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I'm stewing over some stuff from the last week and this week, so in the interim you get a fashion post. You've been warned about these things before. It's your own fault for reading...
I'm not even sure I should write this post. There is a high likelihood that it will draw an unfavorable comment or two, which would be the exact opposite of my intent. Still, on my recent trip to India I came across something I have never seen before, and quit frankly, mislabeled (in probably a horribly politically incorrect phrase) as a bedazzled burqa. Thus for a moment I will pause here and say that I do not wish to judge or have others judge a woman's motivation to wear certain styles of clothes on this post. This is an extremely complicated subject that I feel is better left discussed elsewhere.
Now that we got that seriousness out of the way - back to my point: BEDAZZLED burqas! Ok, after stumbling across an article in Hindustan Times, I was given a small lead that what I marveled at in Gujurat on many occasions, may not have actually been a burqa. According to the article, "designer Anand Bhushan says, 'Even we may not be able to tell an abaya from a burqa. So, we shouldn’t feel hurt. After all, Hermes did a whole sari collection. What bigger compliment do we need?'" First I thought to myself, "that Hermes sari line IS pretty fabulous" and then I thought, "wait - what is an abaya?"
Let me back up for a minute. India has a diverse population that consists largely of Hindus and Muslims (other's too, but for the sake of brevity, we won't get into all of that for now.) In Kashmir, for instance, there is about a 95% Muslim population, though it is a major tourist area and thus you see many Indians from all over the country with all sorts of backgrounds. Here is where I saw about 10% of the resident female population (that was out in public) in full burqas on a previous trip. In Gujarat (where I just returned from), there is a much, much smaller Muslim population, but as it borders Pakistan you will see various levels of Muslim tradition reflected in attire (men and women). What I began to notice in Gujarat was the more traditional styles of Islamic outfits were somewhat different than what I have previously been exposed to.
It started as we passed through a train stop. I was casually looking out the window when I saw a woman dressed from head to toe (including veil) that was somehow different. Part of it was her hijab, but part of it was simply her. She had a confidence about her that is rare anywhere. She was tall, lean, wore expensive (vision) eye-wear, and had one hand on her hip. Then I noticed her outfit. Though it certainly covered everything, even it was remarkably beautiful. Like she had stepped off a runway, put on her glasses and veil, and went off to catch a train with her friend. Something a little like the picture below except WITH SPARKLES
Or like this (replace the white WITH SPARKLES)
Rarely am I floored by a woman I see for 60 seconds, but this one was stunning.
Over the next week and a half, I noticed that the Muslim women dressed in all black all had little extras to their outfits. Mostly it was crystals, sometimes only small patterns and sometimes ones that would rival a teenager with a swarovski addiction. There were also lots with lace or chiffon worked into the sleeves and hems. All such new styles and not at all the image we westerners often have of such things.
Don't get me wrong, this post is neither pro or con: simply to highlight how I am constantly amazed how things are not always how we think they are. I love traveling and seeing new things, and this was just another reminder of this. Should I ever travel to a country where a heavier coverage is required of me it's good to know that there is as wide a variety in this as anything else.
In one of the large shopping marts we frequented, I remember seeing a young lady in one of these beautiful decorated abayas, veil over her face, at the checkout lane with her friends in various outfits. She was the only one with a veil, but some had abayas and some wore other typical Indian attire. As I looked across the room at her I noticed something else: eyes wrapped expertly with kohl were staring back at ME in wonderment. The blonde hair, blue-eyed, Caucasian girl dressed like an Indian complete with bangles on my arms, bindi on my forehead, and sindoor in my hair. What a sight I must have been to her.