Cultural Appropriation: When ‘Festival Wear’ Goes Too Far

Cultural Appropriation: When ‘Festival Wear’ Goes Too Far

Warmer weather means it is time to get ready to shed those extra layers of clothing and break out those new spring and summer trends. It also means festival season is fast approaching! Whether you are just going to a local event celebrating a town hero or planning to wind down summer vacation at Burning Man, chances are, showing off your fashion prowess is a priority. This year’s top trends are bright colors, head-to-toe floral, statement stripes, and hints of the 80s.

British store, Cow Vintage, offers a wide array of vintage products that can certainly help with following this year’s trends but with one caveat. As a one customer pointed out, some of their labeling could use updating.

This creates the idea that these styles are better or acceptable when used for purposes other than expressing one’s culture or heritage. tweet

In an AJ+ video bringing light to the subject, Armani Syed said she found products most people would recognize as South Asian or Desi fashions being labeled as ‘festival wear.’ Cow Vintage is not alone, other companies, like ASOS, are also guilty of mislabeling outfits.

Salwar Kameez plussizedesi.com

PlusSizeDesi.com Salwar Kameez

COW Vintage

COW Vintage ‘Festival Wear’

asos glam festival

ASOS ‘Glam Festival’

Sure, anyone could wear a sari or salwar kameez to a festival or on the streets, but why label it as “festival wear?” As Armani points out, this creates the idea that these styles are better or acceptable when used for purposes other than expressing one’s culture or heritage. She also points out her mother is often ridiculed on the street for wearing salwar kameez, creating an atmosphere of shame around the beautiful garment.

It is incredibly important to recognize prejudice and racism, especially when it comes in the form of cultural appropriation and shaming. Mocking the fashions of a culture one moment while purchasing it for the sake of haute couture the next is crossing a line that has remained invisible for far too long.

The problem is not in selling the clothing but in how it is marketed. The real issue is treating these items like novelties. As Armani pointed out, if the outfits were called “Desi” or “South Asian,” at least it is giving credit to the culture it comes from instead of making it seem as some new fashion to sample and then discard.

Mocking the fashions of a culture one moment while purchasing it for the sake of haute couture the next is crossing a line that has remained invisible for far too long. tweet

For all of those progressive and accepting people who push for equality in the world and understand there are certain words and phrases off limits to you, it is imperative to also evaluate other areas of your life. You might be committing smaller, but not less significant, acts of racism without even realizing it.

Do you find yourself saying, “I’m not racist, I have a (insert minority here) friend” or wearing a dot or design on your forehead without understanding the bindi’s original meaning? Have you worn a costume that conforms to a racial stereotype like wearing black-face makeup or dressing with a scarf on your head and bombs on your chest? Actions like these are steeped in racist undertones, adding to the difficulty  marginalized groups have had to suffer for far too long.

arab stereotype

For some, knowing whether your actions are insensitive can be difficult. Even Queen Bey has been accused of cultural appropriation. Most are familiar with Rachel Dolezal’s decision to identify as Black. When in doubt, ask for a second opinion. Read about the consequences of appropriation. A simple “is this offensive?” can help prevent unnecessary and unintended consequences.

Find out where a certain style comes from and have the intention of celebrating that culture without trying to cover up its origins. Information is far too easy to obtain to continue living in ignorance.

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Cultural Appropriation: When ‘Festival Wear’ Goes Too Far
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