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Conscious Consumerism and Indian Weddings

My cousin’s eight hundred plus person’s wedding is on the horizon and I’m dreading the consecutive days of glitter and glam. I do love my cousin and I do love a good Indian wedding, but it definitely comes with a cost. The last cousin wedding I attended, I actually brought MY Indian clothes from America to India because I dislike shopping and I dislike spending money on clothes I will likely never wear again.

When I proudly unveiled my born-again Indian attire to my relatives in India it was met with gasps and hushed whispering. They told me that these styles were dated and that since I’m the “cousin from America” there was some level of pageantry expected.

But before I got into a diatribe with said relatives (that I hardly see) about how I didn’t want to subscribe to India’s expectation of me (and therefore somehow I’d be standing up for all the women in a country I didn’t know), I politely adhered and did my most dreaded activity. I went shopping.

My cousin (from the US), on the other hand, was having the time of her life. The colors. The styles. Too much flash. Too little flash. She expertly commanded the store employees to bring us more and more and more saris. This went on for about 12 hours. In the meantime, I quickly found the three outfits I needed and hung out in the back seat of the driver’s car in hot misery.

Complaining aside, this got me thinking about the fashion industry in general and how there is this need to adhere to ‘fast fashion’. In the U.S. alone, each person ‘wastes’ about 82 pounds of textile each year. Of these 82 pounds, only 15% gets recycled, and 85% goes to a landfill, resulting in an astonishing 21 billion pounds of wasted textiles per year. Consumerism is one of the leading causes of global warming and yet somehow me wearing an outfit that is off-trend seems to be a bigger crime than my carbon footprint.

In addition to environmental issues, there is also the women’s rights issue. There are approximately 75 million garment workers worldwide, of which 85% are women. Many of these workers are from Asia between the ages of 18-34 who are often subject to poor working conditions, unfair wages, and sexual harassment–and a large number of these women are from India.

Recently a woman named Marino Testino launched a campaign where she wore the same outfit for 30 days straights called ‘One Dress to Impress’ to heighten awareness around conscious consumerism. And while I’m not immune to the fluttery feeling of putting on a new dress or sari, this concept will definitely serve as an inspiration.

I’m thrilled to be celebrating my cousin’s wedding day, and even more thrilled that I won’t have a carbon (or wallet) hangover to show for it.

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