Asian fashions


Asian fashions
   Asian fashions had an extensive impacted on British culture following postwar immigration and the 1960s counter-cultural mystification of the East, with the prejudicial British stereotypes initially associated with traditional Asian dress gradually shifting to Western mainstream appropriations of ethnic style and fashion.
   Subject to subcontinental regional variations, Asian fashions are based around traditional gendered garments including women’s casual shalwar (cotton pyjama trousers) and kameez (tunic top) with dupatta or chunni (chiffon head scarf) outfit. More intricately embroidered, classically or extra-vagantly designed versions of these suits are reserved for special social and religious occasions, as are the lengha, (a long heavy flaring skirt coupled with kameez-style tunic top) and sari. Bengali and Gujarati women don durable cotton saris as daily wear, with regionally diverse styles ranging from the hand-woven Bengali jamdani to silk South Indian saris.
   Traditional male garments centre around the men’s shalwar-kameez or kurta (tunic top of slightly shorter length than the kameez) and pyjama, commonly worn by older Asian men or informally in the home. The pronounced religious influences of modest traditional dress are visible in the turbans and white caps worn by Sikh and Muslim men respectively (the different styles of turbans are indicative of regional and caste-based differences), and also Muslim women’s hijab.
   Asian fashions fluctuate between preserving traditions, Western appropriations as ‘authentic’ cultural markers and accommodating Western trends to produce a modified or hybridized look. Western appropriations which began with sandals, beads and kurta tops in the 1960s now include accessories and body adornment such as mehndi-decorated hands, other henna tattoos, facial markings, bindis, nose rings, bangles and weightier Indian gold accessories, once traditionally worn by married women only. As Asian affluence grows, Bombay and Delhistyle fashion boutiques are becoming popular among the Westernized Asian middle classes, selling ready-made designer suits alongside more traditional fabric outlets. Economic stratification locates the continued practice of homemade fashion, based on classic and the latest imported subcontinental fashion designs, among ex-rural migrants in particular.
   While traditional fashions are maintained among older Asians with social and religious aspects intact, Asian youth styles reflect the crosscultural influences of recontextualized Asian fashions, although as Naseem Khan suggests, the conspicuous lack of an outstanding British Asian designer perhaps indicates the future of Asian fashions in Britain.
   Further reading
    Khan, N. (1992) ‘Asian Women’s Dress: From Burqah to Bloggs—Changing Clothes for Changing Times’, in J.Ash and E.Wilson (eds),
    Chic Thrills: A Fashion Reader, London: Pandora Press (solid, informative introduction to (British) Asian fashions).
   SATINDER CHOHAN

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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