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?


Fashion Police

The politics that surround clothing choices and styles are incredibly complex.  As we discussed in class, people are limited by their gender, race, sexuality, and class in terms of what is deemed “acceptable” by society.  It is important to realize, however, that there are certain exceptions to these societal rules. Certain gender presentations, sexualities, racial identities, and socioeconomic statuses get privileges that allow for greater freedom for what is deemed acceptable fashion.  These exceptions are really important to take note of, and the policing of these fashion ideas are incredibly interesting. When deciding what it and what is not acceptable to wear in our everyday fashions, it is important to understand how our society determines which groups are allowed to wear certain fashions.

In class, we discussed the idea of how gendered fashion is policed differently depending on other factors, such as class and race.  Generally, we find that people of higher socioeconomic status tend to “get away” with more boundary crossing. This increase in fashion freedom is seen in cases such as the celebrities Dennis Rodman, Derek J, and Teyana Taylor, who are “allowed” to cross gender barriers in fashion because of their high status in our society.  Even if these high status people are viewed as odd or eccentric by our society because of the way that they dress, they do not suffer the same kind of gender policing that other people in our society face.

In class, we also explored the makeover and what impact and influence it has on society. Society has set boundaries and gender roles for what a girl should look like and what a guy should look like. Going back to Derek J and Teyana Taylor examples, these both break the boundaries that society has place, even though Teyana Taylor would be more accepted than Derek J. Why is it that, when someone looks different, there is a need to make them over. Why can’t a woman have masculinity and a man have femininity and it just be accepted? If we are supposed to find someone to love us for whom we really are, then why do we feel the need to change ourselves for someone to love us? Do we as women feel we need to accentuate certain aspects of our body type to been seen as a “girly girl” and wear revealing clothing to get attention? Are men only seen as “real men” when they have large muscles and body types? These are all questions that we as individuals can answer to ourselves, but will our answers be acceptable to societal expectations?

MTV’s G’s to Gents

About The Show
I thought it would be interesting for you all to see this show mentioned in class.

This is MTV’s description of the show:

Gentleman (jent’l man): A courteous, gracious man with a strong sense of honor.

You know what it means, but what does it take to be a true gentleman? You’re about to find out…

From G’s to Gents rounds up 14 rough-around-the-edges young men from across the country and gives them the opportunity of a lifetime — the chance to go from G to gent and walk away with some cold, hard cash!

From executive producer Jamie Foxx, From G’s to Gents schools diamonds in the rough on how to lose the front, learn self-respect, realize their self-worth and market themselves accordingly. The wannabe gentlemen learn everything from style and grace to etiquette and chivalry. The G’s discover that with the right tools, they can become true gents.

Upon setting foot inside their posh Hollywood Hills mansion — known as the Gentleman’s Club — the boys are whipped into shape by host Fonzworth Bentley, the quintessential gentleman.

After stealing the spotlight as Diddy’s flawlessly dressed personal assistant, Fonzworth’s sense of style and impeccable manners earned him a reputation as a man of class. His book, Advance Your Swagger: How to Use Manners, Confidence and Style to Get Ahead, focuses on bringing grace and dignity back to everyday life. Indeed, the dapper gent dreams of a day when “please” and “thank you” are part of the world’s vernacular again.

When it comes to going From G’s to Gents, no stone is left unturned. Each episode, the G’s will be taught an important lesson — from how to make a good first impression and always look their best to how to maintain a positive attitude and keep their composure in the face of conflict to how to treat a lady and speak eloquently.

Watching these G’s shed their grills, shave their mohawks, lay down their 40s and forget all those four-letter words is a guaranteed good time. But this isn’t just a life lesson; this is a competition — one that’s worth $100,000. So each episode, the G that fails to grow closer to becoming a gent is denied entrance into the Gentleman’s Club.

The G’s will undergo a total transformation; one that forces them to answer tough questions about who they are and who they hope to become. They will strive to show the world their full potential. But, in the end, only one will graduate from G to gent. Who will it be?

Here’s the video of Season 1 Episode1

Lauryn Hill’s Hairstyles: Response to Style Politics/”Good Hair”

Our discussion on “good hair” and African American hairstyles made me try to think about different moments in popular culture when black women have worn their hair naturally (as in, left it at its natural texture, etc. – not chemically straightened/relaxed and stuff) and when/why, in these moments, these more natural hairstyles were allowed to be fashionable.

