Is it just me or does local off-the-rack fashion appear to be more cookie-cutter than ever? On the lookout for an Eid-appropriate outfit recently, I expected to enjoy browsing through the racks featuring the usual array of namesake labels, from trained professional designers to bored housewives. Instead, the general search was nothing short of a frustrating nightmare; hideously large crystals on chikan, animal prints with fussy aunty-style details, and radiant colours made mundane with maternity cuts.
Now, people pay tens (or hundreds) of thousands to look like sparkly gift-boxes on certain occasions, (and I’ve voluntarily done it, too) but I honestly couldn’t stomach it this time round. It seems that a reasonably chic outfit with clean lines and a flattering cut is too much to ask for at many of the boutiques and exhibitions this Ramzan. I’m thoroughly sick of over-the-top embroidery and sweeping shirts that do the work of jharoos (broomsticks) when you walk (not to mention stumbling up and down the stairs; who wants to stride around with a wedding train in the daytime?).
Retail therapy, make way for retail frustration. Here’s why:
Boxy cuts galore: They say the camera adds 15 lbs, but that’s nothing compared to the bulk-enhancing cuts that seem to be doing very well, judging from their mass production.
Discrepancies in sizes:
No, it’s not your imagination. The reason you may be a size XS according to one designer label
’s sizing and equivalent to an XL at another designer’s boutique is because our fashion designers pretty much use their own selves (or their best gal pals in the case of male designers), however irregular their body types are, to base their sizes. It’s frankly easier to try on clothes designed by someone similar to your body type; petite, Amazonian, lollipop, beanpole, pear-shaped, apple-shaped all apply in this regard.
Taking separates to a whole other level: While I’m a big fan of buying separates, the concept seems to somehow mean selling a completely sheer kurta without an accompanying camisole at the price of an entire outfit. It’s a pain trying to match what to wear underneath. And if it has slits, it’s double the bother avoiding the peekaboo aspect. You just end up feeling hot and uncomfortable with all the layering. Why bother?
Pray for better pret: Disappointing cheaper designer
lines may sometimes feature inferior quality and styles, a far cry from their six-digit couture namesakes.
Ultra-prudish schoolmarm styles: Unnecessarily high necklines and itching-ly long sleeves increase one’s suffering in the sweltering heat. Beware when buying so-called ‘sleeveless’ shirts too—some of them have such small, pseudo-conservative armholes that they dig into your underarms.
Unrealistically slinky daytime styles: Seriously, isn’t half the reason you’re buying a kameez so that you can wear it generally anywhere without worrying about flashing too much skin? While it may look cute in a magazine or on the runway, sexily strappy, halter-style and cleavage-popping cotton kameezes are pretty ridiculous for daytime wear and a bizarre no-no for eveningwear where you’d rather dress in something edgier. Confused ‘fusion!’
Horrendous crystallized logos:
There is no logic to this absolutely cringe-worthy practice of garishly sparkly
international designer logos embroidered on the bodices of local ‘designer’ kameezes
. Spotted: intertwined Chanel-style Cs in Islamabad and LVs in Karachi…ugh! Seriously, what were they thinking?
Familiar market prints and strips of embroidery: When a price tag’s hefty, why would you want to buy an outfit using material commonly sourced from an ordinary market? Not to mention strips of embroidery available at commercial button and ribbon shops, pretty much just stitched on? Even truck-arty and pop-arty styles start looking monotonous after a while because of their incessant appearance in print, broadcast and digital media.
Lipstick and foundation smudges: Just when you find an outfit that’s seriously pretty, only to notice residual makeup and whiffs of perfume smeared on its neckline, one can’t help but wonder if it’s from the person who tried it on before you or if it’s straight off the sweaty runway (nasty!).
Power failures and loud generators: Shopping is supposed to be a pleasurable experience where your senses are heightened by upbeat music and a comfortable temperature, prompting you to spend more money. Generators, or a lack thereof, accompanied by bad or no music are the perfect combination to help kill the mood.
So if you’re wondering if I ended up finding anything, I’m relieved to tell you that I did. I bought the first overpriced outfit I saw with a neckline generous enough to exhale out of, without an iota of embroidery, and with a cut that didn’t require the quantity of material used to make curtains. Don’t even get me started on the unnecessarily ugly, overpriced Eid shopping for kids this season (at least in Islamabad). Have a good one.
Read more by Laaleen here or follow her on Twitter @laaleen
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.