All around the world, traditional dress nowadays has become the attire that is
taken out for an airing only during special festivals or occasions. Modern dress
has become the norm because its design and fabric tend to be kinder in our
increasingly hotter global climate. However, I am of the opinion that
traditional dress also has an important place in our world.
as its name suggests, provides a link to one's cultural heritage. It tells the
wearer a little of the history that surrounds its design, fabric and even color.
For example, in Japan, the kimono is worn in different styles for people of
different status. The color also sets the people apart in terms of social
importance. It conjures up images of a time long past when valiant heroes used
to do battle for honor and pride, while the women themselves were testimony to
the grace and beauty of the oriental lady. Thus, understanding the traditional
costume of a culture is tantamount to learning its history.
Furthermore, the traditional dress is usually handcrafted and thus intricate
in its workmanship and design. Take, for example, the Peranakan attire, which
boasts delicate sewing and a filmy hug of the figure. These flatter the feminine
figure, thus making the female form a delight to behold. In the same way,
traditional dress for men is normally cut to present a
stoical and masculine figure. It is obvious that the traditional
dress across all cultures basically serves to clearly
delineate gender roles.
However, a traditional dress can be uncomfortably fussy and difficult to
wear. The beautifully flattering Indian sari can take a lot of time and skill to
tie as it involves sometimes up to twelve yards of soft textile! In the same
way, the kimono requires one other person to tie the sash properly, or it will
look terribly untidy. Even the heaviness of the traditional dress can be a
problem as it is usually an outfit with many different layers. Obviously, ease
was not the top priority in days gone by.
A modern dress is far more comfortable as it is usually made of lightweight
material and simple styles. Gone are the time-consuming sashes and yards of
cloth that marked the traditional dress. In their place are comfortable cuts
which serve functional needs. In fact, the modern dress can be so
androgynous that they are unisex. This
further makes shopping easier and less of a headache.
However, therein also lies the problem with modern dress. There is little
identity associated with the attire. They are mass-produced and hence one can
run the risk of encountering similarly clad people. But the good thing is that
one's personal style then comes into play if looking like one of the crowd is to
be avoided. This allows far more room for individuality than the traditional
Whether it is the traditional or modern dress, the issue should always be the
comfort of the wearer rather than its looks. This is because a person can be
clad in a fussy traditional kimono and still feel comfortable and look good
while someone in a cyber-punk outfit may be decidedly uncomfortable with its
figure-hugging cut. Thus, both types of dress are still relevant today whether
as sources of history or simply as a daily attire.