by Tara* Kaushal
The clothes, models and visual imagery standards set by the fashion industry leave women across the world to balance complex dynamics in their personal style choices. Conceptual image by Sahil Mane Photography.
That clothes and, by extension, fashion, are a feminist, gender, class, financial, social, political, psychological, cultural, historical, ageist, religious, lookist, etc. issue is a given. Our ability and reasons to wear, or not, the clothes we do is charged with individual choice rooted in environmental dynamics, and is remarkably telling of our who, what, where, when and why. Though Abraham Maslow does refer to “differences in style of hair-dress, clothes” in his important hierarchy of needs theory as “superficial differences in specific desires from one culture to another”, clothes themselves would probably rate from basic needs all the way up the pyramid to self-actualization.
So I start with a few caveats: I'm not talking about the sartorial ‘choices' of women living in places of the world where religion and/or laws determine what to wear—the burka is beyond the scope of this column. I talk of socio-cultural environments where people can wear what they choose for the most part, despite traditionalists expressing varying degrees of disapproval, though even here I leave out those who, in Maslow's words, “live by bread alone”.
My premise is that this demographic of people the world over taps in to and is influenced by global fashion culture rooted in Western styles in various ways and degrees, consciously or sub—either directly on the internet or through more traditional media feeding off the internet, either fresh off the international runways or through its influence on their country's own fashion convention. And these Western styles continue to incorporate global influences, making for a hotbed dynamic with exponential possibilities.