Are Pakistani women clinically obsessed with clothes?

Published: July 29, 2014
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The women of Pakistan, it seems, have found the reason as to why they were created – they were created to make, buy, sell, maintain, wear, show and love clothes. PHOTO: STOCK

Every evening after iftar they storm the streets in flocks, like contingent troops, with one and only one purpose alone – they want clothes, clothes and more clothes. The women of Pakistan, it seems, have found the reason as to why they were created – they were created to make, buy, sell, maintain, wear, show and love clothes.

And this sad obsession is across the board.

From lower middle income groups to the elite, they spend big chunks of their valuable time in bazaars and malls, and unanimously spend more than they afford. And Eid season sees this obsessive compulsive behaviour at its peak.

But then, can we really blame them?

At every turn of the head are billboards of women; beautiful, stick thin, photo shopped women, wearing dresses to kill.

The biggest viewership of Pakistan’s thriving morning show industry is women. Millions of Pakistani women, every morning, lap up the mostly unintelligent and fake conversations on these shows and take them as gospel truth. They also absorb each and every attitude and trend being presented by the baajis and even the bhaiyyas who are the hosts. Thus, they have started believing in a culture of collective gushing and adulation of people on the basis of what they wear, not who they are.

If they can afford the exact thing the host is wearing (even though hers might is most probably a borrowed dress – one that she will never wear again), they will get it from the same designer. If not, the women will use every ion of creativity God has given them to do jugaar and copy the design, almost flawlessly.

Women from the elite have their own issues. They are also obsessed with clothes. Only, the taste (acquired) and the social circles are different. They will kill themselves over clothes that are original, exclusive, subtle and elegant. They may not be as tacky as others and may look down upon other women, and ridicule their showy dress sense, but eventually they are equally consumed with the idea of the “I am what I wear” syndrome.

The only difference is, the elite do it in more innovative ways. They make politically and socially correct statements with their clothes if they are the activist types and use pure cottons, vegetable dyes and the works. If the social circle involves kitty parties and the trophy wives club, the style changes considerably.

Women see, breathe and dream clothes. It is no wonder then that not only is there a never ending demand for clothes, but also an incessant chain of supply in the form of dress ‘designers’; couture designers who have actually studied the art and also those who become designers by default – because… well it comes naturally to them after thinking about clothes 28 out of 24 hours a day. And then there are those who don’t really design anything but just have a darzi at home in the basement.

The problem is not with clothes. The problem is with the shift in values that is coming with it. Slowly but surely it is becoming such a big priority for women that the way they see themselves and others is changing.

I noticed this the other day when I caught myself not saying “you look very nice in this dress” to a friend, but saying “your dress is very nice”. The person was taken away from my compliment.

All that remained was the dress.

If women start viewing themselves in light of the praise their dresses get, they will continue to be preoccupied with their appearance. And this is an expensive preoccupation as well as time-consuming. I know families where a driver is employed for the sole purpose of taking baaji to Ghousia market, Aashiyana and Raabi Centre.

Wardrobes are so important to females that in order to make unnecessary clothes that will keep hanging in their closets, untouched for a year, they want to earn and for that, voila, they become dress designers.

Being engrossed with clothes to a disturbing extent is an attitude that other women observe. If they cannot afford to do the same, there is an underlying resentment and unhealthy sense of competition in society. The more we raise the bar of our wardrobes, the more the economic disparity in our society.

While dressing well and looking good is actually an admirable thing, anything that crosses limits becomes toxic. Overdoing one thing means you will end up under-doing something equally or more important. The time one could spend reading, doing some form of community service, or spending unhurried moments with one’s family is spent getting exhausted, carrying bags and bags of stitched and unstitched fabric, and still worrying whether everyone will like it or not.

The next time you exhaust yourself over clothes, stop for a minute and think: Is this really worth it?

Women are naturally very good at time-management. And Pakistani women are an amazing potential work force for Pakistan. They are talented, intelligent and hardworking. If the time they put into clothes is utilised for other more productive things, it would make Pakistan a much happier place.

The spirit of Ramazan and then Eidul Fitr is all about taking away materialism from our hearts and reviving a culture of simplicity, giving and sharing.

It may be time to sit back and rethink what Eid is all about.