I’m a pretty big fan of Lauryn Hill and The Fugees, so the first thing that came to mind for me were a couple of their music videos. The first thing I thought of was Lauryn’s hair in “Killing Me Softly” – She basically has a full afro, and her hair looks awesome. Although, I’m not sure if all of it is her real hair or not, and I guess the fact that that thought occurred to me is interesting. Do you think this makes a difference? Is it better for her to have fake hair that looks less like it is taking after “white” hairstyles? Is it the same because it is still not her real hair and that fact, alone, signifies something?

The second video that came to mind for me was her video for “Doo Wop”. This video features Lauryn in a “past” setting (which is, like, around the 1960’s I think? Correct me if I am wrong. lol.) and in a “present” setting. However, it is in the “present” setting that she has a more natural hairstyle – a hairstyle that is considered more “ethnic” – and in the “past” setting where her hair is not natural. What, if anything, do you make of this (especially considering the documentary we watched this week)?

Style Politics

One of the aspects that our group wanted to examine was the style politics of Michelle Obama, in the article by Susan Kaiser, “Entangling the Fashion Subject Through the African Diaspora.” In this reading, Michelle Obama is applauded by fashion critics for being very fashionable, and stating that “style is not only a noun, but also a meaningful verb in the African American culture.” According to this reading, she wants to relate to the people through various aspects, fashion included, and it is interesting to see that her upscale sophisticated choice of clothing, often associated to the upper white rural class, is mentioned as affordable, “Michelle Obama has been lauded by the fashion press for her way of mixing garments by new or ethnic minority designers with other ACCESSIBLE garments and accessories…. She accessorized her Toledo’s design with jade leather gloves from J. Crew and Jimmy Choo green shoes.” After some research, we found the typical prices in J. Crew and Jimmy Choo clothing, and that these prices are far from accessible. This makes us wonder, what message is Michelle Obama trying to send to the public? As the first African American First Lady, what is she trying to say politically about socio-economic class issues, and how does this affect the portrayal of her image by the media?

In Kaiser’ article it states that “not statements become entangled in a larger morass of subject positions and hegemonic regulations” (Kaiser 252).  This can be seen in both Kaiser’s examples of the Sean John brand transitioning away from street style clothes as well as the NBA’s dress code regulations.  When Sean Combs started his fashion line in 1998, it did “initially embrace the street style aesthetic of the African diaspora as portrayed in hip hop fashion;” however, in the last couple years, the line has moved further away from street clothes opting for a more refined mainstream look (259).  By not having a high prevalence of the street style aesthetic in the Sean Combs brand is this a way of entangling subject in a system of hegemonic regulations?

Similarly to the Sean Comb’s brand, the NBA has decided to regulate the style of their players to business casual, in part, to “appeal to wealthier season ticket holders by dressing in a manner that mirrors the look their affluent fans” (253).  The commission office has defined the dress code through prohibitive language; therefore, players are not to wear things like shorts, T-shirts, chains, or headphones.  Would the reaction to the dress code been different had the commission office used suggestive or generative possibilities opposed to prohibitive language?  Allen Iverson was major opponent against the dress code, because he felt it separated him from his fans, who he felt were lower-income African American boys.  Was this dress code meant to appeal to white season ticket holders?  And what message does this send to lower-income African American boys, who idolize players like Iverson?

The final reading discussed black hair and style politics surrounding it. Kobena Mercer said, “black people’s hair has been historically devalued as the most visible stigmata of blackness” (101). This led to the discussion of what is considered good hair which was discussed on the Tyra show. Many of the children that were interviewed spoke of how white hair was considered the best type of hair. This was reiterated in one case by the pop icon Hannah Montana and her blonde wig was what made her feel pretty. Mercer also states that “the assumption that whiteness was the measure of true beauty…can also be seen in images of rage articulated in the nineteenth century popular culture” (102). Seeing as we are currently in the twenty-first century this is very upsetting to see that these stereotypes are still ingrained in today’s youth. Not only are these negative stigmas carried out through pop culture but also through the media. Specifically, we discussed the horrific racist comments spoken by the sports commentator about the hair of the black women on the Rutgers basketball team. What are the surrounding factors that lead to society’s view of what defines good hair? How can this stigma be changed in society and what are ways in which the concept of “good hair” can be universalized to all types of hair and styles?

