While ethnic wear isn’t everyone’s go-to option for everyday wear, it has a degree of indispensability enjoyed by few other items of clothing. As a matter of fact, the ethnic wear section in the contemporary woman’s wardrobe is, in most cases, the most special, consisting of the fanciest ensembles reserved only for the best of occasions. Of course, ethnic wear should be lowered from its pedestal and made a bit more “common” in order to be embraced completely. But whether you are the kind who considers ethnic wear too special to be accorded ubiquity and prefer to own only a few classic must-haves or are a true-blue ethnic-outfits’ lover who is looking to streamline her colossal ethnic-wear wardrobe.
Read on to learn of six classic items that will add value to your ethnic-wear collection:
1. A Kurta
Never mind its omnipresence, the kurta is truly that sartorial all-weather friend you may bank on, on the best and worst of days. Throw it over a pair of denims and you’ve conjured up a breezy Indo-western look. Wear it with straight-fit palazzos and your elegantly no-nonsense look is ready. The best part is, a kurta is versatile enough to be styled anyway you like. The straight long kurta, the Angrakha kurta, and the collared kurta are all very chic this season.
2. A Maxi Skirt
Nothing spells femininity like the swish and swirl of a maxi skirt. Infused with a charm that can best be defined as intrinsically desi, the ethnic maxi skirt may well be called a contemporary spin on the more traditional lehenga. Tiered skirts with conspicuous gotta-patti borders, block-printed skirts, and skirts featuring glasswork are all supremely graceful and elegant. With their innate richness, Banarasi brocade skirts are best reserved for extra-formal events.
3. A Patiala Salwar
Patiala salwars faded out of trend for several decades only to be back (for good!) in the mid-2000s. Synonymous with girlish – as opposed to womanly – effervescence, a Patiala salwar packs in sprightliness and sensuousness all at once. A casual to semi-formal attire, these voluminous salwars are best teamed with short tunics and kurtis that show off their ample pleats. Both plain and printed types exude a delightfully rustic vibe that’s unmistakably Punjabi.
4. A Multi-coloured Dupatta
The scarf’s ethnic counterpart, an attractive dupatta can instantly spruce up an outfit. Though the dupatta as part of a salwar kameez set is increasingly being pushed into the realm of the formal, a multi-coloured dupatta as a lone piece of clothing can work wonders for drab outfits in solid colours. Vibrant dupattas featuring bandhani prints, sheesha embroidery, phulkari embroidery, kantha embroidery and the like can be wrapped to add a playful ethnic touch to any garment, even a no-frills top and denims.
5. A Printed Jacket
Though not exactly conventional ethnic wear, a classic ethnic-patterned jacket is a tasteful addition that layers up, injecting a modicum of Indian-ness into an outfit without going overboard or keeping it too understated. Jackets embossed with prints like ajrak, kalamkari, dabu, and bagh quietly and classily articulate the quintessence of ethnic wear. Brocade and velvet embroidered jackets in deep, vivid shades are perfect for those looking for a little more scream and spangle.
6. A Sari
Despite its oh-so-formal and grown-up implications, the sari remains the mother of all Indian attire, hard to knock off any listicle revolving around ethnic wear. Though the classic chiffon sari in a solid colour has its own Bollywood-fuelled charisma, a truly ethnic sari – featuring works like Zardozi, Ikat, Chikankari, Kalamkari, and Gara among others – spins a different story altogether. Owning even one of the aforementioned can truly and absolutely complete your ethnic-wear wardrobe.
While the importance of having the right, most essential ethnic-wear items cannot be overstated, adequate attention must also be paid to the area of accessories i.e. jewellery, handbags, and footwear. Accessorizing your outfit wrong (read: a plain-vanilla envelope bag with a dressy Indian attire) spells disaster. Conversely, nailing the look critically depends on accessorizing the ensemble right (read: silver jhumkas and ornate juttis with an ethnic maxi skirt and blouse). So, pay attention to the details and don’t forget to have fun curating your ethnic look and wardrobe!