Fashion is a major aspect of an individual’s personality. One can use their outward appearance to express oneself, for example darker shades for when they feel gloomy and lighter shades for when they feel cheerful. Although, for some individuals, how they dress might not be a big deal, but for others it is an art form. Whether they prioritize comfortable over gaudy, or modest over bold, one can be fashionable while still staying true to their style. This is seen among university students in Dhaka, where they have more freedom to dress how they want.
A beautiful thing about fashion or individual style is, that there is no right or wrong. After speaking to a number of people, each has defined their styles in their own unique way. Neelmoni, a student from BRAC University, prefers to wear light and casual clothes in the hot and humid climate of Dhaka. A simple T-shirt and jeans allows her to look chic while also being able to more freely and feel the occasional summer breeze on her skin. She finds that cheaper alternatives best suit her needs, as places like New Market offer an immense variety of collections. Even though these places do not have the best environment, they still provide the satisfaction of coming home and going through your haul of interesting finds that would probably not be available elsewhere. On the other hand, for some individuals, every occasion is an opportunity to dress their best. Another university student, Alif, says that it is important for him to portray who he is through what he wears, whether it is a casual meet-up with friends or an important event. Even those who wear religious head scarves willingly still partake in dressing fashionably. The head scarf is not seen as a restriction, but rather as a part of their wardrobe. The different ways it is worn also becomes unique to each individual and their style. These individuals have very distinct tastes but are comfortable in what they wear and allow their wardrobe to be defined by who they are.
However, personal style can also be developed from taking inspiration from elsewhere. There are numerous places to draw fashion or style inspirations from, starting from social media to one’s surroundings. The way Tahmid, a student from AIUB, puts it is that his clothes give an idea of his room. He likes his room to be light and clean so his wardrobe inspires many pastel pieces with clean designs. Celebrities are also a major influence in how we wear our clothes. So, for Alif, his fashion inspiration comes from his favourite musicians. Lately, most people’s style is inspired by Korean and Japanese trends due to a rise in these country’s media in Bangladesh. Similarly, many trends from past decades such as the 90s, 80s and even 70s have been adopted by people’s wardrobes today. Flared jeans and bell bottom sleeves, bandanas and scrunchies, are all part of current trends. These trends are constantly changing each year, and due to the lack of movement in recent times, university students are not able to showcase their recent wardrobes properly. Previously when each day on campus would have been an opportunity to dress up, it is now replaced by the occasional gathering of friends.
In a myriad of Western cultures being adopted as our own, our traditional aesthetics are not forgotten. A mother’s or grandmother’s closet allows one to peak into the trends and styles of previous generations. Even though Western clothes are much less of a hassle, women still savours the occasions they can go out in their favourite sari. Wearing their mother’s sari makes the occasion feel that much more special, as she hastens to grab as many safety pins and make the perfect pleats. Men also reserve their panjabis for special events and holidays, as less and less people are seen including it in their streetwear. The rarity of cultural garments being worn everyday might be a good thing in some perspectives. During Bengali holidays, such as Noboborsho and Basanta Utsav, vibrant colours were seen on campus as everyone was draped in their most colourful saris and panjabis. Our traditional attire portrays a timeless elegance, where a casual jeans clad individual is suddenly transformed into something more divine.
On the contrary, living in a conservative environment does pose some restrictions on fashion. Some individuals might be comfortable in clothing that shows slightly more skin than usual, however parents are not usually comfortable with it. This might come from the parent’s religious beliefs or their general concern for their child’s safety. An unfortunate but very real situation is that it may be dangerous to dress a certain way in certain places because of all the unwanted glances. Neelmoni overcomes this issue by draping a scarf over her and taking it off when she finds herself in a safer area. Therefore, the restrictions parents impose on their children concerning their clothing creates a divide between some individuals and their parents, but it is important to know that they are only worried and want their children to be safe. Even so, people do not find comfort in what they want to wear because of genders assigned to clothes and colours. Men wearing pink are considered ‘girly’ or if they want to wear accessories, it is considered inappropriate and indecent. We should try to lift the genders that we have assigned to pieces of clothing so that fashion can be inclusive to everyone, no matter who they are and what they want to wear.
Everyone should be allowed to have the freedom to express themselves however they want through their clothes, even if it means breaking gender boundaries. Experimenting and trying different aesthetics empowers one to find the style they would be most comfortable in. From the dark grunge aesthetic to the light and floral ‘cottagecore’ aesthetic, people have been trying out different trends and changing their style accordingly. When the city goes back to normalcy, they will hopefully once again be able to showcase their wardrobe on a daily basis.
Author Tasnia Naureen
Photo: Tahmid Islam