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The high street is now trying to sell an Asian ‘lungi’ skirt for $98

Zara has released its own version of the light loose-fit garment. (Photo courtesy: Zara)

I’ll never forget visiting a temple in Sri Lanka and a woman rushing to me with a piece of cloth to cover my lower legs.

I’d been in the country a week by then and not felt that I was dressed inappropriately but, visiting this temple, I realised a more modest look was required and I was more than happy to be wrapped in the fabric which was tied under my tummy.

That’s the closest I’ve ever come to a lungi – the veteran garment, mainly for men in many parts of South and South East Asian, East Africa and the Arab world for generations.

While I was happy to be temporarily wrapped in this emergency lungi, I must admit I hadn’t looked at it and thought I must buy one to take home. And believe me, the harem pants, tie-dye bags and earrings I bought during those two weeks in Sri Lanka prove I was keeping an eye out for fashion finds while admiring the beautiful scenery!

So I was surprised to read that Zara had released its own version of the light loose-fit garment.

According to the popular fashion retailer the “check mini skirt” with “draped detail in the front” is high fashion and on sale for £69 ($98) in Zara stores across the UK.

British Bangladeshi Amjad Choudry thinks it’s highly amusing that the garment the men in his family have worn for generations is now being touted as stylish.

He says: “I love it! I think it’s awesome national dress and I happily wear it at home but probably wouldn’t wear it in the street in the UK. I wear it for a number of reasons - comfort, culture and nostalgia in that order.

“On the flip side, a big business taking an item of national dress and flogging it for £70 seems wrong. However, cultural aspect aside, I love it!”

But would those who’ve never worn a lungi before be tempted into wearing one?

Irish Sean O Driscoll says: “It looks fine on Asian men. On westerners it either looks like rubbish multiculturalism or trying too hard to be David Beckham metrosexual!”

South African Lara Van Zyl says she fears it would be offensive to wear the lungi. She says: “There’s a lot of talk at the moment about cultural appropriation. While I don’t claim to know what it means really I know Kim Kardashian has been targeted for having her hair braided and I remember there was uproar about white girls wearing hoop earrings. How is it OK for us to wear these traditional Asian skirts? They may be marketed as checked mini-skirts but it’s clear where the inspiration has come from. I’d be unlikely to wear it.”

Also touching on cultural appropriation, speaking in US magazine Fast Company, writer Elizabeth Segran who grew up in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, accused Zara of failing to acknowledge that the skirt was inspired by the lungi.

She said: “I am not the only one who is a little peeved by this casual cultural appropriation. Asian Twitter just went up in arms.”

The sale of the lungi has indeed been widely mocked across Asia as well with India’s Hindustan Times newspaper pointing out that the LungiWala online retailer offered very similar garments for £4 ($6). The newspaper said: “Hate to break it to you Zara, but that’s a lungi.”

Asia-based Coconuts media described the skirt as looking like a “Thai Grandpa’s uniform” commonly used for modesty when washing outside.

But how about you? Are you likely to be sporting the lungi or checked mini skirt if that’s what you prefer to call it, anytime soon?

Last Update: Saturday, 10 February 2018 KSA 11:53 - GMT 08:53
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.

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The high street is now trying to sell an Asian ‘lungi’ skirt for $98
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