Fashion Reinvention of South Asian Clothes

Written by Silpi Patnaik

Indian Sarees

A Modern Take on Saree and Salwar 

South Asian clothing has always been a matter of interest for the world, especially for the West. Whether it is a nine-yard fabric called saree or a tailored ensemble called shalwaar kameez, both of them are viewed by the western world with immense respect. Moreover, the Westerners have adopted South Asian clothing with much love and have incorporated them in their wardrobes in interesting ways. 

Indian Kameez with Jeggings

While many South Asian countries still don’t find it appropriate to wear western clothes, the vice versa is enormously different. I have come across many foreign travelers getting intrigued by the beauty of authentic South Asian clothing and splurging on them just to treasure genuine traditional pieces. For example, members of the ISKCON wrap a Saree like they own the pleats, like they are born into the fabric, like they are made for the drape. Further many contemporary international fashion bloggers develop fusion clothing with the kameez at the base and then add western pieces to it in order to create a slew of fashionable ensemble. This article intends to focus on ways of fusing South Asian clothes, a saree and a shalwaar kameez, with pieces of western attire to devise novel outfits which are wearable by everyone at every corner of the world. It is fundamentally about universalizing South Asian clothing and providing everyone a zone of comfort within it.  


The Fashion Showcase of Sarees: Traditionally Profound and Currently Rebellious 

Indian Modern Sarees

Saree, with the authentic threads, loom of hand, prints and patterns unique to the soil, has a flavour of its own that attracts foreigners like bees towards raw honey. Fashion enthusiasts have played around with this timeless piece of clothing in multifarious ways. Since sarees mimic the 1950s vintage acre skirt, it is twisted around to form floor-length pleated skirt that is synched at the waist and transforms into nothing short of an attention-grabbing bottom.  Paired with shirts, tanks, crops or fitted three-quarter tops, this goes ahead to make an exclusive and exquisite outfit perfect for met galas or exotic fashion events. 

Different ways of wearing Sarees with flowing skirts

Sarees are also worn as flowy, pleated one-piece dresses or caftans with belts accentuating the waistline. Adding coats or blazers to the drape along with clutches and stilettos instantly upgrades this quaint dress of Indian subcontinent into a diverse and global attire.

For instance, light weight pure silk/raw silk/tussar silk sarees are immense fodder for the post-modern fashion industry. The historically-charged Dhoti Saree (worn like drape pants) has been improvised from such silk matters which is not only fashionable but also work-wearer friendly. Sheer Sarees like organzas draped with bralettes or off-the-shoulder tops add a primitive, rebellious and liberating element to the style paraphernalia. They bring in a verve of romanticism into the costume and stretch fashion to a completely new direction. All a saree-wearer needs is a few archetypal props to make a statement and leave an indelible impression-  a khadi jacket for meetings, a rustic oversized jute bag for the streets, a beige/glossy black trench coat for winter events, a pair of printed loafers for a relaxed afternoon, a  double-breasted striped blazer for regular formals, etc and the list can go on depending upon the level of creativity one wishes to bring in.  

This easy, roomy, breathable and anything but clichéd Saree Dress/Skirt/Pre-drape Gowns is a fashion confluence that effortlessly merges the duality of East and West.  With its potency to blend with Denims, Palazzos, Leather Pants and much more, it is a garment with incredible amounts of fluidity. Thus, it has made its way into the global wardrobe, transformed itself into an exciting genre of clothing and intends to stay put over there for all times to come.  

Pakistani Modern Shalwaar Kameez

Style Cocktail of The Shalwaar KameezThe Pragmatic, The Prolific  

Shalwaar kameez in which shalwaar means loose trousers and kameez the knee-length top, is the national dress of Pakistan. It has gone through a sea change post globalization and has evolved to be a part of international clothing since the last two decades.  

The most important change is the subtraction of the ‘dupatta’ which was inseparably associated with shalwaars and the addition of more convenient leggings or jeggings to the ensemble. The traditional dupatta is largely replaced the easygoing stole or scarf followed by ribbed jeans, mom jeans or any kind of modern bottoms like leather pants or shorts. Such permutations and combinations to a basic South Asian shalwaar kameez has created fashionable garments that are internationally favourable. 

Different Shalwaar

Further, the kameez of the shalwaar-kameez pair have had its progression and is currently living in the phase of “kurtis” or “kurtas”– mostly loose-fitted, high-collared Tops with a variety of lengths. A kurti with a jegging is the most modern and revolutionary adaptation of the traditional salwar suit that sets its wearer free from all physical limitations. Moreover, a kurti is very versatile since it has an inherent western touch inbuilt in it. A range of avant-garde ensembles are created by keeping a kurti at the centre. 

Cotton pleated kurtis are mostly worn as one-piece dresses or maxi dresses. With accessories like bag packs or fanny bags, these kurti dresses are easy to wear, very relaxed and at the same time pull in oodles of vigour and energy into the look of the wearer.  


Latest Styles of Shalwaar Kameez

High-necked kurtis with ankle length denims paired with coats and oversized bags have become famous formal wears. They are professional, easy to carry and very wearable.   

Lately some real unusual and experimental ideas are put into fashioning and refashioning kurtis. Wearing oversized button-down kurtis like shirt dresses along with running shoes for casuals; with neutral-coloured belts for formals; with floral shrugs for beaches; or just an A-line kurti as it is with knee-high boots for spring etc. are some of the recent developments.  

South Asian clothing has always been very conventional in its essential grain. Yet, due to the virtue of its versatility, it has undergone major innovations and aesthetic reinvention to create immensely unorthodox and radical styles. Such fusion-fashion has pushed the boundaries of the long-accepted norms and has flavored itself with multiracial elements in order to favour all nationalities, cultures and societies.