Justin Trudeau’s wardrobe of traditional Indian clothing is ruffling feathers on both sides of the world, with some accusing the Canadian prime minister and his family of “playing dress-up” during their visit to India.
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The prime minister and his family have bedecked themselves in primary colours and traditional garb through much of their visit to India, which has included many stopovers at well-known landmarks. Each of these stopovers has been marked by photoshoots showing the Trudeaus in traditional Indian clothing, posing with their palms pressed together in a Namaste greeting. Trudeau, his wife Sophie Gregoire and their children, Xavier, 10, Ella Grace, 9, and Hadrien, 3, have also been wearing Indian clothing to special events and meetings.
Some of their garb has had a purpose due to local custom. In Amritsar, for instance, Trudeau, his son and his cabinet ministers each wore an orange head covering called a ramal, which is required for entry to the Sikhs’ holy Golden Temple. Sophie, Ella Grace and many of Trudeau’s female cabinet ministers each wore a long scarf called a chunni, to cover their heads, for the same purpose.
But it’s some of the Canadian delegation’s other wardrobe choices that are raising eyebrows. On Tuesday, for example, Trudeau wore gold-embroidered Indian formalwear to a visit with prominent members of India’s film industry, including actor Shah Rukh Khan. The Bollywood superstar wore a suit to the meeting, as did many other Indians in attendance.
Tonight, we celebrated stronger ties & new co-production opportunities between Bollywood and the Canadian Film Industry. And who better to help than @iamsrk himself... Great to meet you! pic.twitter.com/1OcwsA9lMS— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) February 20, 2018
Tonight, we celebrated stronger cultural and business ties between our two countries. Great to meet @iamsrk and to join my colleagues after a long day building on the great work we’ve been doing together pic.twitter.com/Lm1prgdwOT— Bardish Chagger (@BardishKW) February 21, 2018
“You look more Bollywood than (Shah Rukh Khan) himself,” one person tweeted at Trudeau.
The Indian publication Outlook India echoed that sentiment in a recently-published article, dubbing Trudeau’s wardrobe to be “too Indian, even for an Indian.”
Indian politician Omar Abdullah shared several photos of the Trudeaus on Twitter Wednesday, saying: “FYI we Indians don’t dress like this every day sir, not even in Bollywood.” He added that the “choreographed cuteness” was “a bit much.”
The photos show the Trudeau family offering Namaste greetings, often while wearing traditional Indian garb.
Is it just me or is this choreographed cuteness all just a bit much now? Also FYI we Indians don’t dress like this every day sir, not even in Bollywood. pic.twitter.com/xqAqfPnRoZ— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) February 21, 2018
Several people on Twitter have accused Trudeau of cultural appropriation with his outfits, while others have defended his attire as a nod to local custom.
I don’t understand why people are dragging Justin Trudeau for wearing desi clothing while visiting India? His intention was to pay respect? There’s a difference between culture appreciation and culture appropriation.— pani puri priyyyaaaa (@priyaalovee) February 22, 2018
I sense that Trudeau believes wearing Indian attire would endear him to potential Indian voters in Canada. If I was of Indian decent, I would think his virtue signalling (cultural appropriation) was opportunistic. I believe it would upset me.— Steve T (@stevet_140) February 21, 2018
Sir if they want to pay respects to the culture of our country why should one be disturbed. It’s a moment they want to enjoy with India and that’s it. https://t.co/BJDeZQAfFm— Ashoke Pandit (@ashokepandit) February 21, 2018
I can't keep track of the PC and SJW rules. They are different for everyone and only they decide who is breaking them. Is Trudeau guilty of cultural appropriation or not? If it's someone they don't like in this scenario they claim he's mocking them and a racist. #TrudeauInIndia pic.twitter.com/BlW3hGf6Hw— Martin (@Misinthe90salot) February 21, 2018
The Trudeaus’ attire has made headlines throughout their visit to India, where locals have been largely bemused at their nods to local culture.
Here are the Trudeaus stepping off the plane in Western clothes, offering a Namaste greeting. It’s a respectful traditional gesture, and they are going to do it a lot in India. #TrudeauInIndia pic.twitter.com/CKHitHUwbo— Josh K. Elliott (@joshkelliott) February 22, 2018
Visiting the Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat.— Josh K. Elliott (@joshkelliott) February 22, 2018
Everyone’s in Kurtas (everyday outfits) with festive garlands around their necks.
Red and yellow are auspicious colours.
Note the simply-dressed local behind them. They’re not exactly blending in.#TrudeauInIndia pic.twitter.com/oYCi65pP32
Sophie’s Kurta is a special one. It’s by Anita Dongre, a famed designer who also made an outfit for the Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to India in 2016.— Josh K. Elliott (@joshkelliott) February 22, 2018
Sophie is also wearing a bindi, representing the opening of the third eye among Hindus #TrudeauInIndia pic.twitter.com/5Lirte2Z3y
Trudeau goes with a decked-out gold Sherwani (Indian formal wear) for his meeting with Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan@iamsrk just wore a suit, as did the other Bollywood stars attending this event.— Josh K. Elliott (@joshkelliott) February 22, 2018
Sophie’s saree was made by Zardozi Couture, based in Brampton #TrudeauInIndia pic.twitter.com/rdRC3ZLKa0
The Golden Temple in Amritsar is a Sikh holy site, and the Trudeaus are following custom by covering their heads. Women cover their heads with chunnis (thin scarves), while men wear ramals (orange head covering). You need to cover your head to go into the temple.#TrudeauInIndia pic.twitter.com/UlD5vCXoFy— Josh K. Elliott (@joshkelliott) February 22, 2018
Trudeau is wearing a simpler Kurta here. Xavier is wearing an achkin (more formal), while Ella Grace is in a lehenga with a matching scarf, called a dupatta.— Josh K. Elliott (@joshkelliott) February 22, 2018
Sophie is in a shalwar/kameez (pants/shirt) combo.#TrudeauInIndia pic.twitter.com/H3M6X25LaY