Fashionable clothes: past and present

By Rev. Fr. Eva Chuma Nnamene

As it is, culture has both resilient and dynamic elements. Over the years in the cultural life of a people, there are certain aspects of their lifestyle that remain as they have been whereas other aspects change over and over. Oftentimes, styles of wearing clothes are among those aspects of culture that change over time. For instance, some decades ago in Nigeria, the style of trousers that was in vogue was "pencil" legs. "Pencil" leg trousers were tight to the body.

But after sometime, people shifted to something else by wearing trousers that had enlarged legs called "bongo". The "bongo" trousers may have taken its name from a Ghanaian musician Bongos Ikwue whose albums had pictures wearing such trousers. At the hip of the "bongo" trousers, it could be tight, but at the lower part, it enlarges.

In the past it was in vogue for women to wear flowing gowns called "maxi". Skates and blouses worn at that time were decent ones. But today, such flowing gowns are disappearing. You may find more of skinny and skimpy dresses worn by our female folks. Men have dropped the "bongo" to wear skinny trousers too. What is deemed fashionable today has to be "body fitted". Even when people make traditional clothes, they have to be "body fitted'.

By that, they mean, for your clothes to be fashionable, they have to be tight on your body. And when you walk on the road you see people wearing clothes that expose the different contours of their bodies. Some of such sights are pleasant on those who have well framed body; and some are gory sights: when you see somebody with the "orobo" body frame wearing the so called "body fitted" clothes.

In the past it was fashionable for men to put on shirts exposing their chests especially by those who are hairy. Today, men do button up their shirts. But the fashion of "sagging" trousers and shorts are largely in vogue for men. By the fashion of "sagging" the trousers are let to expose some part of the buttocks. This style is seen among teenagers and even adults.

In the past, women had dresses that covered them up properly; and they never looked less feminine. It was also in those days that the caution "sit like a woman" had the moral import of not exposing the female body. Today, women have overgrown such caution because they have different styles of dressing that expose the cleavages of their breasts, their backs their tummies, the curves of their buttocks and their laps.

Today, to the female folks, to be fashionable and to be feminine you need to have certain parts of your body exposed. It is simple and stamped like that. If that is not the case, perhaps, you may be one of the "nwa mgbekes" or the village champions around the city. But let us think about it, does our style of dressing today cover or expose our nakedness? Perhaps, our answer to that question might be yes and no at the same time.

If by nakedness we mean being stark naked, then, our dressing today covers it. Nobody is stark naked either on the streets or in the public places. People cover up. Though the issue is how properly covered up they are. But if by nakedness we mean exposing parts of the body that are conventionally closed up as in being properly or modestly dressed, then, our dressing today exposes our nakedness.

As we mentioned last week covering up of our nakedness is the primary purpose of dressing. Adam and Eve covered themselves up when they appeared before God. Today very many people especially women want to appear before God naked. Does appearing before God with parts of our bodies exposed express innocence or evil? In next week's edition, we shall be looking at that question, and what the Scripture thinks about our dressing code today.

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