Saturday, October 27, 2007

| Shalwar Kameez

What is Salwar / Shalwar & what is Kameez?

Following definitions will explain you all about salwar kameez and embroidery, workmanship used in shalwar kameez.

Kameez - A three-quarter-length tunic for women, usually knee-length or longer. Plural is also "kameez

Salwar or Shalwar - Loose pants, broad at the top and narrower at the ankles

Sharara - A very full, flowing pants which look like a long skirt, worn under a short tunic and with a dupatta.

Churidar - Closely fitted pants, with bunches of folds at the ankles looking like a stack of bangles

Dupatta - An unstitched length of material for the upper body traditionally worn by both sexes, but now mainly worn by women as part of a salwar kameez (paijama and tunic) ensemble.

Kurti or Tunic - A short kurta usually worn by women a type of grass fiber)

Zari or Jari - metal wrapped yarn used for zardozi embroidery

Badla - Flattened gold or silver wire

A question of culture

The sari is, without argument, the most graceful form of attire invented by homo sapiens. That is why the Begums Jinnah and Bhutto wore it on formal occasions. They were also wearing Salwar Kameez in other occassions. Over time, however, the salwar came to replace the sari even in public. Was there a larger significance in this? The respected Pakistani columnist M.B. Naqvi thought so. Fascinating piece by him on how Pakistani society was torn between identifying with West Asia or South Asia. Naqvi suggested that a woman's choice of Pakistani dress intimately embodied this dilemma; thus to wear a sari was to see oneself as part of a wider subcontinental culture, while to don a salwar was to place oneself in an Islamic world alone.

The sari was once viewed as something that could be owned by all Indian women, Hindu or Muslim, Christian or Parsi. The salwar kameez , on the other hand, was viewed by some as a dress worn exclusively by Muslims. Hindu and Sikh women knew often wore the salwar kameez. Salwar Kameez is also called Shalwar Kameez in countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc.

Salwar Kameez Islamic, Sari Hindu?

After Jemima Goldsmith married Imran Khan and went to live in Lahore, she was visited by her close friend, Diana, Princess of Wales. Soon afterwards, Jemima and Diana were photographed wearing the shalwar kameez. Surely it must be a hard job teaching Lady Diana how to get into shalwar kameez.

Earlier in 60s & 70s Salwar Kameez or Salwar were seen as Pakistani dress or Punjabi dress (also known as Punjabi suit), the sari as an Indian dress or Hindu dress. But in recent decades the salwar kameez has spread to parts of India. Same is the case with saree, it has become very famous fashion attire around the world. Shalwar kameez fashion has not only taken India by storm but it's becoming famous around the world. Salwar has now become very famount Indian Fashion.

The victory of the salwar kameez (shalwar kameez)

Salwar Kameez has now become so famous as Indian dress that in the smallest town of Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Hariyana, Andhra Pradesh, etc. school going girls wear salwar. Earlier in 60s they wore the pavade, a kind of long skirt sometimes called the half-sari. Yet within one generation they had so easily, and comprehensively, shed an older, so-to-say traditional, form of dress for a previously alien one.

Is it better to see the salwar kameez as a peasant dress, worn by women in the Punjab countryside because it made their work easier, rather than as a specifically Islamic dress? What is the significance of the Bengali term dhoti-panjabi? When did the shalwar kameez first come to rural South India? What has been the role of television and film in facilitating its spread? And how and why has it become so popular among young girls, regardless of caste or religion?

These questions call for serious investigation. Why has the salwar become so ubiquitous in a region where it was unknown only a generation before? The answer must be that this is a dress not seen as "Western" or immodest, and yet a dress that allows one to go to school or college, and to participate in the work force. Jeans and tops can be worn in cosmopolitan cities like Bombay, Delhi, Banglore, Madras. The salwar kameez is suitably "decent", yet it allows far more mobility than either the pavade or the sari. One can walk in it, one can bicycle in it, one can even run a 100-metre race in it.