-My aunt had once told me, “never wear stripes with checks.”
In this picture, I am standing bare footed on a chipped wooden surface trying to pull up the zipper on my yellow frill skirt. My reflection can be seen in the background; there are clothes strewn about all over the floor along with sneakers and heels with its other half missing and there beside my twin (reflection) is a messy wardrobe.
Ever since I can remember I have always been fascinated by how the idea of fashion works, how everything has a rule, for example how patterns should never be worn with patterns and again how there are rules that contradict the rules before. My aunt would pass on her wisdom on fashion often; in fact, she was the one who told me never to wear stripes with checks, she would point out my flaws almost every time. It is solely because of her that today I know the ethics of Styling. I would look into her wardrobe and awe at it; she would have her clothes neatly folded. She would have her leather, boyfriend denim jackets, blazers and overcoats hung on the left side of her wardrobe and on the right, there were four compartments. The top shelf was for jeans, she had many that came with all shapes and colors: straight cut, boot legged, Amitabh Bacchan cut, high waist, low waist, boyfriend and moms too. The second shelf was for halters and string-lets (camisoles); there was one light brown and nude tiger halter that she had, and I was in love with that halter neck, I remember trying it on one time and getting whacked for it a bit later. The third shelf was for Tees, there was a thing for tight Tees back then, which has come back to fashion today. The last shelf was for belts and scarfs. Her scarf collection was pretty impressive now that I think about it, she had one of every color. I would pray for my body to grow bigger so that I could try on her clothes and shoes and pretend as if I was going to a movie with my friends.
The other person who has influenced me a lot is my hoarder mother. She still stacks her old outfits in several wardrobes which no one was and is ever allowed to open; I remember she would shop for both western and ethnic attires at one go. Now that I think about it, she is a true shopaholic. She has different wardrobes for different styles. One for Sarees only, one for Kurtas only, one for nothing but western and has recently gotten pipe lines cut through the ceiling which are brought down by wires to hand her gazillion overcoats. She would often say, “Fashion revolves, don’t throw that away.”
Fashion has always played an integral part in my life in identifying my personality and also at many times, my mood. It gives me the freedom to explore my inner self and a sense of excitement that one can relate with something they truly love. When I look at this picture I can still feel the frustration of not being able to the get the zip undone.
My wardrobe comprises of garments as old as I am still neatly pressed and brand new. Since I followed the footsteps of my shopaholic mother and aunt I tend go back and forth between the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s ethnics; half of my wardrobe has all my favorite garments folded and hung on hangers whereas the other half just crumbled up in a bunch. I don’t throw them away though, never, the guilt of no knowing when I will be needing them would kill me.
Back in the 80’s clothes seen and worn in TV was impossible for anyone to get their hands on, it was the time when hippie fashion had made a huge impact on people in Sikkim. The only way they could wear the clothes was to get it tailor made. There was a different charm to fashion then I feel, people would have to wait for days to get a piece made and the fact that it was tailor made, everybody had a unique twist to their attire. Some dresses of the same material and same color would have puffed shoulder, some with sharp shoulder blades, some with a low cut whereas some wit Chinese collar, it really was one’s own design back then. Today we are used to the fast moving industry and getting things in a blink of an eye and getting them all at once, at the same time.
Today people from northeast India get exposed to not only European but also the South-Eastern fashion industry such as Korea, Japan and China and therefore most of them have a sense of infused fashion styles; where I come from, big malls and high end stores that we find in cities have still not been established and for the stores that are there, they follow the latter sense of fashion trend and also almost all showers import clothes from places such as Thailand, China and Korea.
Every time I went shopping back home, it would either be from this store called Zipper or Closet and the first thing that I would look for were jeans. It was and still is very hard for me to find the right size. Asian made jeans are either too small to too tight for me, if the waist fits the length is too small, if the length fits the waist is too big. It has become a mission for me to find a perfect pair of jeans in Sikkim. The other thing that my eyes goes to are jackets. Since I come from a cold place, I guess it is but natural to want jackets and so I would go through the racks for a worthy jacket that does justice to me. Before I would choose random clothes without paying any attention to the size and the quality; the trial room in these stores were always too small and so trying was always a pain in the ass. After having struggled to try 20 garments it would either come down to one or nothing. There was even a time when I hated shopping solely because of this reason. Today however things have changed, I feel like I have matured in the way. I choose the garments and decide which one is fit and okay for me to try on, I also color co ordinate the garments that I choose, the other thing that I do is pair and make a set, I feel this makes it very easy when it comes down to comparing one from another and decided on what to buy.
