Do clothes communicate like language?
This question is proverbial as the adage goes ‘Clothes maketh the man’. A person reveals himself a lot by his sartorial taste.
Shakespeare was extremely vocal about the importance paid to appearance. In Hamlet, he highlights his views about dressing sense….“Costly thy habit as the purse can buy, but not express’d in fancy; rich , not gaudy; for the apparel oft proclaims the man”. The complex ways in which people have communicated and mis-communicated through dress from time immemorial must have led the Bard to comment further on sartorially perplexing questions.
My personal favourite is his eloquence in ‘The Merchant Of Venice’ when Portia puts one of her suitors under a scanner,” How oddly he is suited! I think he bought his doublet in Italy; his round hose in France; his bonnet in Germany”. Peculiar, exotic, ugly, smart, funny or downright ludicrous, these musings presage the trends in fashion of the mixed Indian wardrobe.
We are all familiar with the popular Raj Kapoor’s ditty from ‘Shri 420’, from the banks of river Ganga To river Volga in Russia which echoed the sentiments of the Bard in mixing and matching of fashion styles. “Mera Joota hai Japani, ye patloon Englistani, Sar pe lal topi Roosi, phir bhi dil hai Hindustaani”
By mixing and matching of Indian style with western attire, the educated urban elite has found a solution to the perpetual problem of what to wear. Today a fashionable girl can dress up as a Gujraati Banjaran one day and flaunt a western designer dress the next day, for fashion relies heavily on people ability to play with one image one day only to discard it the day after. Men too wear a combination of western and Indian garments to highlight their Metro-sexual desires, mixing and matching their wardrobe with Bandh gala and Dhoti or Kurta –Pajama with a long Dupatta or maybe dripping machismo a la Spanish Matador.
Fusion is out, confusion is in!
Window shopping, a leisurely vicarious stimuli, has been disrobed by e-shopping. A click of a mouse from within the comfort zone makes shopping slick, without the trumpery and the pageant unfolding before our eyes. Truly the old fashioned way of braving hours in rain, hail, or sunshine to find suitable cloth, design and making endless rounds to the tailor’s shop to get it customised is now stuff as dreams are made of. Dresses are delivered at the doorstep before a thought. Clothes are used to communicate and express identity, to assert power, flaunting one’s wealth, level of aesthetics, education and even to challenge authority. Jobs can be clinched or forfeited , relationships can begin or end by the magic of dressing up or going over the top.
According to the current Bollywood scenario, it is eyeball grabbing now. For his movie promotion, a famous star took the lead in following Hamlet’s confusion to sartorial extremes; to dress or not to dress. The fig leaf of ancient Greek sculptures was replaced by a huge stereophonic recorder and the gym-chiseled body of the star created as much sensation as the movie Gone are the days when the entire joint family used to be dressed up in the same print material, yards which were bought by the patriarch, without any protest. The entire family would troop out to a cinema hall, dressed identically like products moving in an assembly line. On important occasions, the enterprising shopkeeper would even bring part of his shop within the household, so that the womenfolk could shop to their heart’s content. They were innocent times, replete with simplicity. It could have been a gorgeous sanguine Pochampalli but the sartorially-challanged lady of the house would wear it without a fall attached to it, with a white petticoat!!
Today a six year old child has such heightened sartorial sense that would put any fashionista to shame. Instead of coveting degrees in medicine or engineering, young ones aspire to become fashion designers, launching their label and ramping it in Italy and France. The Bollywood rules the sartorial scene and the fame of Indian designers continues to make its presence felt. Fashion weeks, channels and stylists keep you informed about the latest trends, colours and cuts so that you don’t end up feeling obsolete and redundant. There are screams and wails about galloping inflation and nose-diving of GDP but the shopaholics are having a ball. The sale season brings predatory hordes and the world of fashion thrives. The balancing of yin and yang becomes difficult in such a charged atmosphere. The purse becomes lighter yet the heart is never full. The vacuous feeling of never having enough clothes is like a leitmotif that goes on and on. The fashion industry thrives on these hunger pangs.
The Bard must have seen it coming for he cogently mentioned it in ‘As You Like It’ “Come woo me, woo me, for I am in a holiday humour and likely enough to consent”. The catch line of Buy one get one free has fatal attraction. Ignore it. After all, you live only once. Climb on to BOGO bandwagon!