KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Poll for My Readers: Adopting Ethnic Dress

Gorgeous purple sari cloth from Sari SafariA U.S. colleague—a white woman—on an e-mail list sent listmates to her "favorite online sari shop." I've always found sari cloth quite beautiful. And I've always been attracted to traditional African clothing. Most nonethnic clothing worn in the United States seems dull in comparison.

But I've also wondered how people from India, black Africans, Stunning pharoah caftan and pants from Africa StylesAmericans of African heritage, and people of other ethnic groups feel about "outsiders" wearing their traditional clothing. Are "outsiders" seen as appropriating something that they shouldn't, something that symbolizes pride in or identification with a particular culture?

I realize that no ethnic group as a whole has one opinion. If you're a reader who identifies strongly with an ethnic group, this very pale U.S. woman of mostly Irish, French, and Scots ancestry wants to know what you think about this subject.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a white Californian in close proximity to places like Berkeley, where it's commonplace to see whites wearing the traditional dress of other cultures, I've often wondered about this issue. I do think there's something strange about it, as if they are playing "cultural dress-up." In many cases, it's something like "I'm a Buddhist now after I read that book, so I'll wear a sari" (ah, many sari wearers are actually Hindu). I also think it's telling that you don't often see the opposite (e.g., a black American wearing a kilt).
I do find some ethnic styles (particularly sari and kimono) to be irresistably beautiful. However, I think that to actually wear a sari as some of the blonde ladies on the website are doing, I'd need to 1) be in India (when in Rome, etc.) and 2)get instructions on how to wear them properly.
Then again, I don't usually become uncomfortable over clothing inspired by ethnic styles, such as sari-silk skirts, mandarin collars, or kimono-shaped tunics with miniature obi. However, here's a perspective from an Indian-American teacher at CUNY:

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