He’s a Woman, She’s a Man


Rana is spot on. Much of this new gender-bending vibe is a European idea. But Indian fashion shows these influences too. This is especially so when designers are turning inwards, towards their indigenous concepts and heritage and reclaiming tradition. The trouser is but a colonial product, Asian men have worn dhoti drapes and sarongs forever.

"For us, lungis and dhotis are not a fashion statement, it's part of our utility uniform. The farmer wears a dhoti, and so does the politician. It's the middle class in between these two that doesn't and calls it 'fashionable'," Saluja explains. "Designers only make versions of what already exists in our collective psyche."

A new body-consciousness that hasn't escaped men or women has much to do with it. "Even men have problem areas in their body types, and a lungi silhouette or a men's kaftan is forgiving on big hips," Rana avers. This brings to mind Hedi Slimane's iconic slim suits for Dior Homme, which Chanel's chief designer Karl Lagerfeld famously said he shed a lot of weight to get into.

Moreover, India's tropical weather allows for comfort over anything else, hence dress codes are often flexible. "Practicality is the mother of acceptance," says Rodricks. "The reason I wear a lungi to a party is because it is the most comfortable thing I've worn. Our hot weather makes comfortable options possible." Rodricks says he has seen actor Arshad Warsi wear dhoti pants often. "I once saw a young man in Chandigarh wear Tao pants that looked like a skirt. "

"As much as I love wearing loose-flowing clothes, I usually wear them where I know they would be okay," says Warsi, who lives in "hot and humid Mumbai" where he prefers wearing clothes that breathe. "I wear a tie-up pyjama (salwar) very often, and I wear lungis at home. I'd love to wear it out but I would shock everybody."

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