Culture Vs. Fashion Consumerism
Designer Abayas/ Dishhishas- Is fashion consumerism invading into needless territories…
The Islamic form of attire is supposed to be conservative and cover the body as much as possible to conceal the human figure and its beauty. But designer dresses, esp Abayas, with its cuts and falls define the body shape and thus tread on paths eyed upon as extravagant and non-Islamic. The evolving trend is alarming as well as intriguing, in a culturally rich society as Gulf.
To describe Islamic dress code the words that strike the mind are modest, simple and humble. In the gulf region, it is plain and monochromatic; men wear white attire called Dishhishas and female folks are distinguished by the standard black Abayas. The Abayas (commonly observed long black over-garment Muslim women wear) has taken a quantum leap into a world of change and has conspicuously entered the illustrious territories of haute couture. With designers like Bruce Oldfield, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Abayas that were formally made to hide woman sensuality and to keep her concealed in considerably modest apparels, are now tailored to the runway perfection, adorning female curves with dazzling embellishments.
With the oil discovered in the gulf, came the west rolling and tumbling, penetrating into the Arabian society with its technologies, modernity and even decadence. The tremendous effect of the west was visible in every aspect of the society. Education, social interaction and even tradition received an overhauling. The once dissidents who were dealt with animosity or much alienation by the aged Arab became good will ambassadors with the new generation of Arabs. With such the old norms and axiom associated to the westerners became redundant and a new world order was formulated that welcomed west with open arms. The economic prosperity gradually intervened with the social scene making the people more aware of their appearances and attire. This did not monstrously affect the male faction of the society compared to the female. The male attire in Arabia to this day remains simple and solemn whereas on the other hand female fashion consciousness has reached immeasurable heights… Modern exposure and education itself have made the woman more aware of her surroundings and consequently conscious of their appearance and identity.
Today Abayas are anything but simple! Except for a few, Abayas have undergone a sea of change from simple to modern chic, and from merely being a modest covering to an individual statement. Adorned with Swarovski crystals and with precious and semi-precious stones, they now display affluence and aesthetics.
Mohammad Bahrani, a celebrated designer in Dubai, hosted a fashion show in coordination with Swarovski that turned out to be a resounding hit the designer stated; “The explosion of chic abayas with slick fashion shows and hot ad campaigns reflects the desire of Muslim women to define their own identity,”
With tradition as a background, Abayas today are making fashion and luxury statement … but the question is whether or not in trying to define the personal style and in trying to make a fashion statement through them, this new trend has entered into needless territories forgetting completely the basic meaning of Hijab (covering) defined by Islam…
Vanity thy name is woman…
Truth be told, vanity has nested in women everywhere and women in Arabia are no exception. The point, however, is to measure the limit. When the fashion scene is infested with the riveting “The million dirham abaya” or “Burberry- Gulf Chic range of branded Abayas” the question that plagues the mind is whether or not vanity is too much to be asked for??? Designer clothes have become the emblem that set people apart, with big a price tag and even bigger pride. In consumer-led communities/ societies, appearances and looks are vital and valuable.
Zainab Baomar, an Omani designer stated; “The old traditional abaya was simple and easy to wear but the new style has become very haute and versatile. And they are a great hit with the teenage girls.”
Besides the signature designer brands, shops all over the region showcase new trends and styles in Abayas from time to time, which clearly shows the huge demand of highly embellished and fashionable Abayas in the market. The monochromatic black is now only a background for the glittering and lustrous designs. Such show of the glam and glitter can be seen everywhere, inside malls and hotels & and at public and private events. This modern adaption of the mundane world surpasses the basic concept of the Abaya.
Islam stipulates certain conditions and requirements of the Islamic Jilbab (overgarment) that a Muslim woman must observe while going out in particular. She must wear an outer garment to cover the clothes and that it should be large enough to cover the whole body and it should be plain not decorative… It seems that with the invasive charade of designer/expensive Abayas the concept and the true essence of Islamic Hijab is completely lost.
A local scholar said, “The meaning of hijab in Islam is to hide and conceal and not to attract any attention.”
The concept of hijab besides covering is also to create a unity and equality on a mass level. But with the modern race towards making a statement has only created unjust class consciousness…
In the olden times, the society used to be simple and people were content with what they had without being extravagant and showing off. With economic prosperity, a new trend has emerged making people believe that they must spend money to appear and look good. This imbalance of this social setup starts when everyone is trying to be everybody, following a set of rules defined by a richer class of society and unfortunately followed by the mediocre class… everyone falls into the vicious circle of a needless class and identity race.
Now going back to the basic question; is it alright to say that fashion consumerism has entered needless territories? According to Microsoft Encarta Reference library consumerism is defined as ‘economics belief in benefits of consumption’ … this could have monetary benefits but on moral grounds, such consumerism is outrageous and excessive.
“Choosing an abaya is as difficult as choosing a bag, sandal or ring since the range is enormous, interested people would spend up to 3,000 dirhams ($1,200) on a wedding abaya and half that amount on one meant for casual use. An average fancy abaya can cost around $363.”
The need of the hour is that we look into the reasons that have led to this situation. The spread of consumerism and the tendency to show off are things that are very alarming. We need to reassess the way we are spending and living and work toward bringing a realistic balance in our lifestyle.
It won’t be too prosaic to say that ‘Great men are seldom over-scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire’ (Charles Dickens). The fact is that we need to understand our behavior and lifestyle and realize where we are at fault. The world goes on with its problems of hunger, disease, war, corruption and so on… but we stay heedless in trying to understand our part, our tiny little part that starts from realizing who we are and what we are… what have we achieved as an individual and how can we contribute to the world that’s in a state of constant chaos and persistent unrest. If we realize this today we could finally do justice to our self. It is not the clothes that wear us, but us who wear them… With such realization comes the sense that develops cultured, refined and enlightened humans.
Even though Abayas have been through a massive change, from being simply worn as a covering to a fashion statement, it still serves the same fundamental purpose of being an identity providing a sense of security and originality to the one wearing it….