By Kate Nutting:
When you think of Indian fashion, brightly coloured saris pop to mind, not denim jeans, flip flops and spaghetti straps.
Today you see the two juxtaposed on the street.
For the past ten years, urban India has been going through a process of westernisation.
Globalisation and technological advances have meant that today’s youth have been raised in a world whereby they have been constantly exposed to the Western way of life.
Because of this, many young people say that they find in comfort Western culture, and therefore prefer to embrace it.
When it comes to their way of dress, most young people living in the city are heavily influence by the Western outfits that they see online.
Gauri Makkar, a 20 year old student, draws fashion inspiration from everywhere, and describes her style as the three C’s: casual, comfortable and colourful.
“Taylor Swift really inspires me, her dressing style is cute, comfy and is usually very chic. Also the latest trends in movies do tend to influence me too, also the Indian celebrities as well as foreign are a great way for me to keep up with the changing fashion trends and I somewhat try to wear clothes like them” she says.
She believes, that like herself, most young women in urban India are influenced heavily by American popstars, such as Kim Kardashian and Vanessa Hudgens.
I asked three Indian fashion bloggers to share with me a photo of an outfit they think sums up their style. This is the result.
Regardless of caste or religion, the traditional Indian dress for women is typically a sari.
The sari is a garment made up of four to nine yards fabric, elaborately draped around the body.
According to Gauri, this is still thought of as the appropriate way for women to dress, despite the changing fashion scene in India.
“The ideal appearance for a woman in India would of course be a woman dressed decently in a sari or suit, the traditional clothing, which is a symbol of purity, piousness and her identity of being a complete woman. But of course because of the constant high of the foreign influence, the definition of the proper, ideal appearance is fast changing” she says.
She says that most women are still quite conservative in their clothing, meaning that not all Western fashion trends can be adopted easily.
Because of this, many Western fashion trends are revised to be more conservative for day to day wear.
Shweta Singh, 33, is also is distinctly aware of this influence.
“I would admit that there is a big influence from the Western culture, from the Western way of dressing up, but mainly that is in the big cities only. You will get to see it in places like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, where women love to dress up nicely, modestly. The best place to see the influence is if you go to the night clubs. If you go there, you will witness the culture and the changes which we are witnessing now” she says.
Like Shweta said, outside the Third Eye Night Club in New Delhi on a Sunday night, you can truly witness this change.
Young women queue outside, wearing similar clothes to what young Australian women would wear on a night out.
Exposed midriffs and bodycon dresses are everywhere.
Traditionally, a woman’s chest was been viewed as “sexually enticing” and special, and therefore was always kept hidden.
The clothes that young women wear clubbing clearly disrupt this age old tradition, as well as previous models of how girls should behave.
“The new generation and the new parents, they would not mind if their daughters are wearing short skirts or shirts or going to clubs, because nowadays it is being accepted as a role. If you talk about five years or ten years ago, if a boy had to ask a girl on a date, he would ask her to go to a café, over a cup of coffee or tea. But nowadays, boys are asking girls to go to a bar, so that is how the change is here” says Shweta.
She directly links this change to the undeniable inundation of Western culture as a result of global trade and technological advances.
“It is the music albums, and also these big companies, these big clothing and shoe brands and the malls which are coming up, all advertise. Now there is a lot of online marketing also, so people get aware of the latest fashion and trend and they want it as well.”
“Most of these big international brands are finding good market in India, like Zara, Forever 21. They are immensely popular in India. If you go to the South City Mall in South Delhi, they have these brands, huge outlets. They are always full of girls” she says.
It is when you step into these malls, that you see the true reach of Western culture.
Nearly every second store is American, all of which are full of hordes of teenage girls and young women shopping up a storm.
On the 2nd October this year, the first H&M store in India opened at Select Citywalk Mall in New Delhi.
Hundreds of people lined up for hours, hoping to some of the first through the doors when it opened.
The fact that so many people had travelled for miles and slept outside the mall overnight, is testament to the true popularity of Western stores, such as H&M in India.
Everybody in the queue said that they were excited for the store to finally open, and that they loved the price and Western style of the clothes.
In the queue, it was where you saw Western fashion trends really come alive.
The latest 70’s inspired trend was a popular choice, with both men and women opting for the vintage look and rocking flares, bell sleeves and overalls.
Apart from a mother or two, it was hard to spot anyone wearing anything other than what they call modern clothes.
Standing outside the mall waiting to go in, the division between cultures was so small that you could have been standing outside a shopping centre in virtually any Western country.
In fact, the difference between young urban Indian and Australian men and women in general, is virtually negligible.
It is clear that most people around New Delhi believe that westernisation will not ever entirely change the core values and traditions of Indian culture but will continue influence their way of life.
“What we say here is, the way you dress cannot dictate who you are. Even if I wear a Western dress, I might be the most patriotic, almost traditional Indian person at heart. So it’s surely not what you wear that can dictate what is around you.” says Samiksha Mehra, 20.
The change in Indian cities over the last ten years has been monumental and far reaching.
Where the next ten years takes India and its incredible culture, who knows.