Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Stylish Indian

I love Shoba Narayan's latest column, especially the ending, in which she talks about just how stylish Indians are.
Style is hard to define. Reams of pages in fashion magazines are devoted to it. Designers take it apart and even then it is useless because style is subjective — the exuberant overdose that John Galliano thinks is stylish would be anathema to a Japanese.
As a people, I believe that we Indians are stylish. I don’t mean the Page 3 socialites who have fallen prey to Western dictates (and brand names) of what constitutes style. I mean that rural India has a style that is entirely and uniquely our own. It is in the upturned jootis and the dignified walk of a turban-clad farmer in Rajasthan; in the crisp folds of a Bengal cotton sari, especially when worn by pretty much any woman in Kolkata; in the green bangles of a koli fisherwoman who goes to Crawford Market; in the pristine white “mundu” dhoti of Kerala politicians including defence minister A.K. Antony; in the graceful walk of any woman who balances a pot of water on her head. Wherever you look in India, we have a style and grace that is a mixture of Bauhaus functionality and Baroquean exuberance. It follows Mies van der Rohe’s dictate that form must follow function and then adds a fillip of colour and je ne sais quoi to it.
Every morning after putting my kids in the school bus, I sit down and watch the line of maids who enter our building complex. Not one of them is poorly put together and I’ve heard this said about bais (maids) all over India. They take pride in their appearance and come in wearing neatly-pinned saris, perhaps some jasmine in their hair, maybe a bangle or two and a dangling earring as a nod to current fashion. No make-up, no expensive accessories, just professionals dressed up for their jobs. Are they stylish? I doubt that they think in those terms. They are unstudied but not nonchalant. They pay attention to their clothes but don’t fuss over them. Most of all, their outfits stay true to themselves, with a little extra fillip. If that’s not style, I don’t know what is.
On another note, I started another blog, dear visitors. You may visit it here.


The Seeker said...

Indians and the way they dress when they don't dress like the rest of the world are very pretty.

- the Foreigner

(also, it annoys me a bit when people put foreign/non-English expressions in italics)

ZiggyStrauss said...

^ I do that quite often so that people figure out it's not english.

Wow... she read my mind. Only she got around to writing it first.

while i was idle... said...

Well being stylish is subjective, but being fashionable is quite another thing.

John galliano, YSL, Andy Warhol etc were all fashionable. I think that perhaps being fashionable includes an inevitable influence from the west. Because its not so much about utility/or Van der roh's "Finctionality', its more about showcasing, its exhibition, its also art.

I agree with everything you say, but I also agree with 'The Foreigner' Keeping that in mind, this unique style is not being exported onto foreign Fashion ramps, is pretty much lost in the quotidien and well, Indians may be stylish, but they are painfully 'unfashionable'!

The Seeker said...

True that... but I think fashion in that sense is hardly wearable. Fashion that is also art and that you can see on runways is rather outlandish in most cases.
I much prefer stylish to fashionable.

a traveller... said...

I agree with The Seeker here... style over fashion! Besides, most of what is in fashion is very often unwearable! Remember the discussion finding a decent pair of jeans, Ziggy?

ZiggyStrauss said...


But I differ - strongly! - on the stylishness of Indians being unfashionable.

All your western fashion designers... have they never ever been 'inspired' by Indian 'style' and sold kohlapuri chappals for 2000$ or thereabouts? Have they never used paisley motifs on their designs? Have they never had collections that focus on a sort of hippie-revival theme... hippiedome which was itself heavily dependent on the culture of which country?

The only reason they may not be seen as 'fashionable' is because they were doing all this before the designers/trendsetters picked up on it. Also no one wants to relate the word 'fashion' (because it means $$$) to the rural parts of a third world country.

Chiz, I should just write a blog entry of my own on this.

while i was idle... said...


Its great that this thing was initiated by you. I have a response to some of the above made comments at

dahling seriously, I dont know how to use this stuff, for instnce there are some typo mistakes and I wont be able to sleep the whole night till I kindly help....can i not edit once i have published? What is it to "subscibe to a fedd? wtf is a "feed"? does a post become a "feed" during some time?

Enlighten enlighten:( Tak to the others, its fun and only just warming up;)