Fashion and culture go hand-in-hand. Traditionally, fashion was entirely determined by culture and heritage. You wore either what was available from a resources perspective, or what your tribe, religion, or village was wearing.
But in the same way that culture birthed fashion, modern fashion was always a reaction to that very same culture. People striving for individualism wore different types of clothing and jewelry, accessing their creativity in pursuit of self-expression.
Which is why these days wearing fashion related to your culture or heritage tends to come across in one of two ways: way too authentic (as in you’re just like everyone else) or completely disingenuous (as in you’re trying too hard to make a statement).
However, culture and heritage are for many of us a part of our identity. And fashion should allow us to express that. If you’re looking to find out more about your cultural roots, find out where to get a DNA test. Ancestry DNA test results can provide you with an eye opening insights on your heritage mix and give you the priceless opportunity to deeply connect to your roots.
Now incorporate it in the following ways:
Accessorize… with subtlety
Unless you’re going to a themed event or an actual cultural celebration, there is rarely an excuse to deck yourself out in full cultural garb. Doing so will always come across as ill-advised or, at best, kitsch.
Instead, put together an outfit and then accessorize. Find a piece of jewelry, a scarf, or even a hair-pin that reflects your culture in some way. The right earrings can really stand out and will elevate your entire outfit.
You should try to be subtle unless you’ve got a truly stunning piece. If you wear a bulky necklace that doesn’t blend in in some way, for example, that is all people are going to see. They might be interested in it, but not because it makes your outfit look good!
Tailor it into regular items
I have a close friend whose father is Indonesian. She has a skirt with a strip of batik print sewn down the side. It looks beautiful and stands out, while remaining subtle. This is in spite of the fact that batik is far from subtle. The colorful, patterned print is all you see when a shirt is made entirely from the fabric. She manages to incorporate it without making it the centerpiece.
There is always a way of incorporating your culture into an item of clothing in a way that exudes taste rather than tackiness. Using a cultural pattern for a pocket on a shirt or even a skirt can be eye-catching while remaining classy.
You could even use it for the inseam of a jacket. This lets you go wild with the idea, since it will only be seen in short glimpses or when you’re not wearing it.
While incorporating your culture in what you wear can be done in a classy way, it is important to remember that this only applies when you have significant claim to that culture. Having a parent who is Native American is one thing. But if you found out that you’re 2% Native American, on the other hand, don’t try to flaunt it – you’ll quickly find yourself on the wrong end of a debate about cultural appropriation!