Culinary culture has long been established as a way of ‘getting to know’ a place – local food, it is said, is the perfect way to acquaint oneself with a new place. So it surprises me that more people don’t think of local clothes, with their deep roots in tradition, as yet another way to familiarise oneself with a new city.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed dressing according to the place we visit.
To me, wearing similar clothes in every country is tantamount to having a monotonous peanut butter and jelly sandwich in every country. Wearing a turban in Africa, ethnic prints in Morocco, and breton stripes in France heightens the travel experience in the same way as sampling a tagine in Morocco, scouring Foie Gras in France, or devouring Bunny Chow in South Africa.
Turkey, Egypt, India, and Morocco are some of my favourite countries to pack for because I find myself naturally inclined towards colour and ethnic prints – what better excuse to indulge one’s love for bohemian drapes than a trip to exotic lands?
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting quad-biking in an Abaya in Morocco or pirouetting in a sari in India. Instead of going all the way, incorporate ethnic accents and play with rich colours and textures to conjure avant-garde looks, fit for an urban gypsy. It makes exploring untrodden ways and forgotten alleys in new countries so much more fun.
Here are some of my favourite ways of incorporating ethnic accents and traditional fabrics in a modern context:
#1 Statement Necklaces
They are perfect to dress up a plain outfit, but work equally well with colourful outfits too.
Necklace 1: Next
Necklace 2: Flea Market, India
#2 A Traditional Maxi Skirt
I picked this one in India – the detail on the border is exquisite. Take a look:
Crop Top: ASOS (available here)
Skirt: Shoppers Stop, India
#3 Garments with Ethnic Embellishments
Reading by the beach is one of my favourite things to do on holiday. What makes it more fun? A bralet with colourful ethnic trinkets of course. Believe it or not, these ornaments are used to decorate camels – of course, that shouldn’t stop you from wearing them 😉
Ethnic Trinkets: Souk in Marrakech, Morocco
Make sure you pack a couple of colourful tie and dye scarves – layer them with maxi dresses, shirts, and vests or use them to keep your hair out of the way on a hot day
Scarf and Kaftan: Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey
#5 Harem Pants
Loose cotton pants are perfect for travelling to hotter climes- the more colourful, the better. They also come in handy on occasions when you’re overcome by the need to be lady-like in the middle of a desert 😉
Harem Pants: Random markets in Greece and India
#6 Vintage-Inspired Rings
Add roughly-textured rings made from silver, brass, wood or African beads to complete your outfits.
Ring: Forever 21 (this one is now sold out, but there is a similar one here)
#7 Bright Bangles
Eye-wateringly bright bangles are the perfect accessory to liven up an outfit. Take a look at this post for outfit ideas.
Bangle stack 1: DIY
Bangle stack 2: Souk in Marrakech, Morocco
#8 Oversized Totes
If you are anything like me and like to carry a whole supermarket in your bag, oversized totes are the perfect accessory for you. Opt for quirky ethnic prints that reflect your personality.
Done! Now you’re all set to look like a global wanderer with a nomadic soul 🙂
If you’re interested in reading more about the links between textiles and cultural heritage, Chris Spring has a sumptuous book on African textile traditions which might persuade you to incorporate ethnic accents in your outfits.