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz is a writer and editor, and has worked as the Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works in the field of marketing and corporate communications. She loves literature and traveling. She tweets on @FarahnazZahidi. Her work can be seen at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ahmed

    Right you are ….. 100 %Recommend

  • K Alam

    Not only clothes but also with drama’sRecommend

  • ModiFied

    Women in every country are same and love to have as many cloths as possible and Pakistan is no exception.Recommend

  • Alma

    That’s so well said , I am not pakistani girl but I have seen pakistani coulture , every wedding every ocassion they want the best dresses, that cost so much money , thei always want to look good , in fact should only dress up from their husbands and not to show off Infront of others , well said , ramadan is all about giving up these materialistic things , but we find that shopping malls , green street full of girls shopping during fasting , to kill the time , its very sad , its more coultural things , nothing to do with islam , and its islamic country , but sadly not many girls are practising , they into dramas , fashion and lots of backbiting , gossiping , they even backbiting about their own family members , brothers and sisters , best friends , this is my opinion about majority , . I am a revert muslim, from Europe . Recommend

  • Zara

    Sad but true. As so many Pakistani women including degree educated types do not work outside the house…..fashion and TV dramas is all that they show any interest in.
    Many women in the West stay home and start online businesses….Recommend

  • Leila Rage

    While this is true for SOME Pakistani women, it is NOT true for ALL Pakistani women. I think its very derogatory and self righteous to make such a sweeping statement about ALL Pakistani women from ALL socio-economic backgrounds.
    This article is actually only true of women with lots of free time and lots of money to spend.Recommend

  • Syeda KAzmi

    I have serious issues with this title “Pakistani women” being used all the time.. women all over the world are conscious about their clothes… in west if they do not have morning show clothes fever, they have other things like celebrities to follow and go crazy for copying their styles… so its like everywhere…Recommend

  • Ansh

    I would say pakistani girls/women are broad minded than youRecommend

  • Ansh

    Women have very less privilege in our society ind or pak let them no more retrict enjoying their life by their styleRecommend

  • Amrita Yasin

    Very accurate….the other problem is that you really need an iron will not to join the bandwagon…..if God forbid you repeat a jora at any dinner or shaadi be ready to answer questions starting from ‘yeh to wohi purana jora hai na’ and ending with queries on your family’s financesRecommend

  • Rabia

    You’ve taken the words out of my mouth. In this country with all that needs to be done, and even anywhere else, it is an insane obsession with this ‘jora’ and that ‘suit’. It makes me sick. We have to get our priorities right in this as in so many things, or we’ll be stuck in this same situation and go backwards too for ever.Recommend

  • Rabia

    everyone likes to look good, most people love clothes, but there are limitsRecommend

  • Malik Abdul Rehman

    ever since i read your comment i am having acid refluxRecommend

  • Ariba

    First of all ET the picture does not show Pakistani women. Try to look for decent pictures. 2ndly Yes women through media are made to be like this. If they won’t buy then how will industry work?

    I read somewhere that In the end of times women will wear cloths to reveal their body & not to cover body. (Hadith)Recommend

  • s z sheikh

    I do feel women in Pakistan value joras allot. Witness yourself on any middle or upper class occasion..it all about taking and recieving more joras! Our value system is on decline..very materialistic..most women dont want to repeat their clothes..alllll stress is on how you look..no marks for good thoughts and character..living in london from the past 7 years..it is mostly the other way round here!Recommend

  • s z sheikh

    Agreed! I dont know why most mid or upper class women in Pakistan feel derogatory to apply themselves productivly! Yes your husband has to provide for u ‘islamically’ but it wont hurt if such women work.or volunteer for a good cause..put that expensive degree to use!Recommend

  • Ali Hassan

    Heavens forbid if the same article was written by a man. The page would have been full of “feminist” comments by now.Recommend

  • harry

    Pakistani men in their hearts want to see less clothes for women, the less the better, hence they watch Bollywood movies, and when they want more, they look at the net. Pakistani women, on the other hand, want more clothes to cover them up to protect from their men. Just opposite to each other.Recommend

  • harry

    Men and women are wired differently in their brain. Their thinking are poles apart.Recommend

  • Waqar Anwer

    Women love cloths that’s why few website have all branded and unbranded collection in stock and get very good response many women like to buy online they can easily do shopping in pakistan online almari.pk and siop.pk have a very good name in market because they have durable products and they send good quality productsRecommend

  • Taana Baana

    Very beautiful blog about clothes of Pakistani women.Recommend