Fashion resources for South Asians
January 12, 2008 8:22 AM   Subscribe

What good fashion/style/beauty resources are out there for South Asian (Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani) women that aren't all about saris and lenghas?

Thanks to the response to this question, I have been investigation fashion and style a lot more that usual, and am developing my personal tastes further. (I'm keeping a log of what I like; link's in profile.)

One thing that's struck me, though, is that none of the models are South Asian - none of them look like me. They're all mostly white and skinny (and often blonde). When they bring "people of colour" in there are no South Asians, and plus size is way too big for me (I'm a 12-14 with a typical South Asian belly). So it's hard for me to tell if anything I've seen would actually look good on me because there's no one to compare it to.

My tastes run towards the gothic (Velvet Garden is AWESOME), geeky (injoke tees), businessy (I LOVE suits), and ethnic (not just South Asian). I've been thinking of trying out mod, after seeing a photo of Edie Sedgwick, but she's the complete opposite of me bodywise and I have a feeling the typical mod dresses are going to make me look pregnant.

It's harder to find makeup because I have no idea what colours would suit me. I hardly wear makeup but when I do (for very special occasions) I like to be dramatic, particularly with my eyes. However, all the talk about warm/cool/yellow/blue skin tones confuse me. Some websites have pictures or notes of people whose skin I'm supposed to match, but none of them are ever South Asian! I can't even tell for myself because my skin tone can change - right now it's on the fair side because I'm hardly outdoors, but my face can get quite dark, especially when standing next to fairer people.

Searching for South Asian fashion resources is difficult, because I keep getting stuff about saris and lenghas and salwhar khameez. They're nice, but that's not all I want to wear!

Are there any sites or places that tackle South Asian people but have a more Western idea of style?
posted by divabat to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: "investigation", bah. try "investigating".

I understand that there are a couple of South Asian musicians making fashion waves in the Western world (Bat for Lashes, M.I.A.) - where are they getting their dress sense from?
posted by divabat at 8:24 AM on January 12, 2008

I don't know where those artists get their fashion sense, but another avenue for you to investigate would be the band Dengue Fever, who is a 60s-oriented band. I do know there was a huge influx of Western music and culture in the late 60s so if you involve yourself in some forums, going to shows or start looking for Indonesian and Malay bands from the period you could get some good starting points. You'd certainly find some good mod images for inspiration, and combined with chubby-friendly subcultures like goth and eclectic-sizing styles like "business" you could get a nice set of influences going pretty easily. Just add confidence and stir!
posted by rhizome at 10:22 AM on January 12, 2008

I favorited this post because I totally hear you on the makeup thing. I ran across this blog last year written by an Indian girl about her cosmetic experiments. It's all right. I look forward to other people's responses.
posted by bluefly at 11:45 AM on January 12, 2008

Not sure if this is exactly what you're looking for, but it might be a start. A friend of mine who grew up in India just started this clothing company -- Suutra -- that partners with "a nonprofit cooperative of underprivileged women artisans in Gujarat, India" to make clothing. Her sense of style seems to me to blend western and Indian sensibilities. And hmm, maybe if you look at blogs that talk about her stuff, you'd find some more general resources...? Good luck!
posted by salvia at 12:03 PM on January 12, 2008

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few styley famous women who are South-Asian, like MIA, and Mindy Kaling (who also has a shopping blog).

But I think you should leave South-Asian-ness out of it completely. Just keep an eye out for ANY well-put-together woman with dark hair & eyes and brown skin. There are tons, with a range of skin tones- on the pale end, America Ferrara, Jennfer Lopez, or Sama Hayek- in the mid-range, Rosario Dawson, Beyonce, and Halle Berry, in the deeper mid-range, Mindy Kaling, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Rhanna, Alicia Keys, MIA, and Mya, all the way through lots of African-American / Carribbean women for deep tones. Those women pay a lot of money for stylists to pick colours & makeup that flatter their skin tones, so poach their style.

Being South Asian, your skintone can carry off pretty much any colour without looking washed out. You probably look fantastic in white, bright jewel tones, earth tones- you can wear almost anything. Look at the awesome bright colours all these brunettes pull off on the red carpet. (Although I will mention that my skintone is similar to yours, and I've noticed that mustard yellow and orange are a little tougher for me to pull off- they make me look green- you might be luckier than I there. But put me in pink, red, bright blue, purple, chocolate brown, white, black, or my favourite, turquoise? BRING IT.)

