It used to be a sign of respect and acceptance when someone wore the clothing, ate the food, celebrated the holidays, or imitated the art of other cultures. It’s how America got its distinct culture and is one of the things that make us an exceptional nation.
Today? Not so much.
The president’s daughter went to India to participate in an entrepreneurship summit in Hyderabad. But Indian fashion police not only accused her of “cultural appropriation” for wearing gowns that looked Indian but were made in the U.S., they dug the spurs in by calling her a “botoxed Barbie.”
Indian media is accusing Ivanka Trump of cultural appropriation after she wore outfits that mimicked the country’s fashions—but weren’t made by its designers—on her trip to represent the United States at an entrepreneurship summit in Hyderabad this week.
The president’s daughter was slammed for “superficial assimilation of culture” by The DailyO, an opinion website owned by India Today Group, which went on to call her “botoxed Barbie.”
The First Daughter drew criticism for donning a $3,500 dress covered with Oriental-style flowers by British label Erdem and two outfits by American designer Tory Burch that recalled Indian embroidery and patterns. It was rumored she was going to wear a sari gown presented to her as a welcome gift by Bollywood favorite Neeta Lulla one evening, but she instead opted for a Tory Burch “floral gown that looked like a ‘me-too’ of a Kashmiri pheran,” the website wrote.
Ivanka Trump wears a $3,500 Erdem dress on her trip to India. Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
The head of Vogue India also bashed Trump, saying she should have made an effort to wear clothes by Indian designers if she truly cared about paying homage to the country’s traditional fashions.
“If Ivanka’s clothes are to be an acknowledgment of an ancient and rich culture like ours, especially as she arrives as a dignitary, then the sartorial ‘tribute’ should be authentic in its intention,” Bandana Tewari, the editor-at-large of Vogue India, told The New York Times.“We would rather see her wear a hand-woven sari made in our country or a handmade gown made in her own country. But to hybridize the two, in an era of unfiltered diversity, is a superfluous nod to half-acceptance.”
Ivanka could make wearing a burlap sack look good, but apparently, that’s not good enough. Her last name is Trump, she’s an American, and she’s drop-dead gorgeous — three strikes against her for the Indian media, which is not only notoriously anti-American but is also apparently suffering from an attack by the Green Monster.
The problem with living in America is that our entire society is one great, big cultural appropriator. We gobble up everything from everywhere and adopt it as our own. That includes ideas as well as food and fashion.
So all that culture stuff enters the great American maw, is chewed up, and out comes something kind of new and usually better. You would think other cultures would be proud to have nations adopting their ways. I know how proud I am when I think that, at this moment, somewhere in the world reruns of I Love Lucy are showing.
Yes, a gentle jibe that was. But contemplating a world where everybody keeps their culture to themselves and acts like little kids in a sandbox refusing to share their toys when someone pays them the compliment of adopting it — well, that’s a pretty dull world to live in.
If India wants to sit at the big kids’ table, they’ve got to do better than that.