Monday, September 1, 2008

Stylish, Not Fashionable

What’s the difference you would say? A lot actually!

Let’s see what these terms really mean. Fashionable is someone who wears what is trendy at the moment and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing something that is so yesterday. Most of the wannabe crowd at Page 3 parties falls into this set. Which is not a bad thing at all, except that you could go wrong. Think about a situation where you saw many people wearing something, you know it’s in vogue and you have to buy it. But there’s always a risk that by the time you buy it’s already out of fashion.

So then what’s being stylish? Stylish is carrying off what defines you the best. And it might not be the whole ensemble but even an accessory that becomes your trademark. Like Theresa Carneiro, BSc (IT) student says, “Think about these people, Prahlad Kakkad, Sonia Gandhi, Navjot Sidhu and you cannot think about them without their hat, bindi, khadi saris, or matching tie and turban respectively. Not one from the fashion industry yet they have a style.”

Priyanka Gandhi Vadhera (actually the whole Nehru parivaar has a unique style of dressing!) who can look as good and comfortable in a sari as she is in her trousers and shirts but there’s still a sense of continuum in everything that she wears. It could be her hair or her attitude can’t put your finger on it. That’s style!

Style icons like Madonna are rare to come by. She can carry off the any look, even the trashy, loud, look she had in the 80s with equal panache. But that is diva concern. For you, common sense like realising wearing a kaftan when you are dead skinny or wearing fitting jeans when you are plump, just doesn’t work is enough. And that is the best thing, with your own style you can never go wrong. It also saves a lot of your ETM (energy, time and money) of following what’s ‘in’ (unless that’s your hobby). You can have a collection of what goes well on you and your body type, and mix n match it.

Anushri Savanur, FY JC Commerce student puts the fashion and style debate in her words, “Most elders say we all look alike. But that is true about every generation. Why else was the Retro look or 80s look called so? It was popular among youngsters. People want to belong to the peers so they do look at each other, and movies, of course, for inspiration. But still we have our own style, the minis wearing prom queen does look different from the FabIndia khadi-stuff-wearing wannabe journalist or writer, and so does your girl-next-door. Some of us follow the trend, some have their own. Our dressing does say something about us!”

It is true people do wear their state-of-mind. You might look for inspiration but eventually you develop a taste that is true to yourself, then that is what becomes your style.

Plus Size Looks

The Classic and Romantic Age literature is full of description of beautiful women. But the obsession with the female form has been timeless. Paradoxically, the ideal female form is a relative term. So if the Caucasian literary tradition describes ‘slender’ women as beautiful, Kalidas’ Shakuntala back home is voluptuous. In Africa for a long time, fat women were considered most beautiful. These factors depend a lot on climatic conditions as much as they depend on socio-cultural factors.

There was a time when plus-size supermodels like African-American supermodel Tyra Banks ‘fit the bill’ in every sense of the word, she was tall, confident and had what it takes. Yet she felt out of place amongst her super-skinny, anorexic, counterparts.

The Madrid Controversy banning anorexic models from the runway, in a way was a good beginning. Spain has disallowed models to walk down the runway this year if their BMI (Body Mass Index) was lower than 18.

So if London’s Fashion Week has refused to follow suite with a counter debate, with the organizers stating that it was a move that, not only violates the designers’ right to choose their models.

But the ‘thin is in’ trend has caught on and both, teenagers as well as women in their forties are trying out gymming and crash dieting. Cashing in on this trend are so-called ‘health and wellness centres’ who offer you more discounts for weighing more, effectively making you put on more weight.

It is worth applauding the efforts of British model Charlotte Coyle who is determined to change the way the world sees plus-size women. She has created a show called Beauty Reborn, where she will have 12 plus-size finalists, to serve as role models to the young British women.

Happily the trend doesn’t stop to only supermodels. There are stores that stock only plus size fashionable goods. Surveyors were quick to notice that most of the market was full of Small Size stock; where as most average women were nowhere closer.

That is especially true about Indian women. Indian women have genetically been curvy, hence health experts all over India showed concern as the size zero fad hit India via Kareena Kapoor.

Just a few years ago Bollywood actresses (whom most of the young crowd imitates consciously or subconsciously imitate), even top-line ones, were pleasantly plump. Sonali Bendre-like thinness was an exception rather than a rule. But all of a sudden the Gym-fever hit India without warning and spread like an epidemic with health experts saying that the obsession of the new generation about their health is actually unhealthy.

The media however has realised the hazards and has been quick to react. Nicole Ritchie and Victoria Beckham (who was famous for her washboard torso,) showing off their baby paunch was described in a positive light.

If the ongoing global Consumerist culture has a heart, like it now sounds. Things will definitely change and the spotlight will change from being skinny to being healthy.