Cultural Appropriation? The Love Diary

I had a discussion recently about saree wearing, and if it is a love for a culture or cultural appropriation. To be honest, I’m double minded about that. Of course I would be thrilled as any other person coming from a saree wearing culture (mind you, sarees are like drindl, various aesthetic differences based on countries, and region specific), to see someone wearing a saree specific to my region as a way of honouring the region-specific culture while being present at a highly official event at that location. Basically, wearing a saree within the Indian subcontinent, while attending particular event at the location that is dominantly of Indian tradition – yes. Wear a saree. Eg.: South Asian wedding, the celebration of any festival such as Durga Puja, Ganesh Puja, etc. There you are aware of the pattern, material, cut, pleats, etc that is specific to that region and tradition. So there’s zero place for improper appropriation. An exception can also be Model UN, where one is learning about the culture even when they don’t specifically belong to it.

The moment it is displaced by generically “Indian”, one has to point out that cultures are not costumes. Let me explain with an example: I won’t wear an Appenzeller traditional clothing mixed with Neuchâteloise traditional clothing in an event in India that has nothing to do with Switzerland. By doing that I am not only committing a massacre of traditional aesthetics but also being rude and disrespectful with what surmounts to caricaturing an entire group of people and their history that embodies their clothing. It is important to remember that a saree is not a toga nor an “oriental drape” – just the way a drindl is not a “sexy dress”. That’s a cultural aesthetic that must be carefully respected.

Here’s the thing, saree is a complicated tradition. Small glimpse into the extent of its complication: if you aren’t from a saree wearing culture and end up wearing a 9-yard saree to something that isn’t your own wedding, as opposed to the everyday 6 yard saree that you wear otherwise – or wearing a saree style that is typically used for pujas at a non-puja event, or wearing a widows white with either blue/green/black border “thaan” to an event; these things mostly just make you look lost, overdressed, ignorant, or disrespectful. That’s where cultural appropriation comes in. And despite your love for saree the massacre of a traditional attire is dominant.


Bengali everyday drape: the way my mom wears a saree during New Years dinner, or official events.
Bengali Bridal: 12 yard Athpourey Saree Style From West Bengal
9 yard: Nauvari Saree From Maharashtra
Gujarati Bridal: Seedha Pallu From Gujarat
5.3-long-yard: Surguja From Chhattisgarh
Tribal: Santhal Drape From Jharkhand
Gol saree: Parsi drape
Widow’s Drape: White Saree

Lastly, how I drape a saree when at Beau-Rivage for brunch.

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