Below are the videos we discussed in our presentation:

Don Imus and Rutgers:
Tyra’s Weave Reveal:
What is good hair:

Tyra’s Label Mania

In class last week our group chose to take a more open discussion based approach to our presentation. In challenging the classes opinions on we revealed a certain influence branding has on society as whole. Though our presentations were chuck full of videos we didn’t get a chance to show you a Tyra clip that was pertinent to our conversations. Here a young woman professes her obsession with designer labels and her hate for the impersonations. Though this clip is not the full episode you still get an idea of what is going on:


We know that none of you are that extreme about designer labels, but one would have to question how could a brand evoke so much emotion? One thing we mentioned in our discussion was the power of a brand. In lecture Mimi brings forward a strong quote about power from the Zane “Reflections on a Yellow Eye” reading that is worth some revisiting:

 “power both inscribes and prescribes the body as it is inflected by the histories and dynamics of power relations, to reflect the positioning strategies of who sets the norm”

Seeing this video and reflecting on the other videos we showed in class (CNN cosmetic eye surgery, Sex in the City, Kanye West: It all Fall Down) is there a power in a brand and who can manipulate it? Should we challenge these manipulations and thus this power?

One thing I noticed in class was a stream of personal experience with brands and how these brands do have power in the industry: but no one seemed to be strongly against it…

Other Questions to consider:

How does the ownership of an authentic item change how you feel about yourself? Does it challenge your perceptions of others?

In what way do we define beauty for ourselves? v.s. How is beauty defined for us?


Video Sources

CNN cosmetic eye surgery:

Sex in the City:

Kanye West-It all Fall Down:

Gender Performance in Beyonce’s “Run the World”

The music video “Run the World” by Beyonce not only displays vivid images of how sexuality and race plays a part, but another aspect that is present is gender performance.  The men who were in the begining of the video were obviously more feminine and show how Beyonce is diverse and embraces the homosexual community.  A number of her dance moves in the video are over the top and the presence of camp is visible.  A large part of Beyonce’s audience and supporters are homosexual and this is a way to include and entertain this audience in her performances. 

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).

Kreayshawn and V-Nasty: The White Girl Rapper Persona

Apologies for the late post! I posted this way earlier today but didn’t realize until now that I posted to the new blog wordpress made for me that I didn’t know I had, instead of this one. Couldn’t figure out how to post to this one until just now, even though I’ve done it before… Very odd. 😛 Anyway, back to things that matter.

In our group discussion last Wednesday, we spoke about how the skin color of a model of clothing, be that a traditional model for the fashion industry or simply a person wearing a specific type of dress, can entirely change the perception of the wearer. Douglas sometimes chose native models for his Indian Fashion Show, and oftentimes chose slender women of European ancestry that mirrored the bodies showing clothing at Parisian fashion shows. Whatever his choice entailed, the effect of the fashion show changed dramatically. Similarly, Beyonce’s and Rihanna’s outfits served to make both their African and Caribbean ancestries salient, juxtaposed with their American identities, in addition to their identities as women/sexual objects/beings. (For reference, their videos are at the bottom of this post.) Some would argue that it takes only personal perseverance, determination, and talent to become famous in the music industry; others, like Bene Viera at Clutch Magazine, argue that Black women have less choice in what they wear if they desire fame. She compares their success to Kreayshawn’s and other white female rappers, who didn’t sexualize themselves in their videos and still received wide recognition for them:

 It’s ironic how the White girl mimicking Black culture has been viewed as  quirky, cute, and interesting in the past. But sisters who fashionably rock bamboo earrings, gold nameplate necklaces, and blonde streaked weaves, will inevitably be considered “ghetto” by society. It’s equally problematic that every female emcee post Queen Latifah and MC Lyte who has had massive mainstream success all had to sell sex.

