By Nidhi Sinha:
One would be meagrely surprised to see a young girl, hysterical with impatience laying her hands on her favourite monthly fashion magazine and gawking at it most anticipatively. A stupendously seductive cover, a celebrity hook embellished to perfection and luminous captions screaming ‘your quick guide to power dressing’ are reasons enough to bedazzle a beholder and generate that kind of half-frenzied, half-titillated response. A lifestyle staple for many, magazines like Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Femina are increasingly finding their way into the urban middle class milieu after having procured a constant readership of the elites and the fashion aficionados. The issue at hand however is, is whether the fascination with these magazines engenders a sense of ‘unbelonging’, of not being able to keep with the deluge of fashion labels or is it just an ephemeral longing and need not make one feel ‘left out’? The periodicals per se are not overly priced and conveniently purchasable, but as one flips through the pages, one is whirled into a world that is inhabited by the likes of Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga, Valentino and shuts its doors on anything that isn’t ‘haute couture’. Bam! Galling as it may be, your voyage to the Paris Fashion Week ends here.
An average middle class female reader would dread the dazzling million dollar Cartier and would only be further appalled by the exquisite yet unreachably expensive items that are hurled her way. Surely, she cannot transmit the grandeur she sees into her real life and prance around in her best bib and tucker at all times. Some may also complain about not having an ‘eventful’ life, a wardrobe loaded with endless clothes and a separate chiffonier for Jimmy Choo’s like the one possessed by the cover girl. But doesn’t one experience the same sense of wishfulness after say, a larger than life Karan Johar movie where even the poorest of characters are fashionably clad. You realize how ordinary your life is as compared to the terrifically opulent mode de vie of celebrities and characters. The top notch fashion magazines open up to the reader a universe of impeccable tailoring, fine designs, intricate embroidery, flawless tatting and concomitantly run the risk of being called ‘elitist’. This bias towards high end fashion labels disseminates the idea that fashion equals splurging truck loads of money or you’re not ‘in vogue’. However, this is not what the magazines aim at. Their job is to represent the fashion industry (both international and national) in all earnestness, reflect on the changing facets of fashion and needless to add, keep its readers abreast of what’s ‘a la mode’. Ergo, I return to the abruptly terminated sojourn at the Paris Fashion Week.
One may argue as to why the voyage cannot go on and pleasure be derived vicariously? After all, this is how one knows what’s in this season. Grace Coddington, Creative Director for U.S. Vogue, has admitted to having waited anxiously every month for the arrival of the Vogue magazine, which used to be at least three months outdated as she lived on the island of Anglesey, far removed from the fashion world. She grew up devouring this magazine which was “so entirely out of context compared to the lifestyle that (she) led”, and that is why all the more fascinating for a teenage girl hopelessly enamoured with fashion. Many such Grace Coddingtons savour their bit of Chanel only through these magazines and dream to own it someday. But for some, it only remains an inaccessible, unattainable luxury brand that has nothing to do with their quotidian life and will make flashes of its ubiquity felt, just that on somebody else’s body and not theirs. And this is why, fashion magazines need to pander to every girl’s needs and tastes making sure the readers relate to the content. This does not in any way mean that ‘haute couture’ needs to be doffed; it only means that street fashion needs to be given as much importance as any other Fashion House. The so called ‘ordinary’ dips into the recesses of ennui and increases manifold our fascination with the uber-stylish, glamorous world of these magazines. But maybe it is time that the ordinary was revived and given its rightful position, because it is you and me who are a part of this underrated ordinary, and not the glitterati.
[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]The author would like to thank her friend Sahira without whom this piece would not have been possible.[/box]