‘I don’t know anything about fashion.’
‘I am not into fashion.’
These are the words that you commonly hear from anyone and everyone outside the fashion world. While many of them might associate fashion with skinny models looking like Goddesses in designer gowns, the truth is fashion is far from all this and everyone participates in fashion in some way or the other. You know, we all engage with fashion on a daily basis. It’s as simple as how we get up every morning and get dressed for the day ahead, that right there is our every day connect with fashion.
What’s even more intriguing is that while fashion has always been a form of self-expression, every element of our ensembles involves a decision, conscious or unconscious, that has been guided by social status, profession, gender, social stereotypes and the desire to blend in or to stand out. So, the question that arises is that are we really the one deciding what we choose to wear? Why does the society start dictating our choices right at birth? Haven’t we all heard “pink is for girls and blue is for boys” forever?!
Across the globe, society, culture and religion often together shape these contradictory and illogical stereotypes. Like how the women in different parts of the world have been subjected to unnecessary pressure to wear or not to wear the hijab. While in Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, it is required by law to wear hijab in public, but it’s banned to do so in certain countries like Austria, Denmark, France, Belgium, Latvia, and Bulgaria. Similarly, in India, there are temples and other holy places that require men and women to follow certain stereotypical dress codes. I, for once, was refused entry to a holy place, which I have been visiting since I was a child, just because I was carrying a rather diaphanous stole to cover up my head. Also, most of the temples even require women to wear traditional Indian attire (with the idea of completely covering themselves); sadly they don’t have a liking for jeans and shirts combination when it comes to women even though it does the said job of covering our body rather perfectly.
Over the years, as society and culture evolved so did the silhouettes. For say, the skirts and dresses that were deemed perfect for men since ancient Grecian and/or Egyptian times are now worn only by women, except for the Scottish kilt. Similar is the case for high heeled shoes which were originally created for Persian soldiers back in the 15th century and then later found their place in the feet of 17th century European male aristocracy, before beginning their love-hate relationship with women. We, as a society, have always assigned masculine and feminine traits to the silhouettes. Even, trousers and power suits were considered to be specifically masculine for the longest time in the history of fashion which is probably why women started opting to wear suits in the business and political arena, places that have previously been dominated by men. There are so many women politicians in the West that have been spotted wearing variations of the suit. Even Hillary Clinton opted for bright-hued suits during US Presidential Elections 2016 juxtaposing Donald Trump’s usual dark suits. Quite recently, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has danced her way into people’s hearts while redefining the power of a power suit by playing with colours and cuts that would earlier be considered rather risqué.
So, next time, before leaving your house, look in the mirror to decode the layers of meaning hidden in your clothing and ask yourself – what are you trying to communicate? Are you giving into the social pressure and/or centuries old stereotypes? And most importantly, who’s dictating your clothing choices?
Karishma is a science nerd turned fashion and beauty writer who loves talking about trends as much as eating desserts. Gucci, salted caramel ice-cream, jewels, and Simba (her dog) make up four chambers of her heart. Like Karishma’s story? Drop her a line in the comments section below.