New York Apparel Peopling of New York, Spring 2015

New York Apparel


India-IN Style

By: Sabrina Momtaz & Neha Mehta

India is a huge country, to say the least, where each state possesses its own distinctive sub-culture. At times, clear ethnic divides within India make it difficult for the nation to find common ground and a greater sense of unity. However, throughout India’s longstanding tradition, one of the greatest, if not the only, unifying element has been the homogeneous nature of Indian garb. Despite the varying names for different articles of cultural apparel, clothing has seemed to somehow transcend geographic boundaries and has helped to provide a collective identity for the country’s population.

Now, Indian clothing has always been closely related to cultural and traditional ideology, which stresses both decency and comfort in terms of appearance. Much of this stems from India’shistory, which has also played a heavy hand in determining how cultural apparel would evolve over time. Dynasty rule, British colonization, and the Indian independence movement have all affected cultural clothing in the country. However, in contemporary society, despite the minor influence of Western culture, the status of Indian apparel has remained fairly constant or static. For example, no matter what region of the motherland you travel to now, it is customary for woman to either be wearing saris or churidaar kurta; for men, convention dictates that the sherwani be worn.

But when Indians find themselves outside their homeland, what happens? It is often the case that with many Indian-immigrants in NYC, traditional clothing and garb has to be modified as a response to assimilation. Some immigrants only choose to bring out the 7-pound ghagra choli or sari during holidays and celebrations whereas others blend typical Western clothing and Indian cultural apparel together in day-to-day wear. Thus, to effectively analyze and discuss how Indian-immigrants modify and adapt traditional clothing in response to adapting to life in NYC, a few things need to be done. Firstly, a historical context of how clothing has changed over time and a summary of the different types of male/female apparel will be provided. This will follow with an examination of how assimilation functions in shaping immigrant’s cultural identity, specifically in turns of how clothing is reformed, accompanied with some personal accounts. Finally, a closer look will be taken at cultural prejudice and discrimination within the Sikh community and a specific example of cultural appropriation with the bindi or tikka.

Please click on the picture to see a video featuring the clothes of the Indian subcontinent.

Please click on the picture to see a video featuring the clothes of the Indian subcontinent.

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