Nina Thomas on Operation Smile and Fashion in India

Indian families from the neglected state of Assam traveled days  on rickety buses through rut strewn streets ISO of hope.
Their hope is to be seen by an Operation Smile medical team for a surgical repair of a cleft lip, palate, or some other facial deformity.

The contrast between abject poverty and sartorial beauty is striking. Against a backdrop of garbage laden streets emerges a line of women wrapped in colorful saris, and men in sedate scarves.

There is something about the drape of Indian fabrics that exudes grace. With postures reminiscent of runway models these women and men carry themselves with patience and dignity.

Operation Smile had many local volunteers who served as translators. Pictured is Ms. Das who dresses in the manner of the traditional middle to upper class (caste!)

The traditional tunic is called a kurta and may be paired with a fitted pant called a churidar, which gathers at the ankle. Another popular silhouette is the shorter kurta with a kameez pyjama, or full flowing leg. Either style is called a suit.
A sari is composed of 5-6 yards of luxe fabric with a cap sleeve underblouse call a choli, and a scarf called a dupatta. Pleating and wrapping a sari is a skill foreign to most westerners!

After  several 12-15 hour days dedicated to humanitarian concerns, it was time for a break in the form of a little retail therapy. Dressed in scrubs I walked the red carpet, making the transition from patient care to personal care.

Inspired by the colors, fabrics, and sense of style exhibited by all castes of Indian people, I decided to treat myself  by visiting the Ritu Kumar boutique in downtown Guwahati.

You may recognize the top Indian designer’s name: her “Label Ritu Kumar” has a presence in the US at our own Anthropologie stores.

I coerced an Indian friend to come along with me to translate and make sure I made smart purchases while boosting the local economy!

Although I am not sure when I will have occasion to wear it, I just had to buy this traditional silk suit with flowing scarf (positioned strategically over the bust line for modesty!)

The silk and cotton parachute shaped dress I found in olive gold with aubergine piping and knit leggings translates easily into Americanstyle.

And this sundress is a classic silhouette in a fabric that is definitely ethnic, yet subtle.

Back on American soil, I will always carry with me the images of these Indian people from all backgrounds, who move with dignity and great posture, united by a reverence for traditional style, color, and fabric.


2 Responses to “Nina Thomas on Operation Smile and Fashion in India”

  1. 1 Kerri
    February 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    I love this article! The clothing is beautiful and the cause is noteworthy!

  2. March 1, 2011 at 6:27 am

    Beautiful lady talking about an amazing culture and wonderful cause. Nina rocks the clothes, including the scrubs.

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