“Fashion has two purposes - Comfort and Love. Beauty comes when fashion succeeds."
- Coco Chanel
Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel, the phenomenal designer and incredible style icon, rose to fame when in a world of corset she introduced women to trousers and made comfort fashionable. Along the years, many designers have tried to follow in her footsteps to redefine fashion and create clothing that’s trendy yet comfortable. However, we still find ourselves struggling with our ample bosoms and flat feet, trying to ‘fit in’ in the bejewelled aura of tall and flat-chested ‘Fashion’. Does comfort take a back seat when you have to walk on six inches of stilettos? And when does fashion stop being an extension of self, and instead turns into a desperate plea for societal recognition and acceptance? These and many such questions hound one as fashion weeks explode around the world.
Let’s look back at India of the 90s when our country had its own fashion personality. A simple flip through a family album will take you back to the gaudy reds, flashy yellows and rather trashy psychedelic prints. But we aren’t to blame. Our eclectic Govindas and Ravina Tondons inspired us to pick the brightest colours and shiniest fabrics and flaunt ourselves to the world. Thankfully, the 90s ended on a beige note as we entered a new millennium of fashion makeover. Crop-tops and off-shoulders no more lived on the big screen. Girls started demanding fish-cut lehengas and sexy Shararas, and boys started donning Sherwanis and applying hair gel. And then there was no looking back. Slowly and steadily, fashion found its place as a form of art, a form of self-fulfilment.
Little did we know that we were entering a dark and condescending territory because fashion, when it becomes a threshold for keeping ‘others’ out, is problematic. Soon after, premiere film festivals, meant to rise from the cacophony of popular mass cinema, became pre-occupied with who wore what. Filmstars became Celebrities and started walking red carpets for brand campaigns, and to attract eyes for the couture. Dress yay or nays and who wore it best became a constant haunting presence. And then, Kareena Kapoor introduced us to the fashion world’s biggest achievement - ‘size zero’.
As beauty and lifestyle bloggers rose up to the level of celebrities, teenage girls realised the power of ‘looking’ good over ‘feeling’ good. Diet pills hit the market. Young brides started starving for months before their weddings. Men started spending more time on their hair than on their conversation skills. Somewhere between Coco Chanel and Manish Malhotra, fashion stopped being an expression of beauty and became a force we must reckon with. Today, walking into a fashion store and finding an outfit that complements your body size has become an arduous task. You are either too short, too fat, too well-endowed or just plain ‘not the right size’. Instead of wearing clothes that fit us, we are stuck in a desperate race to fit the clothes.
Fashion is about what makes you feel beautiful, and not about what makes the world call you beautiful. If Louboutins burn a hole in your pocket, don’t buy them. If walking in an off-shoulder dress makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t wear it. If Zara doesn’t fit your body shape, shop somewhere else. Don’t let fashion overrule your comfort. Ditch those pumps that make your feet bleed and step into your comfy flats. But if they give you the confidence to rule the world, click those heels and power on.
Because fashion is more about who wore it than what they wore.
Vedangi Dandwate (Author)