“Fashion is more usually a gentle progression of revisited ideas” quoted Bruce Oldfield. Ideas are more often than not a social concept. And it is these fragmented ideas that a society is comprised of. Thus the age old romance between ‘Fashion and Society’ is not surprising and it is rather interesting to chart the various ways in which the society we live in influences fashion.
Fashion is one medium of expression that has thrived and proved its mettle, while, politics is perhaps the strongest component binding the Indian society. The manner in which politics and politicians have influenced fashion is debatable but not ignorable. The jacket worn modestly by Nehru is now christened as ‘nehru jacket’, the khadi that Gandhi was a strong proponent of fashionably rocks the ramp even today, Indira Gandhi’s impeccable taste in saris always won her much attention, while Maharani Gayatri Devi’s jewelry still stands strong as the epitome of fashion.
On the international front, Princess Diana’s death was a great loss to fashion followers as her outfits made it to the front page of magazines regularly. While Michelle Obama now follows the legacy left behind by Princess Diana, President Obama was the inspiration behind Jean Charles de Castelbajac’s collection where his bright yellow dress with a sequinned image of Obama caught the fancy of many. The recent Royal Wedding had shutterbugs vying to get the us a glimpse of Kate Middelton’s wedding gown, eventually leading to a long trail of commoners outside the local boutiques demanding a replica.
The process of liberalization that started at around 1980’s affected the Indian economy with the mushrooming of multinational companies. With a formal dress code to adhere to, the birth of ‘corporate dressing’ took place. Today formal wear constitutes an important arena in fashion with trend reports always featuring a section on it. More so the celebrated magazine ‘Vogue- India’ had dedicated its February 2011 edition to ‘Work Wear’. This change in economic structure of our society is directly related to the increased spending capacity of the consumers, making brands like Mango, Zara, Louis Vuitton,etc a common name.
Culture forms the crux of a society and the effect of culture on fashion is vast and striking. From the phulkari duppatas from Punjab, kanjeevaram from Tamil Nadu, bandhini from Gujarat, ikkat from Pochampally, pashmina from Kashmir….almost all cultures have beautifully amalgamated a part of their tradition into the current fashion scene. It is not surprising then, to see designers revert back to these traditions for inspiration when launching a collection. Similarly the concept of marriage has been of great importance to the Indian society. This has had far reaching effects on fashion with designers today launching regular collections of ‘bridal trousseau’.
The different eras that have shaped a society have also influenced fashion trends. Period post World War- I giving rise to androgynous style, hippie culture posing a threat to couture, 80s establishing a new definition of prêt-a-porter and power dressing, 90s influence of MTV culture giving rise to casuals, the 20s bringing modern couture and designs…there is no escaping the powerful impact of society on fashion. But on the other end there is also the havoc playing influence fashion has on society.
As an avid fashion lover I can recall several instances where societal and institutional norms have played a defining role in the way my personal sense of style is perceived by society. My fascination for ethnic wear always evoked a gasp from my peers who usually generalize Indian and Western wear into two distinct compartments, each alluding to several stereotypical notions about fashion. Being dressed in the spirit of bohemian fashion on day one, exuding love for vintage on day two and fusing retro and chic on day three is often interpreted by the society as breaking ‘rules’ and not mutely melting to fit in the carved mould.
But over the years I have grown to realize how it is this very society’s perception of fashion that has the potential to thwart your individual essence of style if untamed. While recognizing the powerful impact of society on fashion is highly important, what eventually matters is the conscious adoption of fashion as an extension to your persona. Thus fashion for me is an interpretation of the personal belief that when individuality is lost in transition, fashion ceases to exist.
-Written by Kavya D’Souza
P.S: I have been chosen by BlogAdda as the ‘Notable Newbie’ !