Fashion choices: hypocrisy or identity? | Sunday Observer

Fashion choices: hypocrisy or identity?

Walking along the city and her vibrant malls the human eye is assaulted with a myriad of fashion. It is nice to see young people attired in clothing that hopefully displays choice. You can see many manifestations of dressing- psychedelic rockers sporting Viking like hair and forearms covered in tattoos, girls in jeggings that accentuate thunder thighs, office women in silk blouses drawing attention to their cleavage supplemented by Gothic black lipstick, university students in T- shirts with radical quotes and top executives who take pride in their imported shoes. We are an island democracy and we enjoy the right to dress, so what’s the big deal dude?

Well the reality is not everyone is truly comfortable in their clothes. I am not referring to cotton, polyester or synthetic silk here. Today in attempting to keep up with others, many young people are not portraying their real personality- their dressing choice is not a revelation of their inner self. I have made this prudent observation after covering many cocktails and fashion shows with my colleague and veteran fashion photographer Vipula Amarasinghe. Fashion is a creative art and we have some of the best award winning designers in the industry. The problem is that an entire generation is in transition, not with style related issues but with issues of self- realisation and confidence, or the lack of it that influences their clothing choice.

Development of any sort takes time. Growth is a consistent process. The problem in Sri Lanka over the past few years is a sudden surge to embrace foreign induced fashion which has not been understood by young people. The truth is that teenagers who grew up eating green gram are now using Instagram. Facebook is the platform for youth who never read a good English book. There is an unending frensied rush for acceptance. Every young woman dosen't have to be Kylie Jenner or Nicki Minaj- but that is the Sri Lankan issue with distorted identity, which is a byproduct of ignorance and low self esteem - that manifests in dressing choice. Let’s take the classic example of a young woman from the rustic village coming for degree level studies in Colombo. This rural youth has led a life of serenity and is suddenly thrust with the great psychological crisis of being “cool and chick’. She has to quickly master the art of increasing the allure of her legs and make her breasts appealing- in addition to being able to digest fast food. Aiyo poor Amali nanga is now confronted with a fashion dilemma reaching levels of neurotic stress. Two months in the city has rewarded her with a boyfriend who insists that she comes to the Mount Lavinia beach in denim shorts, as her photos would hopefully elevate his insecure Instagram status. Six months into Colombo life Amali has changed her name to Amy, got a green butterfly tattooed around her hip and is a Colombo endorsed cool chick. Her next weekend is spent at Hikkaduwa where she is seen wearing a floral bikini. Meanwhile her pious mother is chanting incantations and religious blessings in the village. I am not cynical this is reality for hundreds of young Sri Lankans. There are loads of guys who also dress under induced stress!

Clothes are designed for comfort and modesty. I have lived in America for three years and one thing I noticed is that people display genuine personality and wear clothing that truly enhances their beliefs. I’ve met professors who had tattoos and rode Harley Davidson bikes but they were proud of it. I was often entertained by young Sri Lankans I saw in places like the J.C. Penny store. As I passed by I heard them talking in Sinhalese and Tamil to the blonde American saleslady at the branded lingerie section!

Wearing designer brands doesn’t make you refined gentlemen; you must augment your life with the right attitude and behaviour. Yet I have seen young men dressed in these premium brands not knowing which elevator to take at the World Trade Centre in Fort. Wearing Gilly Hicks or Aimee Cherie will not transform your mind and make you a refined lady. I saw a young man sporting a premium brand wristwatch talking in filth like a agitated gorilla to the poor parking warden on Marine Drive.

A few months ago I was at a resort hotel, and noticed a bevy of girls splashing in the swimming pool. There swim suits had been deliberately altered to attract second glances- even the crows stopped and looked. Belly buttons had been pierced to precision. Instagram photos were uploading with delightful momentum. However during the lunch buffet the movement of their cutlery sounded like a Chinese orchestra, much to the dismay of the Chefs.

During December Vipula and I were at a fashion show when a young woman dressed in a tight nine inch skirt asked the waiter for a glass of Rita (the actual cocktail being a Margarita). The poor waiter went off looking for a burgher girl. Rolling on the floor and laughing!!!

This is a democracy and you can wear anything. Take a few minutes and search your inner conscience, whom are you trying to impress? Just because a model looks hot and elegant in a magazine dosent mean you will look the same. The most expensive perfume can’t mask your ignorance. This is not about culture. You can’t buy classy distinction. That is a process. Clothing is a reflection of your beliefs and strengths. The best aura comes from a confident mind.

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