When I was packing for India, I distinctly remember looking at my finished suitcase thinking, “Wow. Where’d all the colors go?”
I mean, it was a subconscious, by-passing thought, quickly dismissed by my justification of “black is versatile” or “minimalism is modern fashion,” but the black and grey clothes in my black suitcase with grey shoes and a brown purse were… well, normal.
On day one, a Sunday afternoon in New Delhi, CCS sent us to FabIndia, a nice store that sells traditional Indian clothing: salwar kameezes and shawls for women, kurtas for men. The ten of us walked into the shop and were struck by an impressive amount of colors and patterns unbeknownst to American fashion — it was incredible.
“The platform for expression that India provides is something I would love to embrace and cherish even upon our return to the States.”
My experience at FabIndia was nothing out of the ordinary. I picked out three salwar kameezes: yellow with orange stitching, scarlet, and turquoise with gold accents. Funny enough, those were the more basic fashion pieces in the store — I suppose these were colors that I found exciting. I thought these colors were extraordinarily bright and even outlandish. For an American woman like myself, vitality can feel this way.
But another interesting aspect of Indian fashion is how restrictive it can feel to foreigners like the ten of us. Traditionally, women cannot show their knees or shoulders and should avoid tight fitting pants unless wearing a long, loose shirt (like a salwar kameez). Men are less restricted, but our boys still have to follow dress code, especially when teaching at school. Keep in mind, it’s a solid 90 degrees with intense humidity every day, and we run around playing cricket and kho kho (an Indian version of tag) with our kids during their lunch breaks and sports classes.
I think this high contrast between liberation and restriction has enhanced my experience in India so far. Sure, I can’t wear half of the clothes I wear at home; I probably can’t even wear a fourth of my American wardrobe, but being able to dress in bright colors and busy patterns and still feel fashionable is incredibly liberating. The platform for expression that India provides is something I would love to embrace and cherish even upon our return to the States.