Fashion is universal, style individual

Amitabh Bachchan – super- star. Credited to have brought the angry young man image to Hindi cinema. Now known for his elegent sophisticated personality. Comes out best in his white kurta pyjama with a shawl across one shoulder. Walks tall and does everything in a distinct manner.

Madhu Sapre– top notch model, dances to the tune of designers. Always perfectly dressed in the latest, be it ethnic, abstract or western attire. In her dresses is reflected the modern fashion.

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi– former Indian cricket captain, former nawab of Pataudi now almost synonymous with Gwalior suiting. Depicted in the advertisements as one who leads an extravagant life style. Has a horse breeding farm. Plays golf, polo and billiard, and loves everything that is best.

To say that all are contemporary in fashion is wrong; to say that all have a style to be noticed is wrong: to say that all have a lifestyle to be noticed is wrong. Amitabh has style, Sapre is an epitome of contemporary fashion Pataudi’s shallmark is his personal life style that stems from his being the ‘prince’ of Pataudi.

To a layman they all are famous and dress in the most distinct manner but to be specific they all are very different. We distinguish between what is fashion how it is different from style and lifestyle.

Fashion is a way of dressing that is currently accepted. To say that changes constantly. We may not be conscious of the change from season to season or from year to year; it is like a low hum in the background that we ignore because it is always there.

Designers show their new collections bringing about new ideas; some of the ideas disappear, some are gradually absorbed and become part of the mainstream of change. To realise how change has come about we have to just look back. If we pick up an old magazine, or watch an old movie or glance at an old photograph, we immediately exclaim that it is old fashioned.

The word fashion is used in many ways, some overlapping, some ambiguous. Fashion may refer to clothing in general, which is also called apparel. Fashion may also refer to a specific item or pieces of clothing which may also be called a style.

Style is a word with many meanings including fashion. Beyond it style may described as a cluster of characteristics that we associate with an era, group of people a place, or a person. When we think of the style of the 1920s, we conjure up images of short straight dresses without any waistline, bobbed hair, hats and other characteristics that go beyond clothing-Model T Fords, silent movies to name a few. They all were part of the style of 1920’s. The style of the 1920’s is quite different from that of the 1940’s and the style of the 1890’s. We also have definite associations with phrases such as peasant style, Mexican style, English style, Tamil style, Malyali style etc.

The personal style of people in the public eye is often individual and distinguished and imitated. Imelda Marcos when she was wife of Phillipino president Ferdinand Marcos had great personal style. Her hats, hairstyle, colourful dresses and coats were widely imitated. Brigitte Bardot, the French actress (Claudia Schiffer is compared to her) had quite a different style. Her long tousled blond hair and ruffled, little girl dresses were also imitated. Amitabh Bachchan has a great style with his long hair (nor flowing), deep voice, waistcoats and shawl. Rock musicians express their personal style in spangled and sequined costumes, or tattered rags.

However it is not only the celebrities who have style, though the personal style of a celebrity may influence fashion. Many en and women in all walks of life have personal style and express it in their clothing, as well as in everything else they do.

A person with an individual sense of style takes fashion and adopts it to his/her own needs. Some special twist to the attire will be added that will make it purely distinctitive; one that is his/hers and his/hers only, it comes from within.

There are others- and they are large group-who always dress fashionably, but never look really chic. They conscientiously wear the latest styles but add nothing of their own. Fashion is put on; it comes from without, style comes from within. Fashion is universal. Style is individual.

‘Flair for fashion’ is a term that is used to describe a person with a personal style. It also refers to someone with an awareness of what is happening in the world of fashion.

Lifestyle refers to the overall way in which life is lived. So everyone can have a lifestyle is considered synoymous with how the rich, flamboyant and glamorous live their lives with enormous money at their disposal. It can be very different-for example Patudi’s lifestyle is shown as sophisticated, cultured. The lifestyle that Milind Soman leads is of a flamboyant type consisting of horse racing, swimming, daily work outs in the gymnasium, aura of bright lights, discos, drives in the wild etc. Vijay Mallaya, the liquor baron has again a very distinctive lifestyle that can be imitated.

So do you want to follow contemporary fashion, or, do you want to have a style that will spell fashion for other? Remember, style will be yours, suited to your personality, fashion may not be.

