Fashion is a tangible part of our lifestyle. It is also the face of our culture. The way we dress or do up our hair, the way we keep our interiors,what we eat or how we eat, our recreational activities, the way we spend our holidays and vacations are all directly or indirectly influenced by the changing trends of fashion.
Fashion has been changing from different eras of time. Fashion today in the twenty first century has evolved from the changes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In yester years women wore long gowns that were ankle length. Then came the midi and mini skirts.
Now again long gowns are back in vogue. There were tailors who would choose designs from design catalogues and stitch garments of your choice. Embroidery on dresses was favoured. Even today especially in traditional clothes we still like embroidery. Frills and flounces were also popular.
Women liked frills on collars and sleeves and flounces on skirts. Crinoline was favoured. Crinoline is a stiffened or structured petticoat designed to hold out a skirt, very popular in the nineteenth century. Materials like taffeta and organdy were in vogue. Good tailors were in demand.
Gloves and bonnets were a part of style and in summer it was parasols. Hair styles have also changed. Then curly hair was the preference, long ringlets or wavy tresses. Now women prefer to keep hair straight and long, shoulder or waist length. A short crop is hardly seen but who can forget princess Diana’s short hairstyle which was oh so charming.
This is the age of branded clothes. Ready-to-wear garments, the industry for which is ever growing. Designers have replaced tailors though a good tailor is always valued. One of the factors for the availability and popularity of ready- to- wear garments, is that women today have left the four walls of their homes and are job oriented. They need clothes that are convenient, easy to wear and easy to maintain.
Foreign brands flooded our markets post liberalisation that is the early nineties. The Indian consumer is becoming more and more fashion conscious. Thus we have a range of Indian brands giving a competition to the foreign brands. Many consumers still prefer the foreign tag attached to the brand, so some Indian companies have chosen foreign names. For example Peter England, Louis Phillippe West Side and Pantaloons.
Modern India, with its new generation consumer who is going global all the way,including clothes and accessories must also be aware of the Indian traditional costumes and fabrics. Our handwoven fabrics have its roots in our culture. Our weavers have produced and are still producing exotic woven fabrics with designs in a wide range of variety and textures. The loom , the warp and the weft have been intrinsic components of the cottage industry in India in the field of textiles.
Take for example the Ikat Textiles. Ikat fabrics are one of the classiest, traditional, handwoven fabrics of India. Ikat is a dyeing technique, used to pattern textiles that employs resist dyeing on the yarns prior to dyeing and weaving the fabric. Ikat is produced in many traditional textile centres around the world from India to Central Asia,South East Asia and Japan. India, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat are the states famous for Ikat.
Then we have the Bandini. Another tie and dye method, practised in the states of Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat. Bandini is truly an art that involves dyeing of a fabric tied tightly with a thread at several points producing a variety of patterns. Both Ikat and Bandini can be worn as sarees, shirts, salwar suits and dresses. Many fashion designers are using both bandini and ikat to create unusual designer garments.
Indian handlooms hold 95% of the handloom fabrics in the world. Many of us are not aware of the 2000 year old rich history and heritage handlooms.
Traditional costumes are also dying out, when we refer to generation next fashion trends. Ethnic wear however has its own charm. In the north-east itself we have such a wide range of ethnic attire. In Arunachal Pradesh women wear a sleeveless chemise with an embroidered full sleeved jacket along with a skirt. The attire is complete with a Mushaik or waist-coat and a skull cap made of Yak hair. The traditional Khasi dress in Meghalaya is called the Jainsem. A shawl called tamokhlei is worn over this but these days this shawl is replaced with matching sweaters which gives it a nice mix and match look.
Alungstu is the traditional costume of Nagaland worn by the rich men of the region. Angami women wear plain blue cloth skirt and white cloth with thick black marginal bands. The traditional dress of Mizo women is called the Puan. They are beautifully intricated with colourful floral designs. It is a pleasant sight to see young, urban, Mizo girls these days flaunting their traditional attire with pride.
Tribes of Assam like the Dimasa,Bodo, Missing,Rabha all have their own distinctive weaves.
In clothes like in everything else, its a good idea to blend the traditional with the modern to make our wardrobe vibrantly versatile. If we overlook our rich heritage of clothing, a day may come when our children will see them only in museums.