Reflection of Society
Embracing our inner divas, that is the conversation today – fashion. I am going to give you a glimpse into the Pakistan fashion and style. My focus as we peak is only on the dresses as the entire fashion scene here is just too wide to cover in one post. To understand Pakistan fashion, it is important for me to take you on an historical and cultural tour.
Pakistan Fashion In History
Pakistan is geographically in South East Asia bordered by India, Afghanistan and Iran by land. However, it is not just a land connection but more about cultural connection when it comes to fashion. Present day Pakistan forms part of the land that was once joined and called the Indo-Pak subcontinent. The land has been a favorite invasion route of many conquerors for thousands of years, resulting in the introduction of foreign cultures, dresses and values fusing into local ones.
Pakistan fashion, as they stand today, is a healthy fusion of Afghan, Persian and local cultures That gives pakistani dresses a special richness that makes them quite exotic. With the local culture, religious considerations and cross-cultural borrowing, the result has been even more elegance to our dresses.
What Makes Pakistani Dresses Unique
Like the architecture of Indo-Pak subcontinent, Pakistan fashion, particularly the dresses, is a unique blend of the foreign influence, happily married to our local traditions coloured by religious overtones. The selection of fabric and colors is amazingly adorned with innumerable hand embroidery. With time and the entry of even more talented local fashion designers, a fresh dimension of modernity has been added to the traditional.
Cultural Division in Pakistan Fashion
Culturally, Pakistan is divided into four distinct zones with defined variations reflected in local dresses as well. They are generally the four major provinces of Pakistan (the equivalent of states in USA). The cultural differences are pronounced in zonal languages, living styles, appearances, festivals and of course dresses.
Popular Dresses in Pakistan Fashion
Let us now turn to the different types of dresses preferred in Pakistan today.
The most popular informal and national dress of Pakistan is Shalwar Kameez. It is the traditional dress of choice for men and women alike. Kameez, in the case of men, is a long shirt (up to knees) in a variety of colors (mostly white and lighter colors) and fabric, while the shalwar is a very loose pant. There are many more variations in cut, style, fitting and colors for women. An added piece, in the case of women, is DUPATTA (a piece of cloth to cover head and front of women).
The styles in shalwar and kameez are very much fashion-oriented and change usually on half-yearly or yearly basis. Shirts may get shorter (way up the knee-length) and so does the shalwar. The style of dupatta may also change.
Major brands launch their winter and summer collections in retail outlets at affordable prices for working class women. Price range for a decent shalwar kameez suit for women falls between PKR 4000 – 8000 (US$40-80).
The range of colors and prints for women are amazing since Pakistani textile industry is well-developed and local brands offer a huge range for summer and winter clothing separately. In local malls, the most visited outlets are the ones offering unstitched or ready to wear apparel. It is not very unusual for affluent Pakistani women to go for a complete overhaul of their wardrobes on a seasonal basis.
Recently, it has become a trend to exclusively offer a ready-to-wear informal line for men as well. Certain well-known brands now regularly offer well-designed informal shalwar kurta and kameez for men as well. Jeans and T-shirts are still not very common among women for cultural reasons although it is pretty popular among young male Pakistanis.
Formal Wear In Pakistan Fashion
Like anywhere else in the world, festivities such as weddings, are taken as a special occasion to display wealth and social status in form of expensive exotic dresses. Perhaps in no other culture in the world, as in Pakistan fashion, has so much attention been paid to the details of dresses. Preparations for the bridal dresses start months in advance.
More popular dresses in bridal wear include Lehenga, Saree, Gharara, Sharara, Kurta Pajama, Shalwar Kameez and trouser suits. All these styles carry exquisite embroideries; gold and stone work and rated highly by their expensive handwork. A wedding dress may cost anything between US$400-5000. However, in recent years, more and more Pakistani brides are choosing not only to wear their traditional wedding dresses but also a more western style of wedding dress. This new addition to the Pakistani wedding tradition is more likely to be adopted by those who grew up in western countries. They are aware of the different types of Couture Bridal Fashion and simply want to add this part of their heritage to their wedding.
Pakistan Fashion Scene
The fashion scene is alive and kicking in Pakistan. Designers present their collections in Winter, Fall and Spring. However, high-fashion is the domain of élite, remaining beyond the buying power of the ordinary Pakistani men and women.
Pakistan fashion shows are not as common as in other regional countries and modeling is not a profession of choice for most young Pakistani women. This again is due to cultural, social and religious reasons.
At this time, the Pakistan fashion scene does not affect the normal wearing patterns of masses in Pakistan as it is still considered an indulgence of rich and modern (a phrase used in a negative spirit). However, the situation is likely to change in the not-so distant future as the number of working class Pakistani women is exponentially increasing. The buying power of working class Pakistani woman is helping to shape the our fashion scene. More and more middle class designers are appearing with reasonably priced lines, attracting more and more working class woman who need decent but modestly priced clothing line for their day-to-day wearing.
This introduction to Pakistan fashion by Neelma Tashfeen is part of our ongoing effort to introduce and familiarise our readers to the lives of women around the world. Neelma is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in English Literature and a Bachelor’s degree in Education, Neelma lives in Islamabad, Pakistan. Her most recent post was our closing piece in a series on prostitution, “Pakistan Taboo: Palace or Prison.” She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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