This debate of what women should wear doesn’t seem to end and many people argue for their opinion without actually concluding anything. Some say that western clothes are more comfortable and one must change their mindset with time, others say that one must not forget her own traditional values. Many also argue that only traditional wear shows modesty and signifies that those women who symbolize that are decent, and others do not. Yet many families allow their girls to wear whatever they wish, many do not, and others have a set of limits that till only certain extent they are allowed. So, what’s the deal? What women should really consider wearing? Traditional or western outfits?
When we talk about the term ‘traditional’ it covers saree and salwar kameez. We see many foreigners happily wear the colorful Indian attire and Indian follow their pattern of clothing. The reason why Indian women like their dressing is because it represents the modern lifestyle and a sense that they are confident to face the world. This does not mean that traditional clothes have lost their value. Previously the women were confined to home only but now is the time that most of them go to offices and have to serve both workplace and home. Wearing saree practically every day is time consuming. And dupatta that is a part of salwar kameez is no less than a hurdle. There are chances that it might get stuck between the tyre of your or your husband’s two wheeler, creating an accident. This is the reason why formal dresses for women like trousers and shirt are in the current trend. Some would even argue that finely pin-up your dress will lessen your problems, but to what extent? Moreover, don’t you think it is time consuming? As per the Indian constitution, there is no mentioning of any specific type of dress code and so the current trends only decide what is in the norm. Women follow the fashion accordingly and also through mouth-to-mouth publicity.
“I never think about how other people will respond to the way I dress…”
If a woman wears anything it shows the surroundings where she currently resides, her opinions about the subject, confidence to carry whatever she chooses to wear, and indirectly her way of showing the world that to what extent looking good and be a fashionista matter to them. It is not always the case that they dress up for their husband or boyfriend. They wear for themselves too, to look good, to feel good! When someone argues about the Indian tradition probably he doesn’t possess much knowledge about the history of India. So, let us shed some light on the real facts.
History of clothing in India
Back in the 300 B.C. women used to wear two-piece rectangular clothes that simply hid their crucial body parts, one at the lower region and other at the upper. During the 7th and 8th century when the Gupta dynasty ruled, stitched garments were the norm, that too in the upper and lower region. In the southern part of India, even during the colonial times there were many women who did not cover their upper body part. As per the hot climate it was acceptable back then. People simply followed what they thought was convenient to them.
Throughout history, India was influenced with so many different cultures to which the pattern of clothing merged – Greeks, Arabs, Romans, Chinese and Britishers. Arabs visited India and ruled most part of it during 16th and 17th century. Since those people weren’t familiar with the Indian culture and obviously weren’t used to watching women with partially bare body they were the ones that imposed covering them up from head to toe in order to prevent them from getting ‘molested’ – The term which was not familiar by Indians. Parda Pratha then emerged and became a common practice. In this, the body was covered as a whole with a long cloth in which nothing was practically visible, not even a face! This is how saree came into existence.
Then came the Britishers, a.k.a the East India Company. Most Indians at present think that the West is ruling the mindset of youngsters and that the clothes like skirts, blouse, etc. are part of their culture and we must abolish that. On the other hand, sarees and salwar kameez must be the norm entirely since these make part of the Indian tradition, which is partially true.
Salwar Kameez – the famous Indian attire is believed to have its roots among the Mughals, the Muslim rulers in India who came from Arab world. Previously due to religious differences Indian women hesitated wearing this outfit. Also traditionally all women were married around their puberty. So, previously they used to wear what children ought to and once they were settled to a new place, saree was the only option left with them. After a few decades there came a time when they started completing their graduation and weren’t married away during their childhood phase. The time frame in which they were unmarried adults and could not wear what other children did, they were left with wearing salwar kameez only since saree would be way too traditional and mature; and salwar kameez would also fulfill their demand of ‘modesty’.
Don’t you think ‘petticoat’ and ‘choli’ resemble the long skirt and blouse that British women used to wear during the British Raj? Once the wife of Satyendranath Tagore (brother of Rabindranath Tagore – The famous Bengali poet), Jnanadanandini Debi, was not allowed to enter a club because she wore the saree on her bare breasts; the result of which the family supported the idea of wearing the blouse for women. This is where the idea of three piece emerged – a choli, a lehenga or ghaghra, and a dupatta or saree. Every region in India has different names and a wide range of the methods of draping it but the concept is same. Saree rules the country, especially the rural region. The women of urbun area also wear that on some occasions or festivals.
I don’t think one must debate this topic without knowing the actual facts. As far as I think one must wear as per their own comfort, their level of confidence they carry with every clothing, and as per the occasion and environment. One will look practically awkward if they wear a saree at the beach side or a pair of shorts in a wedding ceremony! It is not that Indian girls do not value or like to follow the traditions. They do follow it occasionally, like during festivals and weddings. There is no denial that saree is one of the most beautiful outfits and most Indians, NRIs, and foreign women embrace it, but one must also understand that wearing it every day is difficult. So, let women decide on what occasion they are likely choosing what, based on their own comfort. Simple!