When I went to watch Black Panther at IMAX this week, I had gone without any expectations or pre-conceptions. It was actually just to accompany a friend who was dying to see the film. Black Panther was supposed to be like any other super-hero film – full of fast-paced action with the protagonist fighting the anti-hero in a battle to death and saving the world somehow. Only it was not! It was so much more. And it obviously went on to become the inspiration for this blog post.
I’ll try and explain why I loved the film so much without giving spoilers. To begin with, Black Panther is unlike any other Marvel or superhero flick I’ve seen (Wonder Woman comes to a close second). The embracing of racial and ethnic diversity aside, I loved the portrayal of women in the film. It was a feminist film without being in-your-face at all. From having a female spy as the leading lady to having a women-led elite task force that saves the nation, it was just a celebration of girl power throughout! And with so much going on, the film never took away from the superhero dynamics that was essential to the plot. It just made such a strong statement and impact!
What captured my attention the most, besides the power women, were the costumes designed for the Wakandan people (the fictional country to which Black Panther belongs). They were stylish, bold, and every bit a celebration of the African people. Designer Ruth E. Carter, who put together the outfits, created a 500 page bible for the fictional country, with costumes for different tribes and classes of people! She took inspiration from several African countries that weren’t ever under the colonial rule and also incorporated elements of Afropunk to come up with costumes that were futuristic and traditional at the same time.
By the time the film ended, I was so inspired that I was ready to migrate to Wakanda if it existed. And the fashion was obviously a big part of the reason why. But I settled instead for doing Black Panther-inspired looks for the blog. After reading about the work Ruth had put into the costumes, I didn’t want these looks to just be about purchasing outfits and getting pictures clicked in them. I truly wanted them to mean something and that is when it hit me – with fast fashion filling up the space on store shelves, we never really see the incorporation of traditional and tribal Indian clothing into mainstream fashion. Barring the yearly textile fairs and a couple of designers, there is really no way for a layperson to be able to access the diversity in fashion that this country represents. But till we have something of the scale of Black Panther in our country, we can continue to make our contribution in whatever little way possible. So, these looks are my way of celebrating Indian culture and also a pledge to incorporate more traditional clothing in my wardrobe. And this I think is where the true impact of the film also lies – in encouraging people to embrace diversity and celebrate the rich cultural heritage (whatever that culture might be) that they belong to.
If you’ve ever been to the silk expo or the Dastkar fair (or any other textile fair) in the country you’ll have noticed the sheer variety in clothing that we have. These two looks are a celebration of just that. I tried to put together two wearable, modern outfits using traditional textiles and tribal jewellery. Hopefully I succeeded. Have a look and let me know your verdict on these.
Look 1: I draped a tussar silk dupatta with Warli print (a traditional art form that originated in Maharashtra) as a strapless dress and styled it with a silver necklace that my Mom had purchased from a small community of Bhils in Rajasthan almost two decades ago. I added a black, sleeveless overcoat to give this a powerful vibe. The next time I’m invited to lunch or I’m going on a dinner date, I will definitely wear this. And as for the Black Panther inspiration, this is something I think Nakia would definitely wear to a formal event.
Look 2: I took this blue dress out of my closet and styled it with another silk dupatta, this time having Rajasthani appliqué work on the surface, which I draped around my waist like a front-open skirt/cape. The necklace I’m wearing here belongs to my great grandmother, who hailed from a small village in Haryana. The metal belt is a gift from a local shop in Kolkata. I can see myself wearing this outfit to a cocktail night or even a dinner event. And if you see the pictures below, there’s definitely that Wakanda feel there.
Here are the rest of the pictures:
P.S. I probably tried 10 different drapes and a couple more outfit combinations before zeroing in on these two. Hope you liked them as much as I did.
Until next time