Remember the tip or bindi that adorned the foreheads of fashion icons like Madonna and Gwen Stefani in the mid 90's? Where do you think they picked up the trend if not from the streets of India? And before, when The Beatles introduced jeans as a fashion item, no longer restricted only to the working masses, once again it was styles of the street gaining ground over conventional fashion, creating what we now know as Street Style.
I've always been most comfortable in street wear. It allows me space to express myself freely. 15 years ago, I wore my hair long and loose, inspired by the hippies of the late 60's. I collected traditional beads like the Boyatis wear around the neck and borrowed my father's jeans and paired the retro look with a contemporary t-shirt. Later, I wore bandannas, preferring the traditional Native American motifs to more funky ones. And I often wore gamchas around my neck or head, along with some big chunky earrings, to create a local version of the gypsy look I so admire. And only recently did I stop wrapping my head in a long black scarf when my friends started comparing me with the RAB.
Nevertheless, it's fun to play with the clothes you have. Just try wrapping yourself in a saree in a different manner. Let go of a few pleats and wrap the extra length around you in innovative ways to get yourself a custom made, if perhaps slightly bizarre, new look. Cut off the bottom of an old kameez and wear it as a shirt with a pair of sleek formal pants for a fusion of eastern and western wear. It is amazing to see the fun, quirky outfits that materialize when you experiment with your old garments. And since street style is fast gaining ground in Bangladesh, take full advantage of the sudden surge of ethnic jewellery available in the shops today and get yourself some gorgeous and affordable trinkets to coordinate with your new look.
Keep your eyes and your mind open for the weird and wacky styles that crop up around the globe from time to time. Remember though, whether seen on the streets of New York or Paris, or inspired by the tribal culture of our own hill tracts, street fashion is a highly personal style. (Which may well be the reason that this fashion often originates in the melting pots of cosmopolitan streets where traditions and cultures collide and struggle for individualism.) This means that what you see around Europe, you must know to translate into your own heritage in order to make it work. So if you've spotted a glamorous street urchin look on the streets around the Village in New York, just swap that velvet leopard mini skirt and fish-net stockings for a pair of fitted jeans and pair with platforms or boots, and a t-shirt with a message of your choice, or even a fotua, and you have yourself a look that can be truly yours.
Remember, while street style is often wacky and edgy and sweet and fabulous, you must know how to tailor it to your own personality and surroundings. It is all about attitude. And with the right attitude, you can find the most amazing pieces at the local thrift stores, namely Bongo Bazaar and the shops opposite to Dhaka College. Here, you can locate tops and bottoms that you can coordinate to create unique versions of your favorite looks.
On the street, as well as in fashion magazines, vintage styles are everywhere. If a totally hippie chic or a hardcore punk look seems a bit extreme start off with a few accessories. Contrast is always good and mixing vintage with contemporary pieces will make an outfit unique. Thrift stores no longer are coveted haunts of grunge bands and frugal housewives. And whether you are seeking the perfect pair of 70s hip huggers, or a dolman-sleeved sweater from the 80s, thrift stores are a great resource. Here are a few tips for savvy thrifting:
· Ask store personnel when new items are received. Many stores get new merchandise daily so a serious shopper should visit frequently.
· Try clothes on. Many thrift stores do not provide fitting rooms, so try to wear lightweight, tight clothing so it is possible to try on items over your clothes
· Check all items carefully for stains, holes, and tears. Some damages can be repaired, but don't buy anything that will require major work.
· Buy what you love. Never buy anything just for its designer label.
And even if you're not to be among the confident trendsetters who blaze fashion trails where few people dare to go, you still shouldn't be complacent. Take a couple of risks. You don't have to go to extremes with tattoos or a shaved head, but you should accessorize. Starting from ethnic jewelry to chunky belts, accessories are the easiest and safest way to introduce the street edge to your wardrobe. Try to get some hats and scarves and then go play. Get hold of some inexpensive belts to go with the bags you already have and mix and match. Since shoes can be so cheap in our markets, you should get a few varieties and with all these accessories, you can create a different look each time by swapping a bag here and adding a scarf there.
The street is a place full of jagged edges and sharpness. It is all things raw, edgy, sharp.
Contrast is the key word here, so mix vintage styles with contemporary jeans or ragged rockers' T's with soft, draped skirts. But whatever you choose, remember to feel comfortable in what you wear. Try on different ensembles till you like what you're wearing. Then you will have found the look that best suits your personality. The goal is to be confident and edgy, without seeming like you're trying to hard. When you are confident you will automatically turn heads as you walk by.
So, pick up your purse and head for the nearest thrift store. Shop till you drop and have some serious fun!
By Kawshiki Nasser
Photo: Munem Wasif
Model: Xiya, Leonie