Whose fashion is it anyway?

As appealing as it is, fashion is also constantly changing. But when we dissect the unpredictable nature of fashion, we can see who it is really for.

By Simran Handa

Fashion- the term itself, brims with a certain unattainability. Though by definition, fashion is supposed to be a form of self-expression, when you look back at most fashion trends through the ages, one thing, in particular, stands out: opulence.

Trend is set by those who can afford it:

Most accounts of fashion through the ages, capture the self-expression of the wealthy. For example, India cultivated cotton in the 5th millennium BC, followed by the use of dyes and saris have been around since then. Most, if not all, Indian women wore saris regardless of their class.

However, what stood out the most was when royal Indian women started getting stones and gold threads sewn into their saris to make them stand out and to make their social strata clear. A lot of Indian bridal designers today take inspiration from those royal women.

But why did royal saris stand out? What stopped economically backward Indian women from being trendsetters? The answer to both these questions can be summed up in a sentence: the bling of the jewels was just too bright to ignore. Anyone with power and influence holds the ability to set trends while others have to keep up.

Who wore it better? Honey, it’s about who wore something MUCH better:

Today, the trends of the early 90s and early 2000s are making a comeback, but not all of us can afford to revamp our closet to accommodate styles that were outdated until recently. Even if we do, we can’t ignore that when a trend becomes accessible to more people, it dies out.

Remember that famous blue and black sari worn by Deepika Padukone in the movie Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani? That sari took the country by storm. But as more people started wearing it, the sari became mainstream and before you knew it; it lost its appeal.

Going back to the jewel laden saris, we can see that a lot of wealthy Indian women today have deviated from that. Instead, they love to flaunt their simple yet elegant saris. This deviation from jewel-laden saris (as an everyday look) can be traced back to the invention of fake/imitation jewellery in the 18th century. The moment it became more accessible, it was deemed ‘flashy’. If you spot rich women in heavily embellished saris and wearing a lot of jewellery, it would only be for an event.

Even Bollywood celebrities want to avoid being listed in ‘Who Wore it Better’ sections of fashion magazines. Their goal is to always wear something that nobody else is wearing. They scour clothes from all the high-class Indian or International labels to make sure that their outfit will not clash with another celebrity.

No, but anyone can be fashionable!

Sure, anyone can be fashionable, but who decides what’s fashionable and what’s not? It is still people with power and influence. We still have the agency to wear what we want and not follow fashion trends, but the point is, a lot of us cannot follow or set trends even if we want to.

The media we consume tells us what is ‘in’, which celebrity we should look up to for fashion inspiration and even how we can get expensive looks for cheap. We might like the trends or not, we might even come up with looks ourselves that aren’t trendy now but become a trend later; but even with all our opinions and preferences, we most often do not have the facility to be a trendsetter.

Fashion designers make exclusive designs that, as the name suggests, will be a singular piece. They hire artisans to make their designs come to life. However, these mere ‘tailors’ can never wear these designs and they couldn’t buy it even if they wanted to.

So should we stop buying clothes now?

Of course not. The point is that fashion is not in our control and most trends are short-lived. Those who can afford to splurge on it, can and will continue to do so. However, the pressure to stay fashionable is often greater than the amount in most of our wallets and we shouldn’t have to shell out everything to feel validated for a few months.

However, there is an entire industry that runs on this mirage and hence, we will continue to be blessed by quotes like this:

The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive.” -Coco Chanel

Masaba Gupta/Photo Courtesy Masaba Gupta Facebook Page

The power of Bollywood is undeniable. When a celebrity wears your clothes, it sells out – stars here can make you a household name.” -Masaba Gupta

Luxury is something that is rarified. We have everything, but no time. Time is of essence.  Anything that is time bound, be it biryani, block-printing, everything becomes a luxury.” – Sabyasachi Mukherjee

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