Fashion Lookbook

10 tips on how to Desi-fy your outfit and stand out from the crowd

I absolutely love wearing clothes and accessories from my Pakistani culture, although this wasn’t always the case.

When I was around six years old I went to the movie theater in Pakistani wedding clothes, not caring what anyone thought of me.  But when I moved from Southern California to Lahore, Pakistan in sixth grade, I was surprised to learn one thing: wearing Desi clothes was not considered very cool. How could it be that in general, people enjoyed wearing Western clothes more than the traditional clothes from their own country?

[bctt tweet=”I was surprised to learn one thing:  Desi clothes weren’t considered very cool.” username=”wearethetempest”]

For four years, while living in Lahore, I started feeling like I should also conform to how girls in my school would dress (outside of school when we didn’t have to wear our uniform). My mother encouraged me to wear the beautiful kurtas and shalwar kameez’s that we picked out together, but I felt like I would look peindoo or like a FOB. During those years I was still trying to form my identity and being accepted by my peers was very important to me.

However, when I moved back to America, in tenth grade, I started to notice how people actually really appreciated the colorfulness and uniqueness of my Desi clothes. It was not long before I began to embrace my attire and now I confidently and happily try to Desi-fy my outfits whenever I get the chance. I realize that everyone has their own preferences and if wearing Western clothes makes women in Lahore (or anywhere else in the world) feel happier then they should go for it.

Of course, I’ll note this: there’s a difference between owning your culture – and appropriating another’s. If you need a quick run-through, check this or this out.

1. Adding a vibrant scarf


Can’t go wrong with colorful scarves. They make any outfit pop out.

2. Throwing on some dangly earrings, hoops, or jhumkas


Time to go shopping!

3. Wearing silver or gold bangles


Feeling too lazy to dress up for a lunch or dinner? Boom! Pop these on and it’ll look like you put some effort into it.

4. Investing in dhoti-style baggy pants


They can be mixed and matched with so many different tops and are super comfortable.

5. Adding a paranda to your hair (if it’s long enough)

It’s actually really fun wearing one because you rarely ever see anyone else with it. If it’s too much for you, simply adding a braid or two will give you a similar look.

6. Replacing your flip flops with some khussas


If you don’t own a pair, any other traditional-looking sandals can work too. It’s a small change, which makes a big difference!

7. Putting some kajal (kohl eyeliner) to your lower eyelash line


I prefer black kajal, but you can be adventurous and try other bright and bold colors. If you’re skeptical, at least try it out!

8. Accessorizing with a fun, colorful tote or purse


Even if you have a simple outfit on, the bag you choose to carry can give your outfit that final touch.

9. Wearing an anklet


It adds a Desi touch, but make sure you wear it when it’s visible!

10. Henna!


Can’t go wrong with some beautiful henna! It’ll definitely be a conversation starter.

We all have our own styles and way of dressing, but sometimes it’s fun to get creative and try something different. I may be biased, but I definitely do think my culture has some of the most authentic and beautiful clothing!

By Yasmin Irfani

Yasmin Irfani is a graduate student at Cal State Northridge, pursuing a Masters in College Counseling & Student Services. She received her BA in psychology from UC Santa Barbara in 2015. Yasmin loves to read, write, travel, and play with animals! She’s lived in California, Pakistan, and New York for different periods in her life and loves meeting new people. She is currently a Summer Editorial Fellow at the Tempest and loves connecting with others through writing.