If you have been reading my articles, you might be familiar with my three-month stint with Pritima in Mumbai back in 2018. Among the various other things that I was made aware of about myself, she decoded the underlying meaning of what fashion meant to me.
I was yet to understand that fashion signified ‘freedom’ to my soul. It was a long nostalgic trip down memory lane, which had set the cultural, sociological, and political context of fashion early on in my childhood.
Coming from an urban upper-middle-class family who was just getting exposed to the western culture, there was a sea-change in the traditional values that the previous generations had been holding on to.
In the last decade of 1990 and well into the new millennium, families like mine were faced with the confusing task of adopting progressive modern practices while preserving their traditions. On one side were the regressive family drama shows on Indian television, while my generation was being introduced to a parallel western culture with the launch of American shows like F.R.I.E.N.D.S.
As always, with the blurring of cultural values, the period of transition is often a mixed bag of what’s right and wrong with no logical deductions as to why it is so. This meant, denim and tops were signifiers of modernity but sleeveless and short skirts were considered as not so modest. Similarly, crop tops or bare backs were not options to choose from but a saree with a revealing tummy was well in alignment with the so-called Indian culture.
This is when I fell in love with fashion. Fashion was the vehicle that was challenging old systems. Not only was it shaking up things inside the house, but outside, through the mediums of art and films. This naturally overflowed into the lives of women, and it seemed like a new era of feminine empowerment was also being welcomed.
As I and the women around me became more independent, the relationship that we had with our bodies and clothes also began to change. I would say, the first decade of 2000, saw the consciousness of the upper-middle class move away from the obsessive connection between a woman’s values, character, and the length or type of her clothing.
This reminds me of the freedom brought by Chanel to the first generation of independent American women, through the ‘flapper dresses’, perhaps considered outrageous by the society back then. The calf-revealing length signified the desire to own, celebrate, and share their bodies, which is so much more than the term ‘sexual-freedom.’
Once, I had looked back at these years it was easy to connect ‘freedom’ and ‘the power to choose for the self’ as the emotional payoffs of choosing to pursue fashion.
Everything comes back full circle. Now that I have my power and freewill under my conscious control, I no longer feel the need to emphasize it through my choice of clothing. It naturally blends into the character I want to be. The payoffs have shifted to developing a well groomed personality and bringing art, beauty, and aesthetics into our everyday life.
So many women have found their freedom and creative self-expression through clothes. So many men (and women) have also found sexual freedom through the non-judgemental and free flow of love that the spirit of fashion has to offer to humanity.
I often wonder if people stop to think about the deeper and more everlasting effects that this industry has had on human consciousness throughout its evolution.
Until next time…