Wearing the duppatta Indian Style (photo post)
The salwar kameez originates in the north of India, Punjab to be specific, but now it has spread to every part of the country.
Two incidents I remember vividly. One was when I was in college and the salwar kameez had started to become popular in Pune. In those days unmarried modern girls usually wore trousers or skirts (midis were a rage in the early eighties) and for formal occasions they wore sarees. But by the time I was in college, girls had started to own at least one salwar kameez set and it was popularly dubbed the “Punjabi dress.” I too stitched a light blue one with a geometric design, and it was my first salwar kameez. I remember the pattern as clearly as if it were still in my cupboard. Everyone in my family considered it very elegant and a cross between western wear and traditional Indian wear!
The other incident is about a friend of mine who married into a traditional joint family who had to fight for as long as a three long years before her in-laws “allowed” her to wear the salwar kameez. This was some time ago, and we have come a long way since then, and it’s intriguing to see that today girls in semi-rural areas have taken to wearing this outfit. However, married women in these areas (where the saree is the traditional dress) still do not wear the salwar-kameez as it is considered a “young girl’s dress.”
Actually, the long loose pants and “top” of the salwar kameez can be worn in the most modest manner to please the most conservative people. Even then it is the sari which a married lady is expected to wear. One of the reasons for this is that Indian families, particularly those in semi-urban and rural areas, live in joint families, and it is the older women in the family who dictate what daughters-in-law should wear. However the fact that young girls in the countryside are now wearing the salwar kameez freely means that it won’t be long before married women too start to wear it, it is just a matter of time.
City women in all parts of India have already taken to the salwar kameez in a big way. It is not just about the freedom of movement that the salwar kameez offers but also the fact that it requires less maintenance than a sari and fewer “matching” accessories. Buying a saree involves getting a matching “fall” stitched on the bottom border, getting a matching petticoat and stitching a matching blouse (buying the cloth in one place and getting it stitched in another place). Usually these things are not available ready-made or even in the same shop! So buying a saree can be a time-consuming process. The salwar kameez and duppatta come in a set and can be picked off the rack. And dumped it in the washing machine as well, unlike most sarees.
This post is about how Indian women have adapted the salwar kameez to daily wear to give maximum comfort. It is the duppatta that often comes in the way and there are ways that women deal with it.
(In most of the pictures I have blurred the faces of the people as this ensures the privacy of the people I click.)
In this first photograph, the duppatta is worn in the traditional way, covering the upper half of the body:
Women also have a tendency to push the duppatta right onto their throats as it then removes the necessity of adjusting it all the time. This means that the women are not using the duppatta to hide the upper body (which is what it was designed for) but more as an accessory. At times the pattern on the kameez (shirt) is pretty and then too the duppatta is pushed back. At times the duppatta is flung across the neck and the two ends fall in the front of the kameez like that of the girl in the peach. This not only gives the girl the modesty she desires but also ensures that the duppatta is easy to handle.
For greater freedom of movement, girls and women either tie the duppatta across their bodies as seen in the pictures below or simply fix it in such a way that it doesn’t move. Tying it also ensures better safety for scooter riders. In fact it is necessary to do this as accidents can take place when the flying duppatta gets in the wheels of one’s own or another two wheeler. I have also heard of a case where the victim was traveling in a rickshaw and her duppatta got caught in a two-wheeler which was just on the side.
The most convenient way is to get rid of the duppatta altogether, like the girls have done in the photographs below.
This last photograph shows the most versatile use of the salwar kameez! It is being used as a swim-suit. This is not an uncommon sight in India, as many women are reluctant to wear a swimsuit because of peeping toms around.
(Note:All photographs are taken by me in Mumbai and Pune and are copyrighted to me. Although there was no need for me blur the faces of the people, I did it out of courtesy as some of these are close-ups. By law one is allowed to take a photo as long as the person is in a public place ( this includes celebrities, kids, girls etc.) and this photo can be published as long as it is a part of journal or a news article. However (obviously) you are not allowed to use the photos for the purpose of promoting pornography or say something to hurt the reputation of the person. )
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