The ethnic dilemma

It bothers me as to how easy it was for me to get over indian style of dressing after I moved away from home. I am currently visiting India and I am not enjoying dressing up in traditional clothing. I have been visiting the fabric villages and been coming back empty handed. Partly because I lost my shopping gene and party because there aren’t enough shades of blue cloth to tempt me. The ready to wear clothing stores have nothing for me – literally. They make me feel like an outlier. I find the colors shocking and ethnic prints lacking in subtlety. I am supposed to see the beauty, but I see visual clutter.  I see genuine pity in the eyes of my fellow kin when I tell them I don’t like any of it. I seem to be stand out and have been attracting attention for the wrong reasons : “plain”,”too simple”,”boring”,… What do you do when the feathers of your tribe are no longer your aesthetic ?

My Tribe

What do you do when the feathers of your tribe are no longer your style ? It isn’t necessarily good or bad. I am in no way special because I deviated from the pack. I say this because I don’t think I need to dress a certain way to belong to the location or to own up to my heritage. Not anymore. Beyond the initial 5 seconds during which I get judged for what I wear, I seem to be able to have good conversations and can connect with people I meet. The pressure to dress a certain way is definitely decreasing but it still exists. As I have become older, I realize I do dress like my tribe. I see second order influences from my father, mother, Maanasa, my aunts, my husband, my brother(s), my great-grand-mother, … they are my tribe.

An effort

I have a teeny tiny Indian closet in my childhood home. The sarees from my wedding that I re-use as party wear. Some clothes from my late teens that I still fit into, by some miracle. And some clothing that hold a sentimental value to my mom. This month, I was handed over some sartorial inheritance. My grandpa’s woolen shawl that my grandma wanted me to have. My great-grand-mother’s saree. A cashmere-wool cropped sweater that my mom knit in the 80s. I also discovered some pieces of silver jewellry that I used to wear as a teenager that have been untouched for a decade. Maybe it’s time to add some Indian touch to my closet. Include these pieces ? After trying to simplify my closet all these years, this feels like a way to complicate it again. But worth a shot perhaps … ? Dress like my tribe, just a bit.


Is this dilemma specific to Indians or is it faced by every generation in nations with strong cultural identity? Do the Scottish folk think about their quilts as bygones? Is the kimono missed in everyday Japan ? If we narrow down our tribe to our family, are we meant to derive our personal style from our parents ? If my tribe is based on my profession, am I supposed to dress like a geek ? The fashion bloggers do form a tribe and all dress uniquely similar. Do you dress like your tribe ? Who is your tribe ? Thoughts ?