This post is part of a series which describes my journey towards a minimalist wardrobe that combines Western and Indian elements. If you would like to start from the beginning, please click here. If you need a reference for the Indian clothes I talk about, please click here.
I posted a little over a year ago (I know, I’m sorry) about buckling down and cleaning out my wardrobe – what I called The Closet Cleanse. In that post, I focused on getting rid of things that were old, didn’t fit, or weren’t “me” anymore. This mainly came down to my Western wardrobe, since my Indian clothes are too new – and most are too fancy – to warrant a weeding just yet. I got rid of things that had gone out of style, things that I loved but could never actually bring myself to wear, and even a couple of things that my husband couldn’t stand to see me in 🙂
The goal of that endeavor was to basically pare down my stockpile of mismatched garments into a more cohesive wardrobe that didn’t require too much thought when putting together an outfit. This wasn’t to be lazy – it was to simplify my life. And in today’s crazy world, who couldn’t use a little simplicity? So I bagged up my “not anymore, but thanks for the memories” pile of apparel and dropped it off at a donation center to be loved by some other bright-eyed fashionista.
So now that I shed some extra clothing weight, what next?
I decided that the next step would be to figure out a way to incorporate my Western wardrobe with my Indian one or vice versa. I should mention that this can apply to anyone who is trying to incorporate two very different types of apparel, for whatever reason life has handed you. What we wear is an expression of who we are, and many of us represent more than one culture or heritage in today’s world – let’s figure out how to make it as easy and fabulous as possible!
In order to incorporate these wardrobes, I focused on planning. I don’t know about you, but the reason I ended up with a haphazard wardrobe in the first place was by shopping with reckless abandon and buying whatever was cute/trendy/on sale. This mentality led me to a closet full of random pieces that didn’t really express who I am, and that weren’t built to withstand the test of time – both in style and in durability. In order to fix this, I realized that I needed to adopt a more strategic approach to my shopping endeavors. So to plan my wardrobe, I combined a few schools of thought to fit my needs: the Capsule Wardrobe, the KonMari Method, and The 100 by Nina Garcia.
- From the Capsule Wardrobe, I’ve adopted the concept of having a limited number of pieces that cohesively work together: match-able, mix-able, simple, and happy.
- From the KonMari Method, I’ve adopted the concept of getting rid of things that don’t “spark joy”, and focusing on only keeping the pieces that I really love.
- From The 100, I’ve adopted the concept of filling my wardrobe with timeless staples that won’t go out of style – AKA stocking up on the classics.
I realize that this seems like a lot of rules and concepts, but trust me when I say that it has helped me immensely in reconciling these two wardrobes.
Keeping these concepts in mind, I began to critically evaluate my wardrobes and creatively envision how they could work together. Here are a few tips and tricks I used for this planning stage.
Pick Your Silhouettes
In general, a silhouette is the outline of a person or object. In fashion, it relates to the shape that a garment creates on the body. Brides will often hear this word used when searching for their wedding dress, but silhouettes actually apply to all apparel – even jeans and t-shirts. Sometimes these are referred to as fits, such as “skinny” or “relaxed”. I’m not a fashion expert, so I don’t know all the proper silhouette names – but I do know lots of adjectives to get my point across 🙂
Narrowing down silhouettes is an important step for every wardrobe, but is especially so when combining multiple wardrobes. There are innumerable silhouettes in the fashion world, but most of us aren’t lucky enough to look good in all of them, which is why we need to be mindful about which ones we allow into our closets.
It’s important to be realistic about your body, what looks good on you, and what you feel good in. Just because something is in style doesn’t mean it’s right for you. For example, I have a plethora of issues with my legs, not the least of which being how short they are. So even though ankle booties have been gaining popularity for the past few seasons, I had originally resigned myself to never wearing them because they only accentuated one of my least favorite features. I only recently bought one pair that are the perfect match for my frame – they are classic, black, heeled, and low on the ankle to help elongate my legs and distract from my cankles. They don’t look like most booties that people are wearing these days, but I’m okay with that because I’m shopping for what looks best on me. Say it with me: I don’t have to wear every trend just because it’s trendy.
