One of the first things we noticed when we set foot in Sikkim was how well-dressed almost everyone was. So, Fashion in Sikkim merits its own post. What makes it even more interesting is that we saw people of all age groups dressed in both traditional and modern clothes. There were people of all age groups wearing Kho (also known as "Bakhu" in Nepalese), skirts (both short and long), skinny jeans, trousers, Aladdin pants, salwar-chooridars, and even saris (mostly tourists I admit).
Of all the attires we saw in Sikkim, we found the Kho most fascinating. It is a sleeveless gown which is tied around the waist, often with a silk or cotton belt. Women wear beautiful, full sleeves silk tops (called honju) beneath it. You can also see older women wearing a half-sleeve shirt above it at times, or may be a cardigan.
While the every-day kho is mostly mono-colored (grey, black, darkblue being common colors), ceremonial kho is shimmery with bright colours. However, Sikkimese people seem to have great fashion sense, and they manage to make even the dullest of Kho stand out by pairing them with bright tops in colors such as peacock blue, shocking pink etc.
In some cases, they also wear pretty lace petticot that looks delicate when it peeps out from beneath their kho as they delicately hold up the skirt of the kho to prevent it from getting wet in rain. Kho appears to be very comfortable and looked like it could be made to work for any season. It looked graceful and some women naturally carried it more gracefully than the others.
Apart from the Sikkimese people, Sikkim is also home to Tibetans and Nepalese, and hence you find a brilliant mix of fashion. While roaming the mall road in Gangtok, we saw several, mostly elderly, women wearing a colourful apron with a distintive pattern around their waists, over the Kho. During a chance visit to the Museum in the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, we discovered that this apron is worn by Tibetan married women.
Men, in general, appeared less enthusiastic about traditional costume. We hardly saw anyone in a traditional Shambo cap, despite the fact that Lepchas and Bhutias form a sizeable population. We did, however, see several Buddhist monks who looked as sunny and bright as ever dressed in their bright robes.
A variety of western costumes could also be spotted, both on youngsters and the elderly. Youngsters, both males and females, appeared to be extremely fashion conscious. From hairstyles to makeup to clothes and shoes,everything was high on style quotient. The mall road, mainly because of this reason, is a great place for people watching and street photography. However, even small towns and villages are replete with fashionable locals. We found several women wearing chic clothes breaking rocks at the roadside or selling vegetables.
And then this is me, whose whole purpose on the street was to make everyone else look good. With my minimalistic packing for this trip and my oversized black umbrella, I totally killed representing the minority, the unfashionable, don't you think?