's party two weeks back, I was chatting with friends about how outside of an SCA context
it's a bit odd to see someone wearing "ethnic" clothing that doesn't seem to match the person's apparent ethnic background. Examples would be an African-American person in a kilt, an Indian person in a kimono, a Caucasian person in a sari, etc - an unexpected visual combination.
I wondered how someone of the clothing's ethnic background would look upon this out-of-context person, and I said I would ask an Indian friend of mine about saris. I finally remembered to ask her today! Her answer was very interesting: she said if she saw someone who looked like me wearing a sari on an ordinary day (my example), she would think (pretty much in order of her thoughts as expressed):
- that person knows something about Indian clothing and culture (provided it was worn correctly)
- that person might have been gifted with the sari by an Indian friend
- that person might be in a mixed marriage with an Indian
- that person is very confident and bold
She also said that Indians who have been in the US for a long time or those who are Indian-American have mostly relegated saris to formal occasions only and just don't seem to be comfortable wearing them around every day. Her mother-in-law, who was there today visiting from India, was in a sari. My friend was in a western-style dress.
I told her a bit about people in the SCA with Indian personas or who just like to wear saris (especially at Pennsic), and I admitted that I have 6 saris of my own, complete with cholis and pants or skirts. She said that if I let her know when I'm going to be someplace wearing a sari (like at our playground playdates), she will wear one, too!
I was prompted to remember to ask her after she commented this morning that the bright sun here is not like the bright sun in India - it feels hotter here. We'd had a conversation a few weeks ago about how people in India cover up in weather like this, but Caucasians in these parts tended to strip down instead. I talked about how those of us from white European stock frequently don't deal well with long periods of heat, especially if it's humid as well, and we don't spend much time in the sun while at the same time we try to expose as much skin as possible to whatever breezes we can find. She's starting to understand better, now, as she gets further into the MA summer - she's switched to sleeveless dresses, short sleeves, and shorts, and her son has started wearing t-shirts and shorts. Just last month, both of them were still in long sleeves and long pants while I'd already moved into shorts weeks before. And she's adapting for comfort, not for culture.