When I first came to the big city I was surprised to see how diverse the industry really is, maybe it was because of the cultural difference that the people from northeast and the majority of India have; traditional or ethnic dresses such as Kurta and sarees are hardly ever worn as casuals in Sikkim, Darjeeling and else where, (well apart from the old people). It was a liberating moment when I finally came to understand how untrue this notion was and I feel that I speak for most people when I say this but when you come form a small city or a state and you gain access to stores like Zara, Marks & Spencer, Mango etc. Especially at an early age, control over your wallet becomes hard and I mean like ‘I am ready to tear it open and even sell its pieces to shop’ hard. Now this might just be another confession of a shopaholic but the amount of shopping I did back then and still do makes no sense at all because half of the brand new items goes into what I call the future wardrobe-
A future wardrobe is a wardrobe that you invent to stock garments that are either smaller or larger than you really are; it is preparing yourself for ‘what could go wrong or what could go right,’ also when you can’t find your right size, you predict your future body size and still end up buying it thinking maybe you will either loose weight or gain weight and wear it then.
When I started exploring western brands more I found out that the material of their garment was better then that from the stores I would shop form back at home and the price range was also very similar. The good part was that I knew then, what good quality material was and the bad part being that I couldn’t refrain myself from shopping. Most garments that I shop for back home can be found in Tibet Malls in Bangalore.
When I was still in Sikkim I wouldn’t dare buy anything worth more than a grand. The most expensive thing that I owned were my pair of classic adidas, which I still have till date. I was quite a good saver of money back then and so I had saved quite a large sum before joining college. When I came to Bangalore however, I finished it all in 6 months. The reason being that I shopped like a mad cow from Koramangala who for the first time in her life, discovered green pastures. I would buy worthless and useless things without giving it a second thought and in the end wouldn’t even wear them. They still must be lying around somewhere at home.
After realizing that my expenditure was going out of control, I decided to cut down on binge shopping and decided to shop wisely. So today my trick is to shop during sales online and in retail stores. The method is still the same where I choose matching outfits and compare them to others and also I look for things that I really need instead of things that I want. I choose to buy from stores such as Zara, Forever 21 and H&M because they have a wide range of clothes offered at reasonable prices, which goes up for discount during season sales. So if an entire set would usually cost me Rs.10,000, I make sure that I get it for at least Rs. 5,000. This is also applicable for shoes and accessories.
The other thing that I do when it comes to shopping is go on a little spree to wholesale stores like Viva Mall and Raheja Arcade and area like Commercial Street and Shivajinagar. Here, I can get garments for as cheap as 50 buck.
What really surprised me in Bangalore was the influence of Northeast Fashion or rather South Eastern Fashion over the rest of India. Flamboyant, Fashionable and Flashy as many would call it; City folks found the overly flowing flare pants, studded jackets, Poncho shirts and Midi Skirts fascinating and would often ask me where I got them from. Since there are many Tibetans living in Bangalore, I feel that they also have a big hand in introducing South Eastern Fashion to Bangaloreans.
Fashion today has made a whole new turn, I can still hear my mother’s voice as now I have realized that fashion really is revolving! and not just from the 60’s and 70’s but also mainly from the 80’s to 2000’s, which is a great thing for me as I can now dig into her forbidden wardrobes.
The colours, the material, the pattern and the styles, everything about it is wonderful to me. The details given above are but a mere definition of how a shopaholic looks into matters from a materialistic point of view. The materials however do not have to be of a high store brand, even road side sells and factory outlets does the deed of satisfying a shopaholic, because as I always say, “Timing and patience is crucial. The more you get with less the better.”