Evolution of Fashion and its Impact on our National Identity

Fashion is an age old concept directly linked to the subconscious desire of a sentient mind to express itself in such a way so that it can be received with more respect and acceptance in its indigenous social setting. While many birds and animals flaunt their vibrant colors to attract a potential mate, fashion more or less serves the same purpose for their human counterparts. Although this might not be the sole purpose of fashion for Homo sapiens, fashion most definitely is a way to express one’s individuality in a unique way with an innate desire to stand out from the rest of the crowd. From the time when we used to be a band of simple hunters and gatherers to being the builders of great ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome, Egypt and Mesopotamia which then evolved and led us to the digital age of today, fashion took various forms of expression. It started from clothes made out of animal hides and leaves and evolved in to the hand-made fancy tunics decorated with symbols of ancient gods and goddesses right up to the intricate designs and blends of colors spread across tightly woven and wonderfully knit fabrics by automated machines. Clothes made out of cotton, silk, wool, leather and its variants like chiffon, lawn, linen, denim etc. are considered hot fashion statements today that not only provide comfort but compliment your personality type very well making you look different and trendy. Each turn that fashion took with the advent of time was greatly influenced by the culture and religion of its respective era.

Fashion in Pakistan has evolved on similar lines with a blend of values deeply rooted in the rich culture of Indian subcontinent and the religion of Islam. The British colonial rule added a flavor of western culture to this beautiful blend creating a separate line of hybrid fashion genre that is both modest and modern as well. The infamous Shalwar Kameez is a result of the mixing of Islam with the local Indian subcontinent fashion trends which is worn by rich and poor alike in Pakistan on various religious and family events. Shalwar Kameez has become a vital part of our national identity which clearly signifies the strong impact of fashion on a society as a whole. The female version of shalwar kameez is mostly accompanied by a head-scarf called “dupatta” which indicates modesty. Different variants of thistraditional attire have a touch of western style as well. While the Kameez (upper-body clothing) has another traditional variant called Kurta which differs in collar style, the Shalwar (lower-body clothing) has variants like churidar (traditional), pajama (western), pant pajama (western), dhoti (traditional) etc. The Sherwani which is a coat like garment commonly worn as a third piece of clothing (3-piece) also has a western touch as it closely resemble the British frock coat. The Sherwani is very commonly worn by grooms. The bridal attire has more of an Indian touch since the traditional Indian clothing is very modest complementing the Islamic standards of clothing. Lehengacholi, sharara, ghagra, gharara are most commonly worn by the brides. Capri, Palazzo, Flapper, Jeans are the western variants mixed with the local fashion to create a wonderful eastern and western fashion blend. Western formal and casual attire is also very commonly worn by all Pakistanis alike. All of these different attires are a part of Pakistan’s fashion identity highlighting the impact of different cultures and religions on our society as a whole. Instead of trying to adopt a single line of traditional wear as our identity, we should celebrate and accept the fashion diversity of Pakistan incorporating all cultures and religions.

Pakistan has a vibrant fashion industry which is thriving and growing with each passing day. Top Pakistani designers like Sana Safinaz, AsimJofa, Deepak Perwani, HSY, Maria B etc. have established successful fashion brands in Pakistan that are competing with designers across the Indian Subcontinent. Different seasonal and occasional collections like spring/summer collection, midsummer collection, fall collection, Eid collection etc. are regularly released attracting a huge audience. In addition to these, the famous designers and retail brands (Elan, Sapphire etc.) do not forego any opportunity to express their creativity by releasing different collections based on traditional, socio-economic and historical themes. Huge exhibitions and fashion shows (e.g. Pakistan Fashion Week) are held across the country providing these designers a wonderful outlet to express and flaunt their creativity. With the dawn of digital era, online shopping has become a trend in Pakistan with people looking to conveniently buy their favorite clothing and fashion items online. All the famous designers have their online stores set up making the digital transactions fast, safe and secure with a guarantee of delivery at your doorstep. Different fashion blogs are featuring designer collections, famous beauty and make-up items. Pakistan’s first fashion news aggregator has also been in operation sharing fashion news from Pakistan and around the globe on a single platform. While this wonderfully evolved fashion environment of a third world country might not be comparable to the vibrancy of the fashion capital of the world, the way it is growing with booming textile industry exporting finished and unfinished garments and fabrics across the globe is definitely something to cherish and look forward to.

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