Photography via INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty

Why are Justin and Sophie Trudeau Dressed Like Extras in a Bollywood Movie?

Their outfit choices on this India trip have been… unexpected

The world’s favourite prime minister touched down in India last week with his wife and three children on an official visit, but the news sweeping social media from their trip hasn’t revolved around official business. Instead, it’s the family’s outfits that are triggering debate in various corners of the internet. A recent BBC headline reads, “Justin Trudeau’s ‘Bollywood’ wardrobe amuses Indians” while CTV News reports, “Critics say Trudeau’s Indian attire is ‘a bit much.’”

While it is customary to wear something representative of or in support of the local fashion industry on foreign visits, these nods to local design tend to be… more subtle. The Duchess of Cambridge, on her trip to India in 2016, stuck mostly to British designers like Jenny Packham and Temperley London, with two notable exceptions—an embroidered sheath by Naeem Khan, an Indian-American designer based in New York, and a printed dress by Indian designer Anita Dongre. Michelle Obama, on previous visits to India or at official events with Indian dignitaries, has also turned to Khan, as well as Bibhu Mohapatra, another New York-based Indian designer, and Rachel Roy, who is half-Indian.

Both have stayed away from donning traditional Indian attire like saris, however, and Prince William and President Obama, too, stuck to suits and formal shirts-and-trousers combos. Which is why the Trudeaus’ sartorial choices have been so, shall we say, noteworthy. While their visits to the Golden Temple in Punjab (a holy site for members of the Sikh faith) and the Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat (the erstwhile residence of Mahatma Gandhi) saw them in casual Indian kurtas (long cotton shirts) with slim- or wide-leg trousers, it was their dinner in Mumbai with Bollywood celebrities that really set people off. While Sophie Trudeau chose an ivory embroidered sari, which is perfectly acceptable cocktail or formal dinner attire, her husband donned a gold sherwani with shiny red pants and a matching dupatta—a look that would be out of place anywhere but a (very gaudy) wedding. Meanwhile, other attendees showed up in sports coats and casual blazers.

There’s a lot more to Indian fashion than bright colours and elaborate embellishments, and many may be surprised to learn that a minimalist aesthetic coexists peacefully in the country right alongside OTT glamour. While it’s commendable that the Trudeaus are trying to be respectful by embracing Indian traditions, we have some ideas for how they can achieve that without straying into costume territory. Here, the alternative looks by contemporary Indian designers we wish had made it to the Trudeau wardrobe.

For his casual afternoon appearance at the Taj Mahal, perhaps this hand-dyed indigo ikat jacket by Rajesh Pratap Singh:

For the dinner in Mumbai with Bollywood celebrities, this tailored black waistcoat (known as a bandhgala) by Raghavendra Rathore, worn over a button-down shirt and trousers, would have been ideal:

For his visit to the Golden Temple, perhaps this minimal wool kurta and trousers by 2018 Woolmark Prize runner-up Ujjawal Dubey:

#AntarAgni #IWP #menswear @thewoolmarkcompany

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We can’t fault her sunny yellow Anita Dongre outfit or this hand-blockprinted silk Abraham & Thakore coat but we’ll suggest an alternative to her ivory sari—this pale blue button-down with a matching brocade skirt by Mumbai-based designer Payal Khandwala:

? to many memories and more magic in 2018! ( testshoot by @vaishnavpraveen )

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For her Jama Masjid visit, one of these beautiful silk coats by Sanjay Garg, thrown on over a simple maxi dress:

For her visit to the Golden Temple, we’d have loved to see her in this pistachio-green kurta and white trousers by young New Delhi designer Ragini Ahuja:

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