And the great thing about having a bit of a belly is that you can findtons of fashion role-models, since even the skinniest female celebs often go through a belly stage too, during some stage of pregnancy or after the kid is born. (Not that I'm saying you look preggo or should start wearing maternity wear, but you could use pics of pregnant celebs as a resource to get ideas.) Most of them manage to make a belly look super-cute, and analyzing the ones that look frumpy is a good learning tool. Early in a pregnancy- especially before they announce it- female celebs pick clothes that flatter or minimize their bellies / emphasize their busts & shoulders instead, which is probably a great strategy. For example, Jessica Alba, or Halle here or here, Liv Tyler, or Salma Hayek. Here's Katie Holmes in a range of outfits- look and see which ones suit her (the forest-green blazer, the eggplant belted sweater, the white peasant top, that black top with the little tutu thing), and which make her look sloppy (the rumply white-t-shirt, the plaid bathrobe). What the more flattering clothes tend to have in common are bright, eyecatching colours, flattering necklines (showing some collarbones or cleavage), and loose, drapey silhouettes, which, you're in luck, are really in style right now.

So that's my advice for you: Analyze the makeup & colour choices of any woman with similar skin tone, no matter her race, and look for women who share your physical shape (even if it's a temporary similarity because they're new moms) and analyze their fashion choices. And rock the bright colours and flattering necklines. Good luck!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:14 PM on January 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh, one more thing- the wardrobe remix pool on flickr is a great style resource. I keep it in my RSS feed and let it build up, then scroll through 100 pics fast whenever I'm on the phone to someone boring- because it's just pictures, it entertains without distracting me too much from the conversation. It's an awesome source of ideas for women (and sometimes men) of all body types, rocking creative outfits. I've gotten some killer style ideas there (dresses over skinny jeans, anyone?). I find dressing as though I'm gonna be in a wardrobe remix photoshoot- bright colours, matching the colours of 2 items in an outfit, and choosing graphic shapes like A-line skirts and wide belts- is the best way to look awesome and get compliments on my clothes.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:24 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

M.I.A. is a total London art school person, so I wouldn't assume that her fashion sense is entirely "South Asian". I think she gets a lot of it from the London art scene. Also, part of the M.I.A. mystique is that she makes a lot of her own clothes, which makes them hard to copy. Personally, I think her dress sense is kind of hideous, although I guess she pulls it off. But I don't see any reason to be inspired by her, just because she comes from the same general part of the world as you do. When it comes to clothes, as opposed to makeup, I don't think you should assume that fellow South Asians are more on your wavelength than anyone else is!

Mod is a bit tough for us curvy girls to pull off, because it was invented in the '60s, when the ideal body type for women was flat as a board. That was a reaction to the '50s, when the ideal body type was super curvy. Curvy women can still do mod, but not literally. You have to take elements of mod style and vary them for your body. For instance, I can definitely do skirts with graphic mod patterns. They have to be a-line (ie slanting outward towards the bottom), rather than straight, though. Turtlenecks (they're called polo necks in British English, I think) are a big staple in the mod wardrobe, and they just don't work on me at all. The mod thing to do would probably be to wear boots with miniskirts, but my legs are short, so I tend to wear shoes with a block heel instead. I don't think the dresses are going to make you look pregnant. Curvy women tend to look pregnant when we wear clothes that hang off of our boobs, not when we wear things that are too tight. If you can, try on some mod-type dresses. You're looking for something that just skims the biggest part of your belly.

Have you tried googling "desi" and "makeup" and seeing what you come up with? There's got to be some stuff out there that doesn't tout skin-lightening creams. Also, since you know you like playing up your eyes, try doing that during the day as well as at night. You can totally do the cats-eye eyeliner and nude lip thing during the day. You're young: you can get away with almost anything!
posted by craichead at 12:41 PM on January 12, 2008

I understand Vasanti Cosmetics are beloved by brown chicks everywhere.
posted by sid at 1:45 PM on January 12, 2008

« Older Bomber? WWIII? Someone ejects? Help me remember...   |   PayPal considered right-wing? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.