As a Pakistani American, I have had my share of trouble with closet space. While most Americans don’t have to worry about storing clothes except their wedding dress and fancy gowns, a Pakistani woman like me, living abroad has to manage a limited closet space and make space for jeans, t-shirts with a side of shalwar kameezes. I thought to share how my personal style evolved when it came to Pakistani wear.
Childhood To College:
During this stage of my life, I was the most rigid when it came to fashion choices. During my childhood and pre-teens era, I avoided eastern clothes at all costs. Weddings, Eid parties, dinners, you name it, I wore dresses. The only time I remember wearing eastern clothes were at weddings of close family members such as my uncle and maybe another one or two. Other than that never owned a shalwar kameez suit for any other use.
As a teenager, I went back to Pakistan & shopped for Pakistani clothes for some of the first times in my entire life. Whenever my aunt me took to bazaars and shops, I appeared lost (and annoying probably) to all the shopkeepers because I couldn’t understand the difference between unique prints (true story). During that time, I bought a lot of “fancy” fabric for party wear. I didn’t feel the need to get anything that resembles Pakistani daily wear because there was no need for it in the USA. There were a lot of velvets, ALOT of nets, chiffon, silks, and did I say chiffon? In Pakistan, even party wear is “couture” because you go to a tailor or darzi to get outfits made according to your measurements and in the style you want. I do remember shopping for Pakistani sarees even as a teenager. There were places on Tariq Road in Karachi at the time that sold hand-woven sarees.
The closest thing to a “designer” in the 1980s and 1990s was Bunto Kazmi, but she only designed bridal wear & a few formal wear. I remember going to Khaadi in Clifton only once because it was expensive. I walked into those air-conditioned doors in a busy mall and calmed down enough to actually enjoy the process of shopping in Pakistan. Mind you I was in Karachi in July, the hottest month of the year, where people get relief only during monsoon rains.
During my teenage years, I became more feminine. I went back to Pakistan several times during my UC Berkeley years & bought outfits from bazaars & boutique shops for Eid/Ramadan parties. Yes, it felt awkward at first but, it was fun dressing up & being girly for a change.
Post-College To Present:
After college, my traveling focused mainly elsewhere, but I did make an effort to go to Pakistan whenever possible to visit my grandfather. I think since college I have been back only 4 times. I was never the one to handle dupattas (and experiences of man-handling them have taught me nothing, but to despise them). However, although I recognize that dupattas are an abhorrent accessory to me they are an integral part of the Islamic aka Pakistani attire. I have been known to go to non-religious events without one.
While the 2000s were about silks, nets, & chiffons in Pakistan (see above), I see a lawn takeover in the last ten years (See HERE). And I am on board with lawn as party wear now. I no longer have the stamina to go to different bazaars and shop for fabric, lining, embellishments, and did I mention color dyeing? And the great thing is I don’t have to. The lawn fabric is versatile enough to wear daily (in Pakistan of course) but, fancy enough to dress it up with embellishments and wear it for Eid or for a dinner at my sister’s or my uncle’s house in the US.
Weather: Most of you would be curious to learn that I reside in sunny California, which has similar hot/cool patterns like Karachi without the intense humidity, of course. In other words, I have worn similar fabrics in November for Eid and in July for Eid. We can even get away with wearing whatever shoes we want and sit comfortably in a nice New Year’s outdoor party with a nice shawl and a steaming cup of chai.
In conclusion, I realize that my lifestyle is very different from other women. While desi women love to have their showers, BBQ’s, and luncheons, I like to split my time between close family events and annual fundraisers. That means fuss-free clothes with killer accessories. The rest of the time, we are just living our lives. Thanks for reading.