Musings: Trendsetters as Jetsetters
Outgrowing one’s clothes
A couple of days ago as I write this, something interesting happened. I was studying with a friend when I saw an advertisement for a leopard-print dress and I, in all my fashion-literate opinion, immediately blurted out, “Who even buys these things?” Judging by her reaction and the interesting and educational conversation that followed, I reached an epiphany: I don’t know enough about leopard-print dresses.
That said, there aren’t ony leopard-print dresses that I have absolutely no idea about. But here in my weekly musings, we do more than just ponder. We explore, and that is what we are going to do this week. What is fashion and why does it differ so much around the world?
Fashion: A curse or a Boon?
Tracing the definition of fashion isn’t hard. However most people don’t know the two distinctive sections of fashion. As experts over at the Britannica Encyclopedia lay it out, there are two types of fashion: High and mass.
High Fashion is the elite fashion paraded by the models in Milan, Paris and New York. These events are designed to show off the creativity and ingenuity of the incumbents and the newcomers of the industry. The clothes (or sometimes the lack thereof), are atypical and sometimes flatout fantastic. I mean that purely as an adjective and not a subjective opinion. Some of the works that Kaimin and Gypsy Sport displayed at the 2018 New York Fashion Week are jaw dropping while others, which may seem relatively mundane, are still equivalent to a full-fledged color palette walking down a street.
Subjectively, these are quite marvelous things to look at.
Mass fashion is the toned down green chilli as opposed to the habanero. There is still flair in this segment but this side is more toned-down, because it is intended for the masses. A darker red or a more pronounced taper are the maximum boundaries of ‘style’ that are pushed in this segment/
On a side note, skinny jeans are awesome.
Having established the two sides of this coin, let’s get on our favorite rocket ship and fly around the world.
Sudan, with rich culture and weather patterns, has an interesting perspective on fashion, obscure as it might be.
Sudan is a typically hot and humid country. As Google tells me, the average temperature in Sudan is typically around 85 degrees fahrenheit (29 in celcius). The predominant fashion cues for men dictate that they wear long, free flowing pants and a buttoned down shirt. Although tourists might get away with wearing shorts and polo t-shirts in the capital city of Khartoum, once outside the metropolitan, men are expected to adhere to this fairly standardized fashion trend so as to not draw too much attention to themselves.
Women in Sudan are subjected to more interesting fashion cues. The Mvulva Kwabs are traditional Sudanese gowns, long robe-like garments designed to cover the entire body from head to toe. These garments are free flowing so as to provide some sort of relief from the heat. However, the fabric for the Kwabs, gets heavier as women go out. To dress up is to wear prettier looking robes with more intricate patterns, which are typically done on heavier fabrics.
The theme of the Sudanese fashion is very much based on religion. The predominantly Muslim faith of the country mandates that women cover themselves and has men dress up equally respectfully. The weather of this place should have a bigger impact on the styles of the masses but perhaps, that is what is most interesting. As places like India and China, which were also traditionally religion-centric in terms of their fashion trends are shifting more towards a western approach to clothing, Sudan is staying firm in its roots.
What surprised me most about Brazil (other than the fact that Brazilians don’t speak “Brazilian”) is that it is sort of the unsung Paris of South America. I mean, L’Oreal or Chanel aren’t based out of here nor are there any Brazilian iterations of the brands, but the people of Brazil are very much in tune with fashion.
Cool and casual is the mantra here and people do a pretty good job of sticking to it. Also, the Brazilians are a proud and confident bunch who are not afraid of being bold. The women are increasingly sporting halter tops which are bold and daring, yet tasteful. They also like to wear tight fitting jeans which taper near the bottom. These jeans often have patterns near the edges, which is considered expressive.
The men, on the other hand, are equally picky about their fashion. They prefer fitting yet light apparel. Unlike the women, they don’t spring for the conforming denim, but their pants, denim or otherwise, are often just right. Not too loose and not too tight.
Both men and women prefer light fabrics which are breathable especially during the warm weather.
The Brazilian fashion trends are largely inspired by native soap operas or ‘novelas’ as they’re called. These novelas, often inspired by western culture, provide the native population a window into the outside world and culture. Actually they do quite a bit more than that. These soap operas have a dedicated phone line for people to call and inquire about the fashion used on set. The idea is that if people like an outfit they see on TV, they call the producers and get more information on how and where to buy them. Either the boutiques and malls in metropolitans or the knock-off sweatshops can happily oblige these eager consumers and sell them the cute top from the weekly drama.
Even I, a fashion guru, know that no article exploring fashion is finished without at least mentioning Italy. Milan is often referred to as the fashion capital of the world, ever since the 16th century in fact. And there is more than enough reason to justify that.
Although Paris has made strides in the fashion business and produced big names like Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, Milan and Florence are arguably the spiritual home of fashion.
The Polimoda, one of the most sought-after fashion schools, in the world is located in Florence.
Before we explore the trends of fashion, though, we must explore the theme of fashion and its renaissance in the country. According to traveltips.com, the traditional, free-spirited approach to vogue is necessary in order to be innovative. That is why designers like Giovan Battista and Gianni Versace found so much success. And this innovation was easily democratized and available to the masses. Fashion in Italy wasn’t and still isn’t reserved for the wealthy. It is almost a human right in this country and therefore the quickest way to strengthen and idealize it.
Women in Italy embody this right as much as possible. They can often be seen sporting robe coats to liven up even a simple t-shirt and jeans combination. Also, animal-print ANYTHING is a safe bet here. Seriously, leopard print is everywhere, even on Converse shoes. As much as it confuses me, the Milanese don’t care. And they look good doing it.
The men are similarly stylish, if not more. The key here is that they dress down their formals. Sport coats and ludlow pants, maybe, for the occasional wedding or the office party in the States, but over in Italy, these magnificent garments need no occasion to be thrown on. Actually, scratch that, they are not simply thrown on. Italian style dictates that these items are tailored. After all, the man wears the clothes, not the other way around. So, it only makes sense that the clothes are bespoke to you. One final key aspect to Italian style is that they aren’t afraid to be bold, much like Brazilian folks, actually. Similar to the women, the men don’t shy away from suit separates or intricate colors and patterns. Clothing is an art and art needs to be expressed.
More than T-shirts and jeans
Fashion around the world is a facet of that place’s culture. It is more than just clothing on your back. It tells us a story about the ideas and values of that place. Sudanese fashion, for example, tells us that religion and traditional values are a key aspect of Sudan’s culture. Similarly, Italy’s fashion tells us that self-expression and outspoken gestures are a key aspect of Italy’s culture. It is amazing just how much ideologies can affect everyday artifacts of lifestyle.
That said it is also alarming just how challenging these artifacts can result in exaggerated results, particularly in historically closed societies. I guess what I’ve discovered is that you can never really go wrong with a T-shirt and jeans.
In “Musings,” sophomore Krishna Pamidi shares a new adventure every week about the grand modesty that is called life by exploring the global twists to universal experiences.