Several years ago, when I first moved to Islamabad, there were barely any boutiques for buying local or countrywide designer womenswear. Residents pre-planned their shopping, some venturing to Lahore and others braving the darzi route. Since then, several largish multibrand boutiques thankfully sprung up across the capital, featuring the part-inspired, part-cookie-cutter work of dozens and dozens of designers with similar names who range from trained professionals to bored housewives.
Over the last few seasons, I’ve often found some pretty clothes here and there, so when I ventured out shopping yesterday on the lookout for an Eid-appropriate outfit, I expected to enjoy browsing through clothing racks. Instead, the search was nothing short of a caffeine-deprived 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 of thousands to look like gift-wrapped mithai boxes on certain occasions (and I’ve voluntarily done it too) but I frankly couldn’t stomach it this time; all I’d wanted was a reasonably chic outfit with clean lines and a flattering cut. Is there anyone else who’s sick of OTT embroidery and sweeping shirts that do the work of jharoos when you walk (not to mention stumbling on the stairs)?
Instead of retail therapy, I experienced retail frustration. Here’s why:
Boxy cuts galore: They say the camera adds 15 lbs but that’s nothing compared with the bulk enhancing cuts that seem to be doing very well judging from their mass production.
Discrepancies in sizes: No, it’s not you’re imagination. You may be a size XS according to one designer’s label and a size XL according to another because designers pretty much use their own bodies (or their Best Gal Pals in the case of male designers) for sizes. So next time it’d frankly be easier to try on clothes designed by someone similar to your body type: petite/Amazonian/lollipop/beanpole/pear-shaped/apple-shaped.
Taking separates to a whole other level: While I’m a big fan of buying separates, the concept also seems to include 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 peek-a-boo 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 6-digit couture namesakes.
Ultra-prudish schoolmarm styles: Unnecessarily high necklines and itchingly 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 and halter style 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!’
Hideous 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 C’s in Islamabad and LVs in Lahore…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 & ribbon shops and pretty much just stitched on? Even truck-arty and pop-arty styles become to look monotonous after seeing them incessantly in print, broadcast and digital media for the past couple of years.
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 cant help but wonder if it’s from the person who tried it on before you or if it’s straight off the sweaty runway.
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 of) and bad music help kill the mood.
...If you’re wondering if I found anything,I bought the first outfit I could find with a neckline comfortable enough to breathe in, without an iota of embroidery, and with a cut that didn’t require the quantity of material used to make curtains.
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