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A Saree as a Protest Dress for Equal Rights

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Rajesh Pratap Singh's Models have faces covered in protest
A Saree as a Protest Dress for Equal Rights
17 th Dec 2013

Mass protests against the gang rape in Delhi last year together with the backlash around recent sexual harassment cases have reawaken the debate on the morality of dress and the role it plays in the lives of women.

Since it perfectly mirrors both change and conservatism trends in society, fashion plays a pivotal role in the discussion. In fact, the very concept of “the protest dress” comes from the fashion industry, but you're wrong if you think the dissent comes only from West. During his 2006 In Protest shows, designer Narendra Kumar Ahmed sent out models with gags across their mouths, without any background music, to protest against the censorship of shows run by politics. While in another show, male models were walking in bloodied, bruised and bandaged while a few were laying down “dead”.

This time the protest was about India’s growing religious strife. Designer Rohit Bal sent out male models in skirts and sindoor on the ramp to ask for equal-sex freedom. Designer Nandita Basu created a T-shirts line after the communal riots in Gujarat, at the beginning of 2000. One T-shirt showed Narendra Modi as Hitler. For his Spring/Summer 2012 show, Indian designer Rajesh Pratap Singh covered his models’ faces with masks to protest against the danger of a terrorist world.

Indian fashion has tried to make the traditional saree the symbol of change among women. The Indian dress "par excellance" today is worn by every social class because of it being trendy & wearable and fashion & casual depending on the occasion. And the list of instances covered by Indian Fashion Designers' protests is longer, ranging from the challenge to the objectified idea of sexy and slim, to the support for underprivileged and breast cancer associations, and many more. Controversies about modesty, morality and sexuality has always been linked to fashion. The challenge today, also for Indian designers, is to explore new creative ways to challenge limits and to be able to spread "mindset changing" messages through style.

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