A month before I went over to Pakistan, B. observed that due to the fact that as a foreigner I woud be attracting a lot of attention anyway, which is proving to be very true, it would be a good idea if I had a few traditional garments ready to wear on my arrival, which would allow me to blend in more and consequently – cushion the impact that this attention would have on me. I’m not really sure if my adherence to the local clothing style has had the desired effect, the opposite might be true, but we did, nonetheless, ensure that there were a few kurtas, i.e. long and covering my thighs tunics, hanging in the wardrobe before my arrival.
I must admit that initially the thought of having to choose from the type of clothes that I had never worn before filled me with dread. First, I don’t like shopping for clothes in general, let alone on the internet, which, I had to recognise, was both an easier and cheaper option, as well as guaranteed that the clothes were authentic. Besides, the idea I had had of Asian clothes was that they were crazily patterned and bright whereas for the past several years I myself had only worn plain clothes in black, white, blue, as well as various shades of grey (I swear – no pun intended – nothing to do with the (in)famous book!!), and owned as few as 2-3 patterned items, which I would seldom wear anyway. I was also seriously worried that I would be pretending to look like a local despite the fact that I would have only just arrived. However, B.’s argument about avoiding to draw unnecessary attention convinced me and after a careful inspection of literally all my clothes, which we had carried out on Skype, it turned out that I was, indeed, in need of some adjustments in the wardrobe area. Notwithstanding my initial worries, however, as soon as B. directed me to this website and asked to choose something I might like, it turned out that not only did I like most of the kurtas despite their bold patterns and colours, but also I could totally see myself wear them! I was slightly concerned, though, that they were actually far too beautiful to even wear on a daily basis, but actually, due to the fact that they are light and thin I even wore one when we went on a three-hour hike in the Margalla Hills yesterday morning. These are the kurtas that I own at the moment, but apparently, I should have as many as ten, so it looks like I’m in for a serious shopping spree.
It’s worth mentioning that although most women wear traditional clothes and cover their heads, I have also seen women in jeans and blouses fashionably tucked in, and with their heads uncovered – a totally Western look. I cover my head when I’m on a motorbike with B. and I did when I went to the Faisal_Mosque – in mosques you’re supposed to do that.
Apart from their extraordinary beauty, however, tunics are also available in Europe, albeit perhaps in modified versions, and even here can be worn with normal leggings or jeans, so they weren’t really such a novelty to me. What I have found more fascinating, actually, was the male traditional clothes. Though men sometimes wear Western clothes too, for instance:
most seem to prefer traditional suits which are called shalwar kameez: shalwar referring to a form of baggy trousers, and kameez – a long shirt reaching up to the knees, with either a classic or a standup collar. What immediately drew my attention was the bagginess of the trousers, but it wasn’t until I actually ironed a pair that I realised that it is the astonishing amount of fabric used to make them that has this effect.
According to B., though, it’s still not as much as in some regions where the shalwar can even be twice as big! The material is gathered with a drawstring and the complete attire looks like this:
As you can see, both mens and womenswear covers a lot of the body and in such a way that it doesn’t give much indication as to what’s beneath. B. for instance won’t go out on the terrace without the kameez and only wearing his vest. These clothes are worn in each season regardless of temperatures, but obviously the fabric for colder months is thicker. The idea of covering your body, which denotes modesty, is very strongly linked to religion, as “modesty in Islam is of key importance and is regarded as half of faith”.