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Swami Vivekananda’s views on World Fashion!

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“We don’t have functional clothes; the moment we embark on some work, our clothes are the first to be discarded.A lot of planning goes into making a dress for an individual. How a colour-coordinated dress is made to suit the colour of a girl’s hair, which portion of the body needs to be highlighted and which parts require to be concealed – all these factors have to be taken into consideration when making a dress.

Their (the Westerners) outfits are ideal for workplace but other than the dresses worn by rich ladies during social dos, the clothes worn daily by women are generally unimpressive and awkward. No dress in the entire world can ever compete with the elegance and beauty of sarees worn by our women and the choga-chapkan and pagri (turban) that our males don. The multi-layered pleats enhance the beauty far more than tight-fitting figure-hugging dresses do. Our dresses are worn in pleats, but we don’t have proper working clothes. The moment we need to work, our clothes become the first casualty. Their fashion is in dresses, ours is jewellery. Now-a-days dresses are also being made here.

What is fashion -- fashion is a popular style or practice, especially in clothing.Fashion is a distinctive and often constant trend in the style in which a person dresses. Paris is the mecca of women’s fashion and London is for their male counterpart. In the past, Parisian dancers popularised fashion trends. Now fashion stores create trends. Vast amount of money is splurged in this industry. Dress designing and making, is a big-time money-churning industry there. Then a woman belong to high society wears a dress and that becomes trendy and other immediately begin to emulateher. This is fashion? Again, trends change every now and then. They change according to the seasons.

The rich get their dresses tailored, but the middle-class people try to get the job done with the help of amateur tailors, who are mostly the female members of the family. If the upcoming trend is close to the one that is on its way out, then minor changes are done to the existing dress to make it look trendy or else buy new ones. The rich people donate their out-of-fashion clothes to their maids and servants. The middle-class people sell their used clothes. These dresses are then despatched to European colonies in Africa, Asia and Australia for them to wear. The rich aristocrats get their dresses stitched from Paris, others simply copy them and get them stitched in their own country. But there is an unwritten rule of sorts, that all ladies must import their hats from France. If a woman wears a hat that is not French, then she ceases to be a proper lady!

The dress worn by the British and German ladies is ugly. They usually do not follow the Parisian trend, except of course a few rich and famous ones. That is why women of other European countries make fun of them. Most British men are almost always impeccably dressed.The Americans are all very fashionable. Although the American government levies steep import charges on fashionable dresses to discourage their citizens from buying foreign products, yet women pay high taxes and wear dresses made in Paris and men get their suits stitched from London. Thousands of workers are involved to create myriad colours and materials to fulfil the requirements of the fashion world.  After all, a dress defines a gentleman or lady!

Fashion is gradually making inroads in your country as well and it is most evident in jewellery. The local weavers are keeping a keen eye on the changing trends in the market and sometimes even trying to introduce something novel and popularise it. If he succeeds in his mission, in no time he becomes a leading businessman. When Louis Napolean III was the French monarch, his queen Eugenie was the ruling deity of fashion in Europe. She was very fond of shawls from Kashmir and Europe spent lakhs to buy the shawls. However, with the fall of the monarch, the trend also changed. Shawls are no longer considered fashionable and hence have no takers. Our people regret, as they failed to seize the opportunity because they failed to provide an alternative and capture the vast market. Kashmir received a major blow and many rich businessmen became poor.

There is a constant strife going on in this world. If you fail to rise to the call and act, there are others who are waiting to take the opportunity. They are innovative and working hard and we? We are happy to follow the rule book and refuse to deviate or think out of the box. We suffer but refuse to find a solution. We complain but do not venture out of the safety of our homes to explore the world and find alternatives. How can we expect to be wise?

You all are familiar with the lore of the Devatas and Asuras. The Devatas believe in divinity and have faith in God but the Asuras are atheists and believe in fulfilling the carnal desires in this world. I am not comparing who is good or who is bad, but I find the Asuras in the Puranas more like human beings. The Devatas, on the other hand, often seem rather weak and indolent. Now if you consider yourself as descendants of the Devatas and the   people of the West as Asuras, then you will understand the difference between the two worlds.”

(Extract from Poshak O’ Fashion from Swami Vivekananda’s essay, Prachya O’ Pashchatya)