Globally inspired summer wear
By Chitwan Khosla, Features Editor
Apart from food, one thing that expresses one’s love for culture and traditions is clothing. Clothing is an integral part of any country or community, and people identify with their own when they incorporate tradition in their wardrobes.
Interestingly, this season, the latest clothing trends scream of cultural roots. Designers all around the world have been experimenting to create a fusion of modern and cultural attire that speaks of our image and traditional property, and we have fervent customers for them right here in the Lower Mainland. We’re a target market because of our passion for fashion and bold style. I have been shopping and studying the market extensively for the past few weeks, and was glad to see that people were not only wearing ethnic apparel of their own, but were trying those influenced by other cultures and traditions as well. Here’s my quick compilation of the culturally inspired fashion this season that you should try, and possibly give permanent space to in your wardrobes.
African fashion safari: boubou, dashiki shirts, and cotton head wraps
Some of the boldest, most vibrant, and beautiful traditional wear on the market these days is African. The fearless use of warm colours and striking big prints is stunning. African wear is very practical. It suits almost every body shape and type, and goes well with the weather. This season you can find very interesting floral and geometric prints in dresses.
A boubou is a long, unisexual caftan dress native to West Africa. This is appropriate for the summer as it is loose-fitting. You can find boubous for men, or grand boubou as they call them at some traditional stores, but they are not very popular. On the other hand, women can be seen wearing boubous extensively and even stores like Sears have dresses and tunics influenced from the boubou. For men, dashiki shirts have again made a comeback. Loose and comfortable, dashiki shirts do not have buttons or collars. They usually have long V-necks with full- or half-sleeves. They are perfect for a weekend lunch at your local pub or at the beach. Cotton head wraps are quite on-trend this year, especially with flamboyant colours like bloody red and margarita pink. If you are keen to try African wear, look at stores like Touch of Africa on West Pender Street in downtown Vancouver.
The Indian affair: kurtis with Patiala shahis and kurta pyjamas
Talk about India’s clothing and what first comes to mind is the playful mingling of lively colours and outrageous embroidery. There is not a single Indian woman out there who has not tried at least half a dozen ethnic dresses before every wedding (which is a near-quarterly affair) or festivals (almost a monthly affair) in her life. I take pride in my culture and its clothing especially, and always add the latest trends to my collection of Indian dresses. Pretty much all the Indian style statements become popular when you start noticing them in media.
Kurtis are quite popular across the globe among young and working Indian women. Originally made from 100 per cent pure cotton, kurtis can have regional influence in their patterns and embroidery. Patiala shahi, from the royal city of Punjab, is a loose trousers-like clothing for women just like a shalwar but with more tapering at the ankles. What makes a Patiala shahi so special is the pleating that creates a very elegant look. Super comfortable, these are fit for summer and winter alike. This summer you can find many women pairing knee-length, long-sleeved kurtis with Patiala shahis. This is a very interesting twist because traditionally Patiala shahis are worn with longer kurtis and long scarfs called dupattas. Lighter shades of yellow, blue, and pink are quite popular. You can wear a kurti with a pair of jeans as well if you want to go more Western in your appearance.
Kurta pyjamas are evergreen dresses for men from India. A simple yet smart long shirt with straight pants of the same fabric, it is a comfort heaven for men in summer. Usually available in very soft and colours like white, beige, ecru, and grey, kurta pyjamas this summer are breaking all the stereotypes and going for very striking colours like azure, chartreuse, bottle-green, lavender, and peach. Kurta-pyjamas are hard to buy ready-made, and generally require the services of a skillful tailor, but are totally worth it.
Chinese silk road: silk and cotton Cheongsam dresses and Changshan jackets
Royal, elegant, and powerful are very suitable adjectives for some of the beautiful clothing from China. With little knowledge about the culture, I visited seemingly endless stores in a day to look for some traditional wear. I was so lost in the fine detail and perfection of the embroidery on silks.
I spotted many young ladies wearing Cheongsam. Though there are much shorter dresses than the authentic ones around, they still have similar designs and fabric. Silk is the primary material for Cheongsam and also the traditional one, but it is hard to look after—no one wants to make trips to the dry cleaners on a regular basis. Fortunately, you can find cotton and other materials being used to make this pretty, figure-hugging attire. This summer, bright floral prints are quite in fashion. The traditional red is getting less popular, and lighter tones of indigo, purple, magenta, and gold are easily available. Black ones are perfect for a dinner date. They are different from the regular little black dresses, and give you a subtly chic look. In
vest in a very durable material if you want to buy one. For men this season, Changshan jackets are available in more practical fabrics, as opposed to silk. Although you’re missing the glamour of silk, one can still feel handsome in these jackets thanks to their special fitting at the shoulders.