Some of you may have read my previous article, and perhaps are well aware of my extreme dislike of leggings. Of course, though there were few dissenting voices in the comment pages, there are people who disagree. To paraphrase a dear friend and violent critic, I was wrong to think that people dressed without thought.
This is what I don't understand by Malingering
‘People actually do think when they dress,’ she argued. Fashion did not rely on what the wearer was thinking when he/she bought said piece of clothing, but instead what value they placed on it once they put it on their selves.
A pair of leggings may look perfect on a model on a runway, but those characteristics the leggings embody are values that the designer and the model placed on it. The value they placed on it is what we – the common people who drool over the runway stills – call ‘fashion’.
Problem is, we expect those same attributes to magically transform us once we put them on. We copy these styles and trends in hopes that they will make us attractive, and pretty, and confident, whereas it actually works the other way around. Fashion as self-expression then gives way to clothes being expected to express who we are.
It’s the same in the way we treat our traditional clothes. We’ve projected on our baju kurungs, baju melayu, sarees, dhotis, cheongsams and samfoos the same values that foreigners see in them: as exotic, formal clothing, only meant for special events and for that token expression of national/cultural pride. It’s as though we’re viewing these symbols of our culture as ‘the Other’ – as though they don’t belong to us, and that we merely borrow them.
So who do we blame for this internal westernisation that’s happened to our generation? The media? MTV? Project Runaway? Tim Gunn, the style guru in Runway? (No, not Tim Gunn! He’s so awe-tastic!)
It’s a sad side effect of globalization, unfortunately. It’s prevalent worldwide, as the world comes closer and closer together, and power politics come into play and dictate what we see as ‘normal’ and ‘everyday’.
simplicity cheongsam 1447 by carbonatedWhat we can do is to downplay this alienation of our culture. We can stop viewing our traditions only via National Geographic documentaries and our fashion only through Zang Toi’s reinterpretations. Let’s start wearing our clothes like they are ours – own them, and not just on special occasions. Yes, even in a foreign land like Melbourne. In fact, Melbourne with it’s eclectic fashion sense will even embrace your culture and it’s traditional dress. I’ve found there’s no other place where wearing the baju kurung has felt more natural.
This business of wearing ‘traditional wear’ to class and to work may seem passé to your fellow countrymen, but stuff them. Fashion is about our values, on our selves.