Fashion vs. heritage: 6 ways to bring your cultural identity into personal style

How to unite mainstream fashion with your cultural heritage in a respectful way?

This is the age of “business casual” dress codes, so more people enjoy the freedom to carry personal styles seamlessly between work and home. These changes bring opportunity for self-expression that pays homage to your culture and heritage. Fashion can show the world who you really are and where you come from.

Statment message with prints

T-shirts are a great start to send strong cultural and heritage messages casually and playfully.
fashion street style black t shirt
Photo: @esmellaca

For far less formal self-expression than wedding dresses, reach for solid colour T-shirts for T-shirts more culturally relevant. These lockers are an opportunity to transform your casual, gym and weekend outfits into messages that you are.

Order creative t-shirts with celebrities and symbols from your family’s hometowns or regions. Most T-shirt printing vendors allow customers to create their own print design, so be creative!

Make your wedding personal

Culture-rich nuptials, gowns, and themes are always in style.

Weddings are ideal occasions to introduce friends, coworkers, and in-laws to your heritage. Couples can incorporate fabric, traditions, and garments into celebrations. You could forego the expected dress altogether and opt for wedding attire that is native to your ancestral roots. Give your guests an online or wedding program comment to explain the meanings behind what you come up with for them.

Sustainable fashion trends have brought vintage wedding-wear back in style. If your parents or grandparent preserved the clothes they married in, it could be a simple matter of alterations to update their garments for your big day. This idea comes with the bonus of saving money.

Fashion jewellery, broaches and pins as an inexpensive touch

Dainty efforts can speak volumes through significant, traditional symbols.
street style black hair
Photo: @romilux

Custom and spiritual jewellery add fine detailing to the cultural canvas fashion can paint for you. Find charms for almost any symbol then string them along traditional gold or silver necklace strands. Broaches and pins are bolder statements people are sure to notice on your blouses, jackets and lapels.

Heritage-rich accessories are almost always appropriate for work. Today’s modern workplaces recognise restrictive dress policies lead to unhappy employees. At the office, smaller pieces are common-sense measures to keep the focus on your hard work more than attention to your appearance.

Remember headdresses

Fashion extends to what you wear all over your body, so start at the top.

Changed times turned negative public perceptions of headdresses away from bans and stereotypes. Today, they are near fashion-must haves. Hatsscarves and other headdresses are welcomed in schoolschurches and even jobs as rightful natural expressions.

Hatsscarves and other headdresses are welcomed as rightful natural expressions.

You will be the life of the party when you show up with traditional head adornments. If your native country or heritage doesn’t include specific headdress traditions, order fabric in significant patterns from your birthplace. Even your national flag can make a fun bandana or wind scarf on patriotic holidays.

And shoes, too!

Walk the walk of your culture in symbolic footwear.

The signature footwear of some countries is significant because it documents how generations of people have endured their terrain, climate and weather. People in India or Africa wear open fingers as a cooling dessert, but native tribes need warming moccasins in Canada or the snowy American Midwest. This is a functional way of showing your identity, plus getting to know each other.

Find fashion right in your family

Your family is a rich repository of heirlooms and traditional dress from other places and times you are connected to.

Transform your next family gathering into an intergenerational clothes trade! Ask your parents about your baby clothes, religious ceremony dresses, and dance outfits. Alter them for your children or add parts of them to clothes you wear today. Senior relatives can pass down garments they can no longer wear. Find out the stories behind their hats, coats, and dresses you inherit.

Senior relatives can pass down garments they can no longer wear.

These are only a few ideas to bring the family history and background you are proud of into your fashion style. Use heritage holidays and community celebrations for culture-rich dressing at gatherings of like minds who understand where you come from and curious minds to explain it to.

Editor’s note: Feature image via Tim da-Rin for