In this case, as in the ones above, the meaning of the “bamboo earrings, gold nameplate necklaces, and blond streaked waves” changes according to the skin color of the wearer. Women’s Wear Daily quotes Kreayshawn bemoaning her hardships as a white girl: ““When I was younger, growing up in the ‘hood, being the only white girl, like, there’s time when you’re like s—t, it sucks being white, you know?” Colorlinesanalyzes the immense privilege she flouts when making statements like this, without acknowledging or even realizing her privilege at all. Jamilah King, from Colorlines,further analyzes her persona with a list of “5 Reasons Why People Love to Hate Kreayshawn.” Does Jamilah’s list match up with our course readings and our discussion about Beyonce and Rhianna? How does his list carry over to another V-Nasty’s public persona (another white, female rapper)? For some context of her views on racism and whiteness in today’s pop culture, see her reaction to public commentary on her and Kreayshawn’s use of the n-word and claims that they are “acting Black:” (and I’m sorry, I don’t know how to upload a video to the blog! I can only copy the links.)

V-Nasty On Some Real Shit – YouTube

For reference, here are Beyonce’s and Rihanna’s videos, along with Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci”:

Beyoncé – Run The World (Girls) – YouTube

Rihanna – Rude Boy – YouTube

Kreayshawn – Gucci Gucci – YouTube

Fashion & Flexibility | Art vs. Industry

In the current post, my group member really brings forth the ‘fad’ of the fashion quiz. Intertwining her thoughts and those that were talked about during the presentation really bring light to an interesting side of fashion….the side where industry and art meet.

“People express their individuality through fashion yet are also slaves to it”

Fashion proves to be symbolic of freedom in people’s lives all the while contradicting their dependence on it. With this back and forth approach, tensions are created in mass production.It’s pretty insane that individualism is marketed to the masses – it is not a concept spoken and directed to one person at a time with a different product each time. It’s not in the benefit of the industry to take this approach but rather to try to make people feel that they are different from one another by selling their stories. Manufacturers have the hard task of finding an equilibrium between mass. Consumers are essentially blinded by such tactics because we like to feel special and not blend in but stand out…for the most part.

On the Urban Outfitters website they say…“Our goal is to help our customer express their individuality and connect with their interests, needs, passions and each other. We embrace music, fashion, art, architecture, design and technology as integral to our business and infuse each with our individualistic, nonconformist approach to life.” This alone shows that they are selling you a story of individualism that you are unique, that there’s only one of you and they can cater to your needs. However, Urban Outfitters has created a “counter-culture” gone mainstream. You cannot go into their store and expect to find one design on one shirt or pair of pants or shoes. Catering to the masses is their goal, selling their story to you is their forte and everyone loves a story that makes them the lead character.

Moving forward with a little bit of background info: clothing as a status differentiator. There were 19th century notions of consumption and class. THEN: Secondhand clothing from the rich to the poor. NOW: ‘Thrifting’ is now popularized in today’s date. Constant evolution of clothing starts to put pressure on what symbolizes difference in lifestyle. Of course, back in the day clothing was tailored and made for the rich because the machinery was not up to par to make 50 of the same dresses or suits. If you did have on a one-of-a-kind outfit it showed people that you had money and if you had money you were higher up in the class list. Because of this, the poor got their clothing from the rich, which is termed today as “out of season” or “out of style”. Now, the notion of thrifting is exciting to find unique pieces that no one around you may have, but vintage has been glamorized in cause creating a cycle of re-introducing old style that merges ‘rich’ and ‘poor’.

Here’s the clip I promised to put up that shows 100 Years of Style (from London – however, easily corresponds to various parts of the world). The change of fashion and style does also depend on the shift of improvements within the industry in terms of machinery and skill.

Ready-made revolution: Technological advancements in the clothing industry allowed mass amounts of garments to be produced and sold to the people in different colors, patterns, shapes, etc. The ready-made clothing advancement was in help by Singer sewing machines and the concept of creating workshops to do the most amount of work possible in the short amount of time possible. Clothing made for ‘somebody’ to clothing made for ‘everybody’. Can even be seen with haute couture labels, ex. Alexander McQueen massed produced classic chiffon skull scarves.

With the ready-made revolution, distinctions became erased. Production process merges all classes. The first major spread of ready-made goods to middle-and lower-class women was groundbreaking. You don’t have to be rich to look rich…whatever you choose to define rich as; style is no longer glorified to the ‘rich’. There is the developing deletion of distinction reinforces the idea that people will be grouped together regardless of individual desires. Deception? Lies? Genius?

With that, I leave you all with the following question:

Do you think that the mass production of clothing offers more pros than cons, or vice versa?

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