I personally tend to follow the aesthetic motto of “go big or go home”, which is why you will never see me in kitten heels – if I’m going to wear a heel, I’m not going to half-ass it. My hair is big, and I like it that way. And when it comes to clothes, I like to wear it small or big – not in the middle. This means no bootcut or straight pants – I’ll take super skinny, wide trousers, dramatic flares, or a balloony Patiala salwar, thank you very much. Same thing goes for tops – tight tees and cardigans or loose and flowy tunics and sweaters. I typically mix a loose top and tight bottoms, or vice versa – and if I’m feeling particularly sassy, I’ll pair a tight top with a tight bottom. Watch out!
What I love about Indian clothing is that many silhouettes are amazing for the female frame – I’ve seen women of every shape and size in a saree, and they all look amazing. Outfits like the salwar kameez are a take on the “small on top, big on bottom” silhouette that I find so flattering, and the lehenga-choli does something similar that I just love. For someone like me, it’s easy to get swept away by the newness of it all, and want to buy a little of everything. But that’s why having a silhouette plan is so important – it keeps you in line and informs your purchasing decisions so you don’t end up with an Indian version of your previously-random Western wardrobe.
Because of my silhouette guide, I will be focusing more on salwar kameezes (Gesundheit! But seriously, how do you pluralize that?) and lehenga-cholis, and less on churidar/pajami suits because I am not a fan of how they look on my frame/accentuate my legs.
Choose Your Color Palette
I feel like this is something that you always hear about in different ways (“What’s your color season? Take the quiz now!”) and I know it can seem a little hokey, but I absolutely subscribe to the idea that you should consciously decide on some sort of color palette for yourself. I think most people already do this to a certain extent, by naturally gravitating towards certain colors that they either like or feel good in, or have been told they look good in. But I think it’s important to purposefully decide on – and limit – your color palette to help inform your wardrobe choices. Before doing this for myself, I already knew the general colors that I liked to wear, but I would somehow still end up with a few random colors in my wardrobe that would get an occasional pity-wear at best, and get donated with the tags still on at worst.
I do tend to dress according to my season (I’m a fall, in case you were wondering 🙂 ), but I don’t think that that is necessarily the best or the only way to choose your palette. Your colors should be whatever makes you feel like your best, glowiest, most beautiful self!
…but I do have some tips.
In order to streamline your wardrobe, I recommend choosing:
- A few base colors – ones that will anchor any and all of your outfits
- Several accents – the pops of color in your wardrobe (I have two sets, since I dress a little brighter in the spring/summer)
- A pattern or two
- A metal – it’s much easier to accessorize if your jewelry and hardware all match!
- A leather tone – for uniformity and continuity
For example, here is my color palette:
If you think about it, this is arguably the most impactful step in unifying two wardrobes – “mixing and matching” becomes a whole lot easier when everything matches! But while this step is the most crucial, it can also be one of the most difficult. Colors and patterns that are “popular” or “trendy” are always changing, and what’s hot in one culture might be not in another. In my case, I found that the colors that are most popular in India (brights, primaries, etc.) do not coincide with the colors that I prefer to wear. Of course my colors are out there somewhere, I just have to do a little digging and purposeful buying to find them. Unfortunately a bright-eyed newlywed Allison was not-so-purposeful in her buying once upon a time, and ended up with some hard-to-mix and hard-to-match items in her closet. I’ve learned my lesson, and have dedicated myself to being more resilient on my next trip 🙂
Identify Similarities Between Wardrobes
At first thought, Indian and Western wardrobes can seem worlds apart (no pun intended). How do you reconcile a saree with jeans? But upon further inspection and with a creative and open mind (and a base knowledge of your non-native wardrobe), you will begin to see similarities between the two. In my case, I began to notice that pajamis/churidar are a lot like leggings, and that I could easily pair a kurti with jeggings for a crossover look. From there, I began to spot similarities more easily:
These similarities are the perfect starting point for mixing wardrobes – when putting together an outfit, simply switch a Western item out for its Indian counterpart, and vice versa! Of course, this is merely a stepping stone to more unique combinations and creative expression, but it’s a start nonetheless!
