Fashions came into vogue as a matter of social development in a society from one stage to another. In fact, they are the product of the environment of a community. As a community develops into civilization, its members come to develop certain ways of living. There is a gradual break in the traditional values giving ways to new ones in keeping with the spirits of time.
Rousseau, the French political thinker, was right in declaring that man was born free, but he was everywhere in chains. Man has always been a slave of traditions, customs, conventions, ceremonies and rituals. Human beings are also the slaves of changing fashions.
Fashions are transitory. They come like a wave and die out. What is fashionable today may not be so tomorrow. Anything which gains acceptability becomes fashionable.
Cinema was at one time a craze. People loved going to the cinema, watching movies which were being talked of. Regular movie-goers acquired a certain prestige value in social circles. This has gradually given way to the one hardly talks of visiting the cinema hall it is now in terms of cassettes and video libraries. Cassettes and video libraries gave way to Cable T.V. and T.V. gave way to CDs and VCDs, which is now considered fashionable and a status symbol.
The same applies to the theater, dance, music, concerts and ‘art’ exhibition. Many people belonging to upper classes go these places, not because they have real taste for or understanding of music and art but because they want to be ‘in the swim’. They would feel backward if they were not to visit these shows and seen there, and if they were not able to talk about these things afterwards in their respective circles.
However, in respect of fashions in dress, even people of modest means feel impelled to keep pace with changing fashions. In matters of dress, women are much greater slaves to fashion than men. In recent years, in India, feminine fashions have been changing rapidly and have been followed by vast numbers of women with an equal rapidity. Examples of tight-fitting clothes followed by loose dresses are a current vogue. In the West more and more women are taking to mini-skirts, the latest to appear on the fashion-scene being micro-minis.
Nor are men averse to fashions. Where male attire is concerned, we generally follow the western fashions blindly. The once-popular hippie-style of uncouth dressing is fast on the wane.
The worst-affected section of this tyranny of modern fashions is our school-and college-going student populace. Latest made dresses are the prevailing fashion among the large majority of them. With the exception of extremely poor students who cannot afford the luxury of fashions, almost all students regard it as an essential part of their duty to march with the times, and thus, appear up-to-date and modern. Sometimes they are ahead of the fashions and actually give the lead to other people in this respect.
Boys are seen dressed in expensive suits of the latest cut. They are skilled judges in the matter of dress and eye one another’s clothes with keen interest. Each tries to excel others in the beauty and design of his clothes. Critical remarks are freely made regarding classmates whose clothes do not fit them properly. Envious glances are cast upon a student whose clothes are striking in design and perfect in tailoring. Everyone aims at wearing his clothes to the best advantage and at producing a favorable impression upon his classmates. Students who are expensively dressed claim special privileges in the college because they think that their costly clothes are an additional qualification.
The results are terrible. Students pay no attention to class lectures because they keep adjusting their ties and handkerchiefs in the coat-pockets. They look appreciatively at their own nice-cut suits and are filled with a sort of self-satisfaction. The teachers are helpless in this matter, which results in an increase in the number of flops.
Female students go two steps further and consider that in trying to look fashionable, boys are trespassing upon the domain that rightfully belongs to girls. The females have a natural and in-born love for pretty dresses and college is the right place to show this love. They go to colleges dressed in clothes, designed to bring their figures into relief. Tight-fitting shirts are in vogue because their dresses give prominence to their anatomical proportions and curves. Dupatta is no more in use for the same good reason. Hair-style changes with the dress. Scents and perfumes are also used by these Juliet’s to excite their Romeos.
Such students evidently do not take interest in their studies. Going to college is a mere hobby or recreation for them, and examinations and class lectures an evil.
Fashions are more prevalent in metropolitan cities where modern mass media is the most sensitive. Diverse races, communities intermingle greatly at such a place. In such cities grows an international culture. Then such fashions penetrate into other areas of the country’s population. There is a continuous cross-breeding of fashions. Many fashions come into vogue, find ever increasing favour among the youth and then spread like an ‘epidemic’.
Movies also cast their maximum influence on the young boys and girls. A heroine wearing a new design is aped by the young school and college girls and a particular dress worn by a handsome hero is imitated by the boys. Firms involved in the manufacture of ready-made dresses and materials send their special designers to movies, so that they can observe patterns and designs to exploit the tastes of young folk.
The moralists feel that modern fashions are an encouragement to crime and rape and should be curbed and stopped. The exponents of fashions on the other hand feel that in a free society sex-exhibitionism, instead of encouraging crime, makes girls courageous and independent. One good result of fashions is that more and more girls are coming into open and taking up jobs, which were once exclusively meant for men. Today women are participating in national and international activities and working with men in all fields.
The earlier concept that fashions are responsible for debasing the society has undergone a change. They are considered a source of enlightenment. This is becoming quite an accepted norm in our society.
The desire to follow fashions is, no doubt, natural in the sophisticated world of today. But there are many people who have to follow them for fear of public opinion though they may not feel attracted to a particular fashion.
A wise person is one who does not ape fashions blindly. An individual approach is better but most times the hold of fashions is so strong that one inadvertently becomes a pray and slave to it.
– Bipasha Mukherjee.