The building of the nation state in South Asia manifested itself, in quite important ways, in the evolution of official cultural codes, including those concerning national attire. So long as such concepts evolved as a mark of political rebellion against the indignity of cultural dictation by the colonial power, there was little to cavil about. But in the post-independence period, the matter of clothing and attire has become enmeshed in competing communal and ethnic politics, majority-minority stresses and competitive nationalism.
In a whisper then in a rush, as the Subcontinent’s middle and upper class women make their way out of the home and into the marketplace, they will obviously experiment with more than one form of dress. And what they will wear tomorrow is what they would like to be seen in and what is comfortable. The variety of wear is bound to increase. But there is no question that the salwar, while it may have to share cupboard space with an ever-increasing variety of dresses both Oriental and Occidental, will remain a critical aspect of hundreds of millions of South Asian women for a long time to come. Besides, it will always have the pride of place of being the attire that helped in the process of the liberation of the South Asian woman.
It’s not just a piece of cloth, remember. It began as a statement against colonial powers. Which is why I, excuse me, fucking love my shalwar kameez.