Changing with the times…

The last one and a half years have been of real importance for the Indian fashion overall. There has been an infusion of a new issue of dressing, greater acceptance of new ideas, greater degree of freedom in dressing and now experimentation. People

Are becoming more fashion conscious, more and more cities are organising fashion shows, new boutiques are opening and contests are frequently organised. All these new ideas have permeated through the satellite TV which has brought simultaneous diffusion of ideas and concepts.

Indians have always been responsive to changing fashion but this was confined to the higher echelons of society who had information of the new trends. In fact, there was no real means for the diffusion of fashion earlier. Diffusion largely depended on the effectiveness of the means of communication, means of transportation and the contact effect. It was only a handful of people who brought newer ideas of fashion from its centre of origin and origin and subsequently passed it to others. The diffusion was largely hierarchical with the major metropolitan centre passing the trend to the next centre which subsequently passed it to the next centre and so on. Alternatively people came in contact with each other. For both of these processes to operate it needed time and thus the operation was slow, so slow that by the time it reached masses, to the people in far of ……. it had already become outdated and out of fashion.

Bell bottoms are a case in point. Bell bottoms had lived their age by 1977 and a jeans revolution was sweeping the entire world. But it was not before early 80’s that the people actually accepted it. By early 80’s pleated trousers had made their way but it was only by late 80’s that they were actually accepted. The scene has completely changed now. The TV revolution coupled with the satellite revolution has brought millions of viewers within the reach of new trend and new ideas simultaneously. Thus the same information which would have taken months to reach the people reaches within minutes of beaming the programme.

This had both likely and unlikely effects. Likely in that it infused a sense of fashion consciousness among the masses. People became aware about what to wear when to wear, how to wear. They understood the sense of aesthetism and its likely impacts. The group most affected by this type of effect was the younger people in the under 25 bracket in the urban area-girls in particular. The urban (metropolitan) woman of today has become an epitome of healthy existence-glowing skin, a figure to match, capped off by silky mane. All made possible by a routine that included healthy diet, aerobics and natural food. Perhaps this is why body hugging garments, earlier taboo, have become the rage. Women don’t mind capitalising on their sexuality and showing off their figures.

The unlikely effect has been in a relative sense. It was expected that a revolutionary change will be brought about and though many fashion shows have been held in different places they have not prompted people to change their way of clothing. A majority of the people are afraid of change. It is a known fact that most Indian women want the salwar kameez over and over again albeit some major variations may be a kurta with a shorter lenght or a salwar with more pleats.

The average Indian figure is also such that salwar kameez conceals most parts of the body. The scope of innovation being limited the designers relapse into the groove of innovating upon western clothes. There are many reasons why the Indian women cannot identify with western attire. There are only few who can carry off western clothes well without giving a bawdy and cheap look and most important, the average built and figures of Indian women is not right for western clothes.

Western clothes look best on girls with a tall stature (5’9” or more), broad shoulder, trim waist and slender shapely thighs. The average Indian girl hardly reaches a height of 5’9” and the overall built is frail. The waist may be trim, but the overall shape is quite different and the thighs either have an excess of fat or paucity of it. In either case the aesthetic appeal of figure-revealing attire is diminished.

The greatest influence on Indians about how to dress comes from films. The role of models for Indian are not models of the likes of Meher, Madhu but the film stars: Juhi, Madhuri, Sridevi, Raveen, Hema Malini. All of them have a typical Indian figure:fleshy and rounded.

Patna really presents a strange case. Patnaites have enormous purchasing power, the girls here are really smart particularly those who have just finished their schooling in one of the convents, but there is a great contradiction in what Patna can be and what it is at present. Patna should have been bubbling with daring damsels and pretty chics but this is not so. The same girls when they go to Delhi compete with the smartest girls there. The basic reason lies in the state of education in Bihar. Late academic session, pathetic state of teaching and lack of other educational facilities force Patnaites to move out of this city and their place is taken by girls from the rural areas who come to take advantage of the relatively better educational facilities. These quasi-urban girls want to imitate the smart ones but their mentality is firmly rooted in their background. The result is a strange mixture of costly garments and rustic dress sense-a BTM (or behanji turned mod). Unless this flight of elites and better students get reversed the fashion scene is not going to change fast.

For fashion as a whole to pick up in India, the process of innovation must start early, there must be more experimentation from both designers (whose hands are tied) and from the people. The type of fitness wave that is sweeping the country must intensify. With good figures the Indian female and male both are likely to go in for a wide array of outfits. Those days, we hope, are not far off.



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