“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”
We have many things in common with the generations before us on many areas of existence. Love still breaks us. Wars still ravage us. Religions and castes still (sadly) define us. Wealth and Societal status still drive us. But of the very many things that technology has changed for the better or worse, the way we decide and buy our clothes is certainly one of them.
- Our clothes were our ID cards – Only fifty to seventy years back, what we wore was a function of the place we happened to be born in. What we wore was a representation of the state, culture or sub culture we were born or raised in. Be it salwars, or sarees or dhotis. There were the rare exceptions, that warranted a thousand stares on the streets.
- Functional and forever – Every dress or piece of clothing that was bought or stitched or made, was an asset. It was going to stay with you forever. Sarees were passed on, mother to daughter, daughter to granddaughter. To own something was to care for it. If you lived somewhere dusty, you bought dark colours, because it was easier to wash. If you lived somewhere hot, you bought something light. If you lived somewhere cold, you bought something thick.
- Buy what is there and What you can see – An average set of options available for an average person was the subset of the options made available by the range of fabrics and the inventiveness of the tailor and most importantly what you have seen. If you went to south India, you saw a half-saree and you went back to your tailor and got it made. If you went to Punjab, you saw a Patiala pant then and wanted it.
- Buying was a process – Regardless of your wealth or societal status, adding that single saree or salwar or blouse, be it for day to day use or for a wedding/function, it was a process with several steps in between – Seeing, wanting, checking, searching, enquiring, parking, wanting, enquiring again, needing and buying. Getting new clothing was considered a big deal. People shared their new purchases with friends and family, “Look at what I bought”, for from the conception stage to when the tailor gave it to you, it was a process. People still remember that walk to the tailor filled with anticipation and excitement to look at the clothing they visualized in their heads.
Well, that’s all changed now, Oh and how it has. We have brands and retail giants screaming at you at every turn of your life. Our digital, physical and social lives are flooded with advertisements, “Look at me”, “Buy me”, “there is a sale “, “Buy me and you’ll be happy”. We can buy something from almost anywhere within 10 seconds. Our wardrobe is a revolving door. We don’t even know what we own. We needed that dress very badly yesterday and the next week we don’t even remember it. We have had more choices than ever, we can buy things more easily than ever, we have more exposure than ever, but we are also more confused than ever. We want to be unique, but we wait for the launch of Priyanka chopra’s “Be yourself” collection. We want to be ourselves, but we ensure our selfies don’t capture the way the fabric falls over our flabs.
As the quote says, we are so impressed with our new-found choices that we have ruled out the possible meaningfulness of the tried and tested processes of the generations before us. Maybe we should apply the same to our fashion choices. The next post will have our thoughts on bringing back some of these steps to our fashion decision making process.