3 Khadi Dress Styles You Will Find in American Fashion

Khadi for Indians is not a mere piece of cloth—it is the fabric of freedom.

3 Khadi Dress Styles You Will Find in American Fashion

[Photo Source: Pinterest]

Khadi for Indians is not a mere piece of cloth—it is the fabric of freedom.

As soon as the British rulers sniffed the Indian cotton rich soil, they quickly dug into their pandora’s box and crafted a strategy to exploit our desh ki dharti. They would buy cotton from India for a steal from local farmers, then export them to Britain, where they were woven into clothes. But, concealed in this superfluous act, was a canny profit-oriented plan. These videshi clothes were then sold in the Indian market for hefty prices—they had no qualms about biting the hand that fed them.

To gain control over our country we needed to become self-reliant. In 1920, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian National Congress declared its aim to promote khadi as a nationalist fabric. Indians began weaving their own clothes made of cotton with the use of the charkha—a fabric spinning wheel. Gandhi referred to khadi as “livery of freedom” and this fabric soon became a quintessential symbol for defying the British.

Soon, Indians started boycotting foreign textiles and promoting Indian goods, which generated employment for the people of India and boosted the Indian economy. Several decades later, in the year 2000, India had changed. One could see tall buildings of multinational companies, and people in India went gaga over imported goods—especially clothes. They believed foreign fabric was way softer, and this time, without any imposition, really!

The modern Indian canvas had very little space for the humble khadi now. Around this time, I used to go shopping at Khadi Bhandar in my hometown. Few middle-class families preferred wearing khadi, and only wore it indoors. Most commonly, khadis are sold in undeveloped parts of town, where the streets are narrow and hard to navigate.

We had to park the car at the shopping center located a few streets away from the Khadi Bhandar and walked to the store. Shopping at Khadi Bhandar was not exciting, mainly because the shop lacked lustre, and I did not get to see colorful fabrics meticulously stacked—unlike the way they sold cloths in a retail store in the newer malls and markets.

To a Westerner, imagining Indians in such nondescript attire is a paradox. The entire world imagines India as a riot of colors, and khadi does not fit into this popular stereo-type about India.

Middle-class families thought of khadi as an affordable, malleable and comfortable fabric, which is best suited for the tropical weather in India. It has a unique quality of keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter. We did not care much for fashion and style—our priorities were comfort and frugality, after all.

A few years later, when the town grew and more upscale retail stores opened, I saw modern capris, formal shirts and even skirts made from khadi were now being sold in mainstream clothing stores—in new styles.

Until then, khadi was considered as an austere fabric, but what started out as a humble piece of clothing is now on its way to fashion show ramps.

After A-list fashion designers like Rohit Bal and Sabyasachi recognized the potential khadi has to become a style statement, there was no looking back for this inconspicuous cloth. Fashion designers soon became successful in positioning khadi attire as a classy and sophisticated fabric. Through these designers, khadi also entered the international markets. And, as the demand grew, even Western designers started including khadi in upmarket couture.

On one hand, khadi has gained worldwide exposure. But, modern khadi attires sold in high-end designer stores are expensive. Khadi is an affordable fabric, but somewhere in the chain of distribution, there are chances that laborers fall prey to exploitation, often getting paid even less than a dollar per day. Writing for Deccan Herald, Malathi Belur states that khadi workers are paid $20-$25 per month irrespective of how much money designers make.

Fashion designer Christina Kim's shop, Dosa, in Los Angeles sells high-end khadi clothes. She has impressed big stars in Hollywood with her Bohemian sense of style. From Paris to Los Angles, khadi has spun Mahatma’s magic all around the world—Indian designers like Gaurang Shah should be credited for this. In 2002, at Berlin Fashion Week, Shah gave a new twist to khadi, followed by New York Fashion week later that year.

These designers have been the true trailblazers of making khadi an international fashion statement. Now, khadi waistcoats, formal pants, skirts, tunics and even shawls fly off the shelves of Western retail stores quickly.

Recently, Sonam Kapoor, style diva of Bollywood, walked the ramp for a fashion show called: From Huts to the High Street, for three designers: Anamika, Rohit Bal and Pratap. The show mainly promoted khadi and the actress wore a black jacket and embroidered choli by designer Anamika, lehenga by Rohit Bal and polka dot dupatta by Pratap.

With a celebrity like Sonam Kapoor, who is India's face of L'Oreal, endorsing khadi in front of an international audience, it is not a surprise to see the fabric finally become couture in mainstream American retail giants like Macy’s, Sears, and Marshall's.

Khadi has come full circle. Let’s take a look at khadi garment styles in the American clothing market.

1. Formal pants

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Check out this pair of checked khadi pants! You can wear it with a formal white shirt, and boots, as these pants are best suited for a formal meeting. The fabric is so breathable that a hectic day at your workplace will go by like a breeze. A decade ago, who thought khadi could be worn to work such panache!

2. Palazzos

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New to the world of simplistic fashion, palazzo is a relaxed pair of loose pants. Of course, khadi fabric suit this style perfectly. Palazzos seem like a modern take on salwars worn in the Middle-East and South Asia. You can wear it with a cotton kurta, a shirt or even a blouse. The classy silhouette adds a touch of elegance to your style.

3. Blouses and Tops

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With soaring summer temperatures, this striped khadi top is great with a pair of jeans or even wide, loose pants. It's classy, yet suits a casual avatar. Twonewyork.com is a great online platform to look out for such simple attires. At work, out shopping, at a pool party or simply for a rendezvous with a close friend indoors—khadi tops are great for all occasions.

Sheena Pradhan

Sheena Pradhan is an actress, model, nutritionist, stylist, writer, and freelance marketing professional. She runs a nutrition company, Nutritious Balance.