State of Undress- Michelle Katz

The documentary “States of Undress” allowed one to step into the Pakistani culture and understand (without judgment) the role that fashion plays in such a conservative Islamic country. I found two points that really connected to our course materials and authors we have learned from TMD 424. Simmel is one of the authors that was exemplified in this documentary, because the entirety of the film had to do with imitate verses differentiate; inner verse outer struggles people have in society. This applies because the fashion industry in Pakistan is more of a political act of people speaking out against their religion and culture. So, people are torn between being conservative and dressing with more modesty or going outside of that due to not agreeing with the Islamic beliefs of woman’s dress. Although in this case it is very different than the Western world due to this potentially costing you your life by acting out. This is linked to my second point- the author Geertz applying to this as well. Westerns have taken Geertz’s idea of ‘reduction’ (reducing statements into packages that identify with certain communities) and applied it to Middle Eastern dress and cultures. We associate them with traditional dress that covers their entire body. This documentary challenged this uneducated mindset, by revealing that not every person is subjected to wearing the burka and they have their own modern fashion.

I have a few interesting points I would like to point out concerning this film. This was more focused on a more localized scale. The film is based in Pakistan and it dove into their culture, religion and politics and how this influences dress in that country. The fashion week was its own bubble within Pakistan that was not only the elites of the fashion industry there, but also the liberal people that created clothes that spoke out against their countries traditions. Then there was another world that was outside of the fashion week bubble and this was a more conservative and religious world influenced by fear instilled by the country itself. This world is also very poor. They take very little influence from the West and they would like to contain their culture free of influences from ours.

However, they did touch upon globalization as well which really hit home for me. Earlier in this TMD class we talked about globalization and we questioned that if that was a form of a dress what would it be? The “global fashion” would be jeans. Jeans are the major (and vital) commodity that Pakistan exports and it supports their country by boosting their economy. Pakistan mainly exports its denim to the United States and other developed countries. Interestingly enough, Pakistan’s prices for their denim is too high for their own people, so they wait for consumers to wear them in the U.S. and then export back to Pakistan as consignment and then buy it for themselves. So this form of globalization comes full circle, but its interesting because they export this product although most of their citizens are not allowed to wear this product due to the rules of dress in Pakistan.

The three main points I would take from this documentary would be the following. First I would like to point out that we are very, very privileged here in the United States, we have freedom of speech, dress, religion and press and we tend to take that granted. Second, this proves that fashion isn’t just a commodity; it speaks louder then words. It is a way to speak out against political movements that have disrupted the peace among citizens and it is a way to have a choice, when someone has no choice. My last main point is also what I would explain to someone not in this TMD class, that is vital to take way from this film is to not identify a cultural with one way of dress. This is a form of racism and discrimination, and having this belief transpires fear of others or ‘foreigners’. As people of this world, we must be open to other cultures, beliefs, forms of dress and religion and gain knowledge to break those cultural boundaries.

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