My essay for Ready to Wear – an online exhibition

The Ready to Wear online exhibition is now open! You can check out a virtual exhibition space, download the catalog, and read my essay under Explore Exhibiting Artists here.

“In the 1960s, when my parents (Nilofar Rashid and Saleem Murtza) met in college, fell in love, and got married, Pakistan was still a relatively new country. My parents’ generation was the first to be solidly grounded in Pakistan. Having been recently introduced to the world at large, those who hailed from the bourgeoisie saw themselves as “progressive” and were influenced by western culture. Fashion became a way to express their newly minted national identity.

Young men adopted the Teddy Boy style of the Beatles, with boxy jackets and fitted trousers. Young women wore the traditional shalwar kameez but switched it up by making the kameez shorter and tighter, aligning it with the shift dresses they saw in fashion magazines. The bottom edge of the shalwar became narrower in keeping with men’s tapered pants. They wore head scarves and oversized shades like Audrey Hepburn and Bollywood’s Saira Banu and Mumtaz.

This hybrid sense of fashion seemed to cross borders and crack open binaries such as east and west. My mother wore a gauze dupatta over her short, dress-like kameez. She refused to give up the dainty sandals that went with her outfits but would wear socks when it got cold in Lahore. For his wedding, my father paired a gaudy sehra (headdress commonly worn by the groom) with a tailored suit. He sits proudly with his elder brother, Eitizaz Hussein.

Borders and partitions are recent aberrations. A broad span of history, that goes beyond the creation of nation states, can give us a better sense of our complex, intertwined realities, and allow us to imagine better futures.”

Eitizaz Hussein and Saleem Murtza
Nilofar Rashid – 3
Nilofar Rashid and Saleem Murtza – 1

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