While I’m no expert in the matter, I find the phenomenon of modesty in Indian dress to be an especially fascinating subject area. A good friend of mine, born and raised in India around New Delhi, has attempted to explain to me, a very Western American, the paradox of acceptability in dress in India for women. In traditional clothing, specifically saris, women often show more skin or expose themselves more in a culturally acceptable manner with little or no judgement from elders. However, if a woman, especially a young woman, wears Western clothing and does not cover up areas like the shoulders or down to the knees, others on the street or elders would most probably stare and reprimand.
What makes the difference in modesty gaps? Why can a woman show midriff (and quite a bit of it) in a sari but receive criticism for a tank top? As an American, I have no connection to traditional American costume, something I greatly regret, however, I can understand that this dress pattern relates more to some general anti-Western sentiments and anti-Western beauty ideals. With articles like this one http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-04-18/trends/31113113_1_sari-blouses-kajol where the article admits that over time the sari transforms due to the influence of fashion and outside influences.
Again, I do not claim to be an expert or someone who has experienced first-hand the sari or modesty phenomenon in India. But I find the idea of fashion and costume acting as a political statement or play intriguing.
Another somewhat unrelated question, what happens when outsiders try to make their own sari? Hermes launched the first Western fashion, luxury brand line of inherently Indian attire: the sari. I have heard that originally, traditional Indian designers reacted indignantly, in shock that an outsider would try to create their own version of the traditional piece while the more modern Indian designers embraced the idea and used it as a selling point to traditional designers to progress a bit in their designs.Personally I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful than a huge influx of high fashion, luxury brand designers that take off in both West and non-West fashion worlds and use a variety of Asian design influence. Maybe I’m just a dreamer but the idea is irresistible!