Since the British colonisation of India in past centuries, cultural exchange between our two countries has been largely one-sided with Indian professionals adopting Western-style cultural practices. However in recent years, the appropriation of Indian cultural artefacts and behaviours has been become increasingly popular in fashion movements in the United Kingdom and throughout the Western world.

Harem Trousers

Harem trousers, which are loose-fitting, low-hanging linen trousers with tapered hems (a cross between a skirt at the top and skinny jeans at the bottom—or, rather a mix between salwar kameez and churidar) are often worn under a pleated skirt or under sarees. In the Western fashion world, these baggy trousers have often been worn by the most fashion-forward, avant garde fashionistas who admire how comfortable and lazily fashionable the pants were. Though this trend did not gain wide traction as the harem trousers worn untraditionally were considered by many to be too unflattering to common problem areas, it still made a lasting impact on the decade’s bohemian aesthetics.

Bindis and Other Religious Symbols

Disney pop idol Selena Gomez prides herself on her idolisation of Indian culture and other sports traditional clothing and jewellery. Gomez in one of the many young Western fashionistas who enjoy wearing bindis, often paired with sarees or high-waist shorts. Bindis are traditionally a sacred ornament in the Hindu religion, but have been adopted as a secular piece of jewellery by young girls in the Western world. Gwen Stefani of the band No Doubt, incited the trend in the 1990s. While the bindi is traditionally dark red or maroon in colour, it has evolved to include various colours, textures, and designs, most popularly that of a metallic series of tear drop shapes.

Henna Party

Henna body art is the use of a mixture of mehndi and turmeric in order to stain the body with patterns and designs of varying intricacy. Traditionally, mehndi is only applied during Hindu festivals and special Hindu weddings. However in recent years mehndi has been utilized more as multi-purpose body art for anything ranging from music festivals to girls’ nights out. Mehndi has been utilized as a temporary tattoo substitute with the staining process used to stamp a person with more contemporary designs, such as Mickey Mouse or a cartoon heart.


Girl group the Pussycat Dolls have become infamous for attending the 2008 Fashion Rocks concert in extremely retooled, club-ready versions of Indian sarees. Sarees are strips of cloth draped over the body as a sort of hybrid bodice and shawl. The traditional sarees became incredibly popular in the United States during the 1970s and have continued to have a very visible presence in the Western fashion world. Despite its Westernization, sarees are most often paired with more traditionally sensitive bottoms in the Western world such as salwar kameez.

Especially with the increasingly sizeable South Asian population of the UK and with a sturdy crop of vibrant British South Asian celebrities, Indian fashion has taken an unwavering hold on the fashion of the Western world, and the UK in particular.

By Laura Tilley

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