evident in Asians’ manifested desire
to acquire double eyelids in order to become more culturally integrated in the western world.

In her essay “Reflections on a Yellow Eye: Asian I
(\Eye/)Cons and Cosmetic Surgery,” Kathleen Zane acknowledges the possibility
of the aforementioned influences on the desirability of double eyelid surgery,
but alternatively argues that there is a greater cultural system of persuasion at work.
This is exemplified by her description of a former Korean American student at the
University of Rochester who, “reported that her father had offered her as an
unsolicited graduation gift the choice of either a car or a trip to Korea for
eyelid surgery.  She explained that this
was a fairly common rite of passage for her Korean American peers and surmised
it signified for her father a variety of relational meanings of his success in providing
for his children.” (Zane 161-192).

In considering these evidently cultural implications
that Zane suggests, I reiterate the question which Zane poses at the end of her
essay: “While avoiding crude and direct analogies, might eyelid surgeries be
deracialized as the equivalent of having one’s teeth straightened or capped,
i.e., as modifications to appearance provoked and supported by adherence to a
cultural, but not specifically racial, ideal?” (Zane 161-192).

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