The Pandemic Wears Fashion- I

 There was a time when being caught in their night clothes was a fashion fan’s worst nightmare. Today, with comfort as the uncrowned king of the fashion world, the story has been completely rewritten in the post pandemic world. Shailaza Singh explores the new trends.

For the last two years, that she has been home, my teenaged daughter has been quite diligent about attending her school online. Every morning, she takes a bath, gets dressed and sits down for her classes. During the class, she has no qualms about getting up to get another book or something else required in that session! I have been wondering about this catastrophic change because as far as I can remember when she used to go to school, it took a lot of cajoling and sometimes even yelling to wake her up. She would then get up with a scowl that rivalled a grizzly bear! It was only after she sat in her bus and waved me a goodbye, I would heave a sigh of relief. When I delved into the matter, I realized that my daughter has been happily attending the online school not because the teachers had metamorphosized into angels overnight or she had become as intelligent as Einstein! It was simply because instead of her school uniform, she could don her choicest outfit, wear a matching lip balm and matching nail polish every day with the teacher having no idea about the little fashionista!

While the lockdown may have liberated my daughter and her friends from their dreaded uniforms and transformed them into some divas of sorts, I have been experiencing a different reality. My jeans, trousers and all those pieces that have legs have been craving to get out of that dark closet. Every time I open my almirah, I hear their groans and pleas and prefer to don a t-shirt and pyjama. After countless arguments with my daughter who believes in dressing for style rather than comfort,  I decided reach out to the who’s who of the fashion world to know if style really matters in the post pandemic world!

Comfortably Yours

Sunil Sethi is perhaps one of the most respected names in the fashion world today. He is also the chairman of FDCI (Fashion Design Council of India), the organization with 400 plus fashion designers which is also the main organizer of the annual India Fashion Week. When I asked him about his views on the post pandemic fashion, all he talked about was comfort!

“Of course, the emphasis is now on comfort,” he said. “People are no longer interested in looking good but feeling miserable inside in a tight-fitting dress. If there is one thing that the pandemic has taught everybody is the importance of life and being themselves.”

Now, my curiosity was piqued! Has the pandemic been able to help people breakaway from the madness of that constant rat race to look good? Veteran fashion designer Raghavendra Rathore who originally hails from Jodhpur and has dressed the crème-de-crème of the fashion world says, “People still want to look good, however, now it is more about comfort.  Comfort clothes have always been there in the people’s wardrobe but now they are appearing at different points in time. For example, someone on zoom may wear loose pyjamas with a shirt on top.”

 Pallavi, a Jaipur based designer  who has styled many celebrities and is the owner of “Pallavi Jaipur” label believes that comfort with style is the new mantra. She says, “People are looking for comfort along with style. So, there has been shift in silhouette patterns. It may not be as fancy or as sharp as earlier. In the new normal, really well fitted clothes are passe and this trend of very fitted and structured clothes or making a strong statement have taken a backseat for now.”

Swati Vijaivargie, another well-known designer from the city of Jaipur and  a regular at the Lakme Fashion week says, ‘these days more and more women are choosing to wear kaftan style dresses and tops because they want to wear something they feel comfortable in. They are no longer bothered about following a particular fashion trend. Instead, they believe in pampering themselves and do what makes them happy.”

Ashima Parnami, an entrepreneur and a socialist, who is also an avid shopper and a fashion influencer believes that kaftans, co-ord sets and other such comfort wears are here to stay. “ I like wearing those co-ords and kaftans with minimum work but interesting accessories when stepping out. Even while going out regardless of lockdown or no lockdown, these cords work perfectly. I can team them up with a bold ring and some interesting stilettos. Many designers have come up with comfort wear with flowy dresses with minimum work. Cotton linen pants are also doing very well.”

Her thoughts are seconded by Neeta Mohapatra, a Bengaluru based advertising brand consultant by profession and a stylist cum fashion influencer by passion. “Yes, comfort is the top priority today. You cannot sit working from home in an extremely fitting dress, especially when there is no one to admire you for your efforts! Now-a-days, people prefer wearing long flowing dresses or kaftans which were once considered maternity wear. The thing about kaftans is that you can style them with right accessories for a party or a get together too!

 Rajesh Pratap Singh is a name synonymous with fashion. He is a  NIFT alumni who is originally from Jaipur. According to him, all these changes are nothing but a short lived fad! “Though people are into leisurewear, I feel it is just a temporary fad like people getting into naturopathy. Today, the focus is only what is being worn on the top. Yet, we need to wait and watch to see if this trend survives for the next six months. The jury is still out. I won’t read too much into this. These trends will depend on how long the pandemic lasts. If it lasts for long, you are bound to see a drastic shift. If it doesn’t last, people may go back to their old ways.”

Night Suit Is Back in Town!

So, does that mean people will be stepping out what we used to call nighties and night wears now?

Sunil Sethi feels the loungewear or what used to be called nightwear has been getting a lot of attention these days. “People are experimenting with different things that they could wear during the day or the evening or night. When you are working from home, you are generally in a lounging kind of zone. So, people have gotten used to wearing co-ords; a trend which may not go out even the markets open up completely.”

Neeta Mohapatra seconds the thought, “Lounge wears like night suits or drawstring pants with short tops are also back in a big way. This was a trend which was dominant in the 70s era where people would pair them with nice footwear and accessories. Actually, we never had this term loungewear earlier. Now every major brand has a section called loungewear where they have kaftans and these so-called co-ords or night suits.”

Rohit Kamra is another well-known name from Rajasthan whose creations have been appreciated far and wide. He has been at the helm of a new phenomenon, “there are a lot of American brands which are selling these co-ords online. Guess where are they sourcing these outfits from? Jaipur of course! The printed night suits on these websites are being produced in Jaipur for these brands! The good old night suit has really returned with a vengeance in this pandemic.”

Raghavendra Rathore believes that these trends will only remain in vogue as long as the prevails.  since the media is trying hard to create a sense of normalcy amongst the masses. According to him, once the pandemic is over, the frequency of comfort clothes may increase but that is all there is to it.  “Going forward you won’t see people attending office in casual clothing. It will have to go back to what society believes is normal. However, the frequency of wearing those comfortable outfits maybe a little bit more. Life will return to normal because we are being bombarded by web series and movies which are trying to take us to what was there before the pandemic happened.”

But why have people developed such a liking for the night suit?  Neeta Mohapatra blames it on the increased love handles and new found bellies. “For many who have been cooped up at home, these night suits and kaftans are a god sent. How else will they be able to hide their love handles?  And this is true for men too. I know of men who have rediscovered their love for lungis because they are so airy, comfortable and come in free sizes to accommodate their growing proportions!”

Actually, this is not just the case only with Indians but Americans too. According to a new poll online, 36 percent of the Americans are having a hard time trying to search their closets for clothes that fit them! Sadly, lungi is not an option for them!

Indeed, the pandemic has indeed changed a lot of things today. Whether it is about the ‘big fat Indian wedding’ or the online world, it has been a phase of some bold revelations and quiet revolutions for the Indian fashion industry!

..To be continued

This article was published in Rashtradoot’s Arbit on 14 July 2021.

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