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Incorporating Cultural Style into Your Wardrobe

02/22/2013 01:07 EST | Updated 04/24/2013 05:12 EDT
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Ever since Chanel and Marchesa showed their very Indian-inspired collections earlier this year, I've been intrigued with the idea of adding Indian touches to my everyday wardrobe. For years now I've shied away from the Indo-fusion trend, haunted by memories of the girls that wore saris to our Gr. 12 grad and/or a huge maang tika and jhumka earrings with their dress to convocation. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't appreciate Indian clothing; in fact I love it -- when it's worn to Indian events and functions.

However, lately I've felt a renewed interest in my culture; the clothing, and the idea of having a signature look that also represents my heritage (maybe it has to do with this gig at Masalamommas!) So I did what I always do in this kind of situation -- window shopping! -- I mean, er, research:

Here is what I came up with for ideas on infusing Indian touches into your everyday looks:

1. Think Fusion Not National Costume

Fusion means blending together two distinct styles. For the merge to be successful, no one style or influence should overshadow the other. Think pb&j -- they complement each other perfectly without either one trying to steal the show. The key to successful fusion dressing is to fit the Indian piece into your outfit effortlessly, not in a way that screams "I'm trying to do fusion."

2. Prints and Motifs

Nothing says Indian like a paisley or patola (double ikat) print, but you don't have to drown yourself in the print to make your point. Try a paisley print sheath dress or an embroidered patola bag and let the print shine. Other motifs that work well for fusion looks are; bhandini, ikat, and chanderi.

3. Colour

When I think of Indian textiles and fashion the colours that come to mind are fuchsia, orange, and bright pink -- basically a rangoli of colours, yet I'm not fully convinced that head to toe colour blocking says Indo-fusion. Try using your bright and bold colours like a sari border, for an added detail or interest item. Think bright pink blazer, embroidered fuchsia handbag, or orange and emerald stone earrings.

4. Embellish Away

The beauty of Indian embellishment isn't just in the handwork but also the history. All the way from the zardosi work of the Mughal period to the wedding phulkari's of pre-independence India, every embellishment has a volume of stories to tell. With so many amazing embroidered and embellished pieces available at mainstream retailers today this is one of the easiest ideas to incorporate into your current wardrobe. My only caveat for embellishments is, stick to one piece. Don't over-crowd your look with too much bling.

5. Jewellery

No one rocks an arm party like a "gown ki gori" in India -- it's a fact, and bangles or bracelets are the safest (and easiest) way to incorporate a little desi into your looks. You can also wear a kundan earrings and statement necklaces quite seamlessly with your western looks. If you want to bring something more daring like a maang tika or baaju band into the mix, I would save it for evening looks, and stick to one piece of statement jewellery.

6. Iconic Pieces

Most people would think of the sari as the most iconic piece of Indian clothing (and rightfully so), but there are a few other statement outfits styles worth trying out. The first is the Nehru jacket or vest. Popularized by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, this tailored coat with a mandarin collar looks good on both men and women.

Another piece worth incorporating into your fusion wardrobe is the ghagra or lehnga. This classic piece is also seasonal -- wear a cotton ghagra with a tank top for summer, or take it to an evening look by pairing an embellished one with a tailored blazer. The final iconic piece for Indo-Fusion looks is the turban. I would tread carefully with this one -- although some very bold women can pull this look off well, there is always a chance that you might look too costumey!

By Raj Thandi

Interested in Indo-Fusion fashion? See Raj's story on Lakme India Fashion Week and her exclusive interview with designer Payal Singhal. Follow her at @pinkchai.