Let the game of lawns begin

It's that time of the year when clothing brands set the trap. Khadija Mughal strikes the warning

Let the game of lawns begin
Cough Up Your Savings, Or Else

If you’re like any average Pakistani woman, you know you want to dress up to the best of your abilities on Eid. You also know that you won’t wear that dress you wore on last Eid, or the one before that – or the one ten Eids ago. This means, it’s time for you to buy a new dress – and it better be good.

The problem for you – and many other similar Pakistani women – is that you’re not the only one who has the knowledge of all of these facts: you share company with each and every clothing brand functioning inside the country. Which is great – not for you, for the brands.

Most notable clothing brands in the country are well aware of the fact that women are more willing to spend money on clothes when Eid is nigh, than at any other time (because not every woman in the country goes to a wedding at the same time, but she does celebrate Eid on the same day – unless she lives in KPK). And with their sharp business sense, big brand names know how to make the most of this inherently Pakistani weakness: throw in more clothes than ever on display, and price them as high as you think your product can actually be bought for. And the good part – for them – is that the trick works. No matter how highly priced their clothes are – a certain high-end embroidered clothing line is actually selling a simple two piece unstitched dress for Rs.20,000 – they find a market.

Sell your kidney to buy this piece priced at Rs. 20,000. The boutique charges a meagre Rs. 5,500 for
Sell your kidney to buy this piece priced at Rs. 20,000. The boutique charges a meagre Rs. 5,500 for "casual" stitching

One-Upping Peers With the Brand You Wear

The concept is not new, nor is it unique to Pakistan. Increasing self-worth by wearing more expensive clothes is an antique practice that many people indulged and still indulge in. Pakistani women – especially those coming from the elite strata of society, who usually don’t have to work for the money they spend – can then hardly be blamed for flashing the brand of their clothing instead of, say, their opinions on the recession of the Greek economy.

The problem begins when clothing lines become increasingly aware of their position in the market, and their exclusive lure for a certain category of women. It extends when such clothing brands – hence, their customers – take pride in the exclusivity of the brand and the fact that only a particular category of women can afford to wear them. And the problem culminates in the actualization of the brands’ ultimate target: all those who cannot afford to wear this brand are below it, and below the people who can afford to wear them.

Lawn-Based Social Stratification

Yes, there is such a thing, it just hasn’t been given a name yet. It’s a commonly known fact that Pakistani women engage in “lawn wars”: that is, they judge others by the brand of lawn they are wearing, depending solely upon the price tag that such lawns carry, and rarely on their quality. Come Eid, lawn wars warp into clothes wars: which material is your clothing, is it embroidered or printed, what kind of embroidery does it have, what material is your trouser, and, of course, which brand are you wearing? If they could, they would gladly judge others on the brand of lingerie they wear.

The downside of this behaviour is simple: those who cannot afford to wear clothes from expensive clothing lines – which is perfectly alright, nobody wins when they wear a lawn dress worth Rs.15,000, trust me – go out of the way to purchase clothes that burn a hole in their pockets, just to be more socially acceptable on Eid.

It’s a sad state of affairs.

It should be declared illegal for boutiques to market cloth with six embroidered motifs clustered together on the neckline
It should be declared illegal for boutiques to market cloth with six embroidered motifs clustered together on the neckline

Break the Cycle

So what can someone do to escape this vicious, superficial cycle of social acceptability? The first step should be to tell yourself that it is okay not to participate in these wars of clothing. It is okay to wear clothes you wore five Eids ago, and it is okay if they are not from any prominent clothing line. It is also okay to tell yourself that you are smarter for purchasing a similar quality of clothes for about ten thousand rupees less, when you choose to reject clothing brands in favour of unbranded “normal” cloth. It is okay to tell other people all of this, too.

In fact, it’s more than okay, it’s charity – you’re probably saving millions of women from raising their self-esteem by spending more than they should, on this Eid and many more to come.