February 21, 2018 1:55 pm
Updated: February 24, 2018 3:17 pm

Trudeau family criticized for overdoing it on their traditional Indian outfits

WATCH ABOVE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to criticism over wearing traditional Indian garments

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story referred to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the head of state in Canada. That title belongs to the Queen. 

It’s one thing to pay respectful homage to a culture, but it’s another thing entirely when your traditional attire starts to veer into costume territory. That’s exactly what some are saying about the Trudeaus.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is already ripe for the picking (or trashing) as many have criticized him for his official trip that includes his wife and three children, and that is being questioned on its political relevance. Although the PM announced a $1 billion Canadian-Indian investment deal yesterday, the family’s insistence on consistently donning traditional Indian attire is starting to draw less than flattering attention.


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Described as “too Indian, even for an Indian,” the Trudeaus have commissioned some of India’s most prestigious designers to outfit them for every photo op. What was perhaps most glaring was the juxtaposition between the Canadian political family and the Bollywood stars they met on Feb. 20. Sophie was in a cream-coloured and beaded sari, their children Xavier and Ella-Grace wore a sherwani and lehenga, respectively, and the PM donned a gold sherwani complete with traditional mojari shoes — while the Indian stars wore slacks and jackets.

“It’s a little over the top,” Vivek Dehejia, economics professor at Carleton University, tells Global News. “I understand on day one having to wear the traditional clothes, but now it’s getting too much. It’s very choreographed, … these Bollywood-style outfits every public event he does. What does it say about the real purpose of the visit?”

Some people have taken to Twitter to express fashion fatigue, including National Conference leader Omar Abdullah.

Although it’s customary for political leaders (especially their wives) to don culturally appropriate attire for official visits or events, they’re rarely done with the frequency or voraciousness that the Trudeaus have displayed.

READ MORE: Reality check: Is Trudeau’s India trip more photo opportunity than business venture? 

During a 2015 official visit to India in which she accompanied her husband, former first lady Michelle Obama was praised for championing Indian designers — she stepped off the plane in a Bibhu Mohapatra-designed outfit — but steered clear of traditional saris, opting instead for colourful and elaborate fabrics and western silhouettes. Former president Barack Obama stuck with dark suits.

Former first lady Michelle Obama was praised for championing Indian fashion during her 2015 official visit, although she steered clear of traditional attire.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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Similarly, both former prime ministers Stephen Harper and Jean Chretien wore suits during their official visits to India, accented with traditional headwear.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits the Sikh shrine the Golden Temple in Amritsar on Nov. 18, 2009.

NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Jean Chretien waves to the crowds during his visit to Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Oct. 25, 2003.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

As the Trudeaus are only halfway through their trip, the world waits with bated breath for their next round of outfit changes.

—With files from Katie Dangerfield

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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