Monday, September 27, 2010

Colourbombing (or: I'll have mine in hepatitis yellow please)


Today's post is a little overdue, to tell you the truth.

I had intended to write about The Women Of India And What They Wear while I was actually still there, but time - and intestinal parasites, eeeuw - got the better of me.

(In truth, there are two posts left from my Indian adventure: this one, and one which includes my favourite and as yet unpublished photographs.)

One of the things I love about India is the colours. People talk about the vibrant colours, the energy of life that's communicated through the way Indians dress, and every single word is true.

It might be a country where you have to take a dump on the street into an open sewer, but perhaps because of that - because it's hard to take pride in your surroundings when you live in conditions we would never accept, and there is very little you can do about them - people express themselves and their pride through their clothes. Clothes are VERY important in India.

Colours and bling, the more the better - only Muslims wear black (take note, dear Melburnians). If you're Indian the rule is colours, and sequins during the day, you bet. Crystals sewn all over your kurta or your sari; love love love it. Hot pink is the navy blue of India, and it makes me smile.

India even has a festival called Holi where everyone gets together and throws coloured powder all over the place, for heaven's sake - the point being to coat your friends, enemies and strangers and every inanimate object within a hundred-foot radius in eye-poppingly bright shades.

Colour bombing? Now that's a country I can feel comfortable in.

I never feel more at home in my clothes than I do in India - and I can sum it up like this: it's because I can wear yellow with impunity. Truly, yellow, in all its variations. Mustard, saffron, canary, sunshine, marigold and the particular - the peculiar - shade I like to call "hepatitis". Mmmm, hepatitis. 

One of the first outfits I bought in Delhi was a salwar kameez in a terrifically saturated mustard yellow, accented with burgundy block printing. I hesitated at first ... I LOVED it, but felt a little unsure. Clearly I have been living in Melbourne too long.

In the end I was talked into it, and thank heavens for that, because as soon as I'd handed over my 1100 rupees - about $25 - I got that magical tingly feeling you get when you just *know* you've bought something wonderful and you immediately adore it.

Here it is in its three pieces: on top is the dupatta, or stole, in the middle is the kurta, a long tunic, and on the bottom are the salwar, the pants. And I tell you, every single time I wore it (in Delhi, Udaipur and Jaipur) I was bombarded with compliments from the Indian ladies - and men.

That outfit met with universal praise. I was constantly asked where I bought it. I drowned happily in the seas of approval that washed over me from women who didn't speak English, but who fingered the fabric and smiled at me. It's a wonderful country that appreciates the power and impact of yellow.

Here in Melbourne, that's not the case. Wear yellow, especially head to toe, and you might as well staple a giant sign to your forehead declaring I Have Abandoned The World Of Fashion And All Sense Of Personal Pride Into The Bargain.

And that's sad, I think. That in a country where we have incredible freedom - where we have relative wealth, and independence, and choices; that we feel so constrained in our colour palette, especially here in Melbourne where we so often default to black - that is something to be mourned.

Black has its place, but I mean, really - is that the extent of our self-expression?What else are we repressing when we force ourselves into black so exclusively?

Some people think it is artistic and European, and it's true that in the right hands, a deep and inky black can be a wonderful thing. Velvet black, sooty black, onyx, jet, midnight, carbon ... and when it's played with inventively and texturally as well, the results can be spectacular.

But so often they're not. How regularly do you see people wearing black and they just look conventional? Conformist? One-dimensional? Washed out? Unimaginative? Frightened? Or ...... (dare I say it) boring?

Not so in India, oh my wordy no. In India, colours rule the day.

Banish the black, my friends. And in the wise words of Cyndi Lauper, let your true colours shine.


Isabella Golightly said...

That salwar kameez is truly beautiful, we have a friend who is from Mumbai & she always wears one when we have an outing - looks fantastic, cool, sophisticated, like she thought about what she was wearing, rather than just throwing on the black, like the rest of us. I am absolutely loving these piccies & can't wait to see what's next!

Jennie said...

What interesting food for thought! Being able to express ourselves mentally/philosophically/politically but not with colour. Hope you can find occasions to wear your wonderful outfit in Melbourne, even if you break it up and blend one piece into an outfit.

CurlyPops said...

Can you just imagine walking around the Melbourne CBD and NOT seeing the hoardes dressed in black? Now that would be a happy day!

ange_moore said...

Does Melbourne need colour bombing? My cousin has just moved back to Melbourne from Germany and she was lamenting the fact that she has returned to work and her "all-black" uniform for the city. I can't wear black (I look washed out or bogan or both) so looks like I'll never be moving back to Melbourne (although I was born there)!

sarahp said...

Melbourne could use a colour bomb, as soon as it warms up it'll get a bit better. Sorry, as soon as it warms up consistently.

willywagtail said...

Working on it, definitely trying to banish the black which has swamped my life for so many years. Black hides lumps and bumps, black is sophisticated. You can always rely on black. It made my ex happy to see his conformist, conventional wife while all the time the hippy in me was waiting to be re-released. Sorry I can't do yellow but it is amazing how much is actually creeping into my wardrobe through the old tablecloth skirts. But colour is on it's way back. And not just the winter colours that are still apparently best for me. I'll stay away from the complete no-nos but it just can't be black. I think it is wonderful that even the locals could see how perfect yellow was for you. Leave the toile - embrace the hippy!! Cherrie

Kerry said...

Oh I love this post! And I love the colours of India. I love visiting Melbourne too but I always have the feeling that all the black is a uniform there. Even if at the same time I confess to almost always wearing black and white! My house is colourful though so I feel I can be forgiven :) Looking forward to seeing the next lot of photos.