Bargain basement bindis

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By Jessie Stones

It’s fashion week in Toronto again and the round of collections that give us the first glimpse of what fall will look like has arrived. This season’s collection is extravagant compared to last year’s powerful all-American influence. Even the most bashful strip mall shopper would sit up and take notice of all the comfortable army issue T-shirts in polyester and acrylic blends, sinfully synthetic stirrup pants, tapered trousers and delightful denim, acid wash, zip front jackets.

We’re co-opting fabrics and cultural traditions from Polynesia to Indonesia and mining them for their potential as western fashion industry items.

No busy urban woman can be content unless she owns at least three light silk shirts in bright colours, preferably with the intricate gold edging found mostly on saris. These skirts are just crying out to be paired with handkerchief tops in similar fabrics, or tight three-quarter length shirts with Japanese characters on the front. No one knows what they mean, but they look really cool and worldly.

The avid mallard can sport Asian or South-east Asian footwear—silk Chinese slippers and cork-soled, beaded Indian mules are being sold for about 18 times the purchase price at any franchise outlet. On the accessory front, no one knows how to parody religious symbols for a profit better than the fashion industry. But throw out those beaded crosses form four years ago because it’s time for belly chains and bindi dots. You don’t have to know what they symbolize to wear them—it’s just another fun and exciting way to show your ignorance direct, and for $29.99, it’s a bargain.

For the die-hard trend-follower there’s what used to be known as mehndi but is now called the generic “henna tattoo.” If you’re just a little shy of full-blown thrill seeker, why not paint a flower, butterfly or bunny rabbit on your body with Hindi wedding dye? Or if you want to go all the way, get a real tattoo in Sanskrit or Chinese characters. Just make sure you know what it means, or you could end up with a tattoo that means “ass-cow” in Chinese.

Just a note of caution for this season’s style maven: when you’re dressing in a red silk Chinese wedding dress and bindi dots, be careful not to go overboard. Remember, some objects have meaning. You could end up looking as stupid as people who get tattoos in other languages that end up meaning “ass-cow.”

Next season, when all this is forgotten and we’ve moved on to loincloths, you’ll find a whole culture in the clearance bin at 50 per cent off.

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