Today I began a project that at once strikes me as both frivolous and radical: wearing sarees on a regular basis in the U.S.
I was inspired by the discussion of desi fusion fashion by Bangle Banger. In the Aerogram interview, Anjana Raj argues for a conception of diasporic Desi fashion as subversive and radical. Here she is smartly responding to the growing trend of non Desis appropriating Indian culture and clothes:
So, here I am feeling bound by these set of expected norms in Desi dressing, coupled with then this huge influx of non-Desis wearing Desi clothes with no repercussion or added weight of what it meant. There were all these rules of Desi dressing that they didn’t have to learn to wear. The way they could put it on and off offended me. It didn’t strip away their identity when they took off their clothes. I was outraged.
Subversive fashion? Reclaiming and reinventing traditional attire? Of course I wanted to try it.
Admittedly, I’d tried several times in the past to wear Desi clothes as part of a daily routine. In high school I wore bindis on a regular basis. In college I attempted to wear kurtas and churidars to classes. But lately I’d given up. I’d given in, tired of the white gaze, tired of being asked what I was wearing constantly. It was time to try anew.
Day 1. Instead of full blown Desi clothes, I decided to try fusion. Plain saree from Fashion Village (Scarborough, Ontario). Crop top from Forever 21.
Reactions. For the most part, no one paid me any mind. I wore the saree to classes. Only one person commented. I felt self-conscious even though I was trying not to, perhaps because of the silence. Either way, I’d consider it a success, and the beginning of an interesting journey. I’ll continue to blog about my experiences.
The online realm can often be confusing. We portray the best versions of ourselves and create images of how we want others to perceive us. It’s not to say that we don’t do this in our day to day lives, but online, there are more barriers to cross to get to real experience.
So how do we find connection? Around three years ago we came across Anjana Raj on Tumblr and Instagram and witnessed how she seamlessly styled American and South Asian fashion to reflect aspects of her identity.
We collaborated by featuring an awesome short video about her blog, ‘Bangle Banger’, which was one of the first pieces of video content we ever shared.
Connection arises when somehow, sometimes, intentions align and we reach out across continents to people in authentic ways. So when we heard that Anjana was coming to London, we knew that we had to arrange a meet up and take that connection offline.
We called Thahmina from ‘Girl with the Golden Tiffin’ and photographic genius Jahied and took to the streets of East London, intuitively working together to capture the power of what BROWNGIRLS represent.
I was inspired by Anjana Raj of Bangle Banger to meld desi fashion items with my western-style clothing.
My shirt is very Indian-esque, I assume that was what F21 was going for, maybe that is why I was so attracted to the bright red-orange floral pattern. The khaki olive green pants are also from forever 21, the black strappy sandals with gold-colored studs are from payless, purchased by my mother several years ago. Sometimes I get my clothes, accessories, and footwear from my mother, because she loves to shop and I love riffling through her old things! I rarely buy clothes, but when I do it is because I love the item regardless of trend and I hold onto them for a long long time. The burgundy-red sheer dupatta is my mother’s but we regularly borrow each others Indian items, and the multi-strand gold beaded necklace is also hers, I believe she bought it in India. Although I do not normally wear such an outfit out, I thought it would be fun to get dressed up in an effort to create my own style.
omg i feel you it’s killin me but i promise the latest by the end of this month something will happen! i might need to just bite the bullet and hire a photographer but so far it’s been a very intimate experience so idk if i can just let strangers shoot my photos. priya has agreed to shoot some photos for me so that’s coming in the near future. i’ll keep you posted!
It’s been 6 months since this project started. It came as an idea late at night with a conversation among friends. The immense support that this has received even further proves the lack for a supportive safe space for marginalized communities to thrive because it’s no longer just about survival.
I hope more than anything this serves as the catalyst for POC to pursue whatever is that we want to pursue because we deserve that and to carve out a space that is so rightfully ours.
Basically, this is a drawn out thank you, so thank you very much. XOXOXO
makeup: laura mercier radiance primer, bare minerals bareskin #15, nyx matte bronzer, nars blush in liberte, nars multiple in cococabana, maybelline concealer in medium light, anastasia beverly hills eye brow pomade in dark brown, loreal voluminous mascara, sephora collection cream lip stain in forever fuchsia, nars velvet matte lip in dolce vita
makeup: mac nc44 studio fluid fix, mac concealer nc42, nars blush in liberte, nyx matte bronzer, mac prep + prime highlighter pen, sephora cream stain lip in always red, mac lip liner in cherry, maybelline nude palette, benefit they’re real push up liner, loreal voluminous mascara,
khadda dupatta : i’ve gotten a lot of requests on how to wear a khadda dupatta and there are many ways to do it, I just do mine like a half-saree.
wearing: f21 top & pants, zara shoes, diy necklace makeup: smashbox photo ready illuminating primer, bare minerals bareskin #15, hardcandy illuminator, nyx eyeshadow natural palette, nyx matte cream lipstain in san paulo & morocco, anastasia beverly hills eyebrow pomade in dark brown, nyx matte bronzer, sleek blusher in pumpkin pie & squash