Clad in tight black jeans and a short-sleeved denim jacket over a checkered shirt, Sangeeta Lama, 29, a banker by profession, scurries through the stores at Civil Mall in Sundhara, Kathmandu. She has 30 minutes left of her lunch break on a busy weekday, and she’s on a mission: to find a short beige-colored dress with see-through material on the sleeves, and a slim belt to cinch the waist. None of the other gorgeous dresses on display catch her fancy.
Why such particularities about a dress, one might wonder, when there’s a wide variety to choose from with stores boasting of chic new arrivals now that summer is here. But Sangeeta will give you a seemingly valid reason for all the fuss. She was watching a movie where the actress was dressed in similar attire.
“She looked absolutely splendid. I haven’t seen a more beautiful dress and I’m looking for something like it,” says Sangeeta as she rushes about from store to store describing the dress to salesgirls who helplessly try to provide an alternative.
But Sangeeta refuses to budge and keeps hunting till there are five minutes left of her lunch hour. As she heads back to work, she looks dejected and quickly vows to find the right kind of material and get it custom-made.
“It’ll be quite a bit of work, but at least I’ll have the dress I want,” she says as she quickly picks up a light sweater that resembles something she’s once again seen an Indian actress sport on a magazine cover.
It’s not unusual for people to want to emulate actors they see on the screen, be it taking up smoking, drinking or wanting to dress alike. Especially, the fashion trend that seems to be doing rounds largely depends on what’s seen in the movies and television. It’s also not uncommon for women to don items once or twice before discarding them for something new they come across onscreen.
A fashion trend can emerge from just about anywhere, be it a pop culture song or a photo spread in a magazine. So it´s no surprise that every year there seem to be a few movies and television serials that have huge impacts on the way we dress.
Niharika Thapa, 25, a fresh college graduate, admits to being influenced by Hindi cinema. So much so that she sometimes has her friends in Delhi courier shoes and dresses over to her. She mentions that it’s easier to find items with close resemblance to the ones shown in movies in India, which is why she solicits help from her friends.
“Instead of scouring the stores around the capital trying to find a particular item, I just google a picture of what I want and email it to my friends who find something similar and ship it back to me,” she says with a content smile.
Fashion is a form of personal expression, a display of concept and creativity. But when people start copying what they see, instead of going by personal preferences, fashion gets limited to trend. What’s ridiculous and a bit scary, actually, is the fact that every person looks like a replica of someone else, maybe even a handful of other people. The fashion trend, it seems, has molded us into a big clay pot – all monotone, all the same.
While one might assume that women are more prone to fall into traps of blindly emulating what they see, men too don’t seem to lag that far behind on the issue.
Nitesh Khadka, 26, a computer engineer, admits that his fashion sense largely stems from leafing through magazines and watching movies and finding out what famous actors are currently wearing.
“The look I’m sporting now is inspired by a Hollywood actor. He was dressed in a similar manner in one of his movies,” says Nitesh a little abashedly.
Actors inspire new trends with their onscreen attires. It’s always been the case. Over the years, the silver screen has inspired a number of fashion trends. The past few years have witnessed major changes with fashion evolving with seasonal “must-haves.” To cater for this demand, stores are constantly crammed with affordable apparels that are watered-down versions of designer wears. Hundreds of stores are filled to the brim with similar stuffs in different colors with slight design variations.
Nina Shakya, a clothing store owner at New Road, says that fashion comes in bouts, and very frequently, shoppers come looking for items they’ve seen someone wearing in a movie.
“Almost every time there’s a new movie in town, the fashion trends change. First, there was tight t-shirts with baggy pants after an actress was seen sporting that look quite often in movies. Then there was workhouse garb wear which is semi baggy pants with rolled up shirtsleeves,” says Nina, stressing on the fact that the trends keep changing with every other movie or television serial.
“Quite recently, a certain kind of sari was a rage among young women after the protagonist of a very popular TV serial was seen wearing it. But that sari was popular for six months or so only,” she says, mentioning that people’s fascination with what they see on screen is appalling but it’s what retailers like her cash in on.
“We know certain items will be on demand and people will be willing to pay extra for it just because they want it badly after seeing it on someone they admire. So we stock those pieces and hike up the prices. Every clothing store owner does that,” says Subodh Rai, Nina’s shop assistant, adding that because of the trend of copying what one sees in movies and TV, every second person you see on the road looks like someone else you’ve just passed.
Being influenced by media and celebrities, it seems like most people have forgotten their own sense of style. By letting their personal looks be conjured by complete strangers, individualism has been lost.
What’s important to understand is that we all have a unique sense of fashion. Most people believe that fashion is “the current style” which is determined by the most popular actor or movie. Unfortunately, when that happens, people blend together into one mass of the same thing.
While it’s not necessary to bind yourself to the conventional style of clothing, heavily relying on media sources like TV and celebrity magazines for updated fashion trends can be a bigger blunder. The unrealistic expectation that we can be perfect and are willing to copy anything blindly to be that perfect person will leave us chasing shadows.