Fashion and the Summer of its Content

Such is the fate of fashionistas that they must follow. And to follow, they need to keep up lest the trend pass them by. So it is each season, and so it nearly was – but not. The Delhi fashion scene may pretend to be with it during the sponsored fashion weeks, but we know that if anything, Delhi figures on the real fashion map only as the guardian of the traditional. Not orthodox, but the traditional. Fashion is reflected here truly as fusion, where Milanesque elements fuse seamlessly with the mores of Munirka’s back streets. Gasp if you will, for you, surely are not one of those, who follow, are you? You create your own style. If you are one of us, and I count myself amongst them, then rejoice. For fashion wise, this has been the summer of our content.

Delhi has always been at the centre of the fashion routes of the world, even as it stands under-acknowleged for its graceful and pragmatic adaptations – witness the story of the Anarkali, bringing all the graceful elements of the world’s courts into one perfect sweep that survives long past the empires that made it so. Today, borrowing our fashion sense from the summers at Cannes, the ramps at Milan, the exporters from Pakistan, the relatives in London and the commencement parties in Boston, Delhi has always known how to blend with the rest of the world. Listen to it’s accent – but that is for another day. And Delhi has always known to make it uniquely it’s own style with the flowing textiles that have never been in lack here – this is the land when any aunty will promptly tell you a rubia from a two by two with a supercilious air, as she will tell you the difference between a semi pashmina and a ‘real’ pashmina, while flinging the false one pretentiously over her shoulder. We live our comforts, not our delusions.

Like the alignment of the moon years to solar years, sometimes one finds oneself in asynchronous space. The seasons changed and we just missed the straight salwar phase that was big in Lahore last year. But we were not going to actually miss it, were we – how could we – that would be defeat. In any case, it was new here, and oh, so comfortable. Then salwars were so passe – only grand aunts wore them anymore. Churidaars had morphed into skin tight stretchable leggings, often in colours of mud. The battle for the invisible bottoms, as leggings were often called in street shops, was best left to the young ones – the one who did not dare to be seen in a simple frock and needed the pretence of garment. Did I not say the back lanes of Munirka and Subhash Chowk created their own rules? Rules were not being broken but the great Indian patriarchy was brought tantalising, teasingly into a bottomless present. That too entered and remained in the fashion lexicon of this summer. Of course all leggings were not as mud, they entered in a riot of colours, often replacing the salwars of old, pretending to be the trousers denied to many, and sometimes – if rarely- remaining the sports garments that they were in the rest of the world.

In this fusion of past forms transmuting to a desirable future, the last season meeting the anticipation of the next, and the simple pragmatism of materials and forms that work in the severity of the summer, Delhi’s fashion finally found freedom. Or – indulge me here – the degrees of freedom rose with the degrees on the city’s temperature. It was hot and dry, unprecedentedly so. There was no point to make up, it was too hot. What was the point of being a follower of other styles – it was too hot. Can we please just breathe – it is too hot. The fashion gods who hold us to the mode smiled. And so we have the summer of the medley.

Delhi has erupted in a gorgeous festival of shapes and colours, the only common theme being a delightful, mature and self confident comfortable elegance. Cotton shararas mingle with printed trousers as comfortably as long ghararas, or even divided ghaghras co-exist comfortably with stitched lungi patialas (or whatever those wretched beasts are called). We never saw the cullotes really disappear, but their gentle swing could be seen in the streets along with the more formal – pant like pajama. (Call it what you will, the salwar sans its pauncha is a pajama. And it is perfect). Everything worked, this summer – and there was a riot of shapes. Anything one wore was ‘in’ at the moment. The fashion motto of the season seemed to be, ‘whatever works’.

Joining in were the kurtas and kurtis of the world, starting with the extra long anarkalis, the ones that often looked like prom dresses even without the prim tights peeking out at the ankles. They thankfully gave way to the clean lines of muslin long kurtas, cut straight over the flare of the cotton shararas. Happy to defer to the lead provided by ‘lowers’ (oh yes, Delhi has the least elegant of names for a city this well dressed), the uppers were crafted with an unerring sense of proportion. And so we saw the season bloom with a variegation that had rarely come to pass – the longs, the less than longs and the short joined with the I lines and the A lines, possibly meeting other letters of the alphabet in their quest for the look. Silhouettes that had rarely met each other in a single season were co-mingling shamelessly under the severe sun in Delhi.

And so it came to pass – that we – who seek style but not fashion, who aim to be distinct and yet a la modè, found that our season had come. We were the mode, since everyone seemed to have discovered their own style too, regardless of what the influencers told them. It may not last, so for a moment, let us celebrate this summer that brought us to ourselves and our sartorial sentience.