I’ve actually decided to take this one step further, and have decided to completely swap entire categories of my Western wardrobe for their Indian counterparts. Specifically, I’ve gotten rid of all of my Western ballet flats and will be replacing them with Punjabi juttis. If I personally prefer juttis to ballet flats, why would I unnecessarily force myself into ballet flats? Plus it’s an easy and simple way for me to celebrate Indian culture.
Determine What Each Wardrobe is “Good At”
I don’t know about you, but when I think of Indian clothing, the first word that comes to mind is not “bland”. Indian clothing has a way of making a statement – whether obviously or effortlessly – in its color, pattern, embellishment, draping, or some combination of these. It would be silly to wear basic, bare-bones Indian clothing because that’s simply not the point. That’s not what they’re good at. Indian clothes are good at being beautiful, shiny, and statement-worthy, and they should be treated as such. This isn’t to say that all Indian clothes are an explosion of color and beading and mirrors – far from it. Indian clothes have a wide spectrum of how attention-grabbing they are, and my point is just this: if one piece of your outfit is Indian, it will not (or should not) be the most understated piece on you. To me, Indian apparel is simply born to stand out 🙂
By a similar (yet completely opposite) token, I often find Western apparel to fit the bill quite nicely when it comes to being simple, classic, bare-bones. Think jeans, plain white tees, and black leather pumps. Not a lot to them, but talk about wearable and talk about timeless. Of course Western clothing can be much more involved than just the basics – Forever 21 has a particularly chaotic array which comes to mind – but to me, Western attire airs more on the side of the simple. For example, what’s the age-old casual uniform for Americans? Jeans and a t-shirt. Simple and classic – to me that’s what Western clothing is good at.
It’s important to allow clothes to shine for what they are. They have their own personalities and strengths, and it only makes sense to embrace those qualities, rather than trying to make them fit into some predefined proverbial box that they’re not meant for. For this reason, I’ve decided to focus on creating a base wardrobe of neutral Western staples, and adding Indian elements for interest and glamour. This means that I’ll be focusing on wearing relatively simple Western outfits that include a punch of something Indian – for example, jeggings and a t-shirt paired with sparkly gold juttis and a gold dupatta. This is perfect for me, since I am not a wild dresser by any means. This combination allows me to celebrate both of my cultures in a way that (almost) effortlessly fits my personal style.
I also plan to incorporate several bold Indian pieces into my wardrobe for daily wear, such as lehenga skirts and kurtis. But this is still within my general mantra of Western for neutral, Indian for glam. This mantra will help prevent me from buying glitzy sweaters from J. Crew or wildly patterned trousers from Banana Republic – I’ll remind myself that I can (and should) find something from India that will fill the same need and be even more unique than whatever I’ve found at my local mall. And that is how the balance is maintained 🙂
Make Your List
After making some important decisions about silhouettes, color, and what role each wardrobe will play, the final step in the planning process is to make a list of what you’ve got and what you still need. This means taking stock of what’s left in your closet after weeding it all out, and what’s missing or preventing you from easily throwing together an outfit. For me, this is where Nina Garcia’s The 100 has come into play – I find it easiest to define my wardrobe if I have a set number of “items” I can have – it keeps me reined in and prevents me from getting back to my messy self!
In Part 3 of the Indo-Western Wardrobe, I’ll be sharing my 100, which will be coming out…sooner than this one, I promise! I look forward to sharing it with you 🙂
Please feel free to reach out to me with any comments or questions! I would love to hear about your thoughts on my methods, and any other tips you may have for incorporating two different wardrobes into one. As always, please respond in the comments below, and don’t forget to connect with me on social media!