“OMG! That lady has a skyscraper on her bottom!” I said to my daughter, as we drove past a fashionably dressed young lady of about forty.
The girl in question (yes, even 70-plus ladies are girls!) was wearing one of those very popular digital-print shirts. It had a picture of no less than three skyscrapers (complete with doors and windows) that began at the knee-high hemline and reached up to her waist — hence their position on her hips. I don’t think she realised what this item of fashion looked like from behind or she would never have ventured forth.
The craze for shirts printed with buildings like the Eiffel Tower or Leaning Tower of Pisa has been around for a couple of years. Random buildings and even windmills can be seen adorning the shirt fronts and backs of our female population. This trend, which is now very popular courtesy digital printing, was begun several years ago. Fashionistas attending Basant parties got special shirts screen printed with rooftop kite-flying scenes. The current digital print craze encompasses a vast variety of scenes, from urban cityscapes to quaint countryside scenes. These include European provincial scenes with narrow cobbled streets complete with antique lamp posts and small citrus trees in wooden tubs.
Other shirts can be seen sporting row upon row of tiny windows with louvred wooden shutters and lace curtains.
Almost any kind of picture can be enlarged and printed on fabric. Images of jewellery are blown up and used to adorn shirtfronts like necklaces. Another fad is the use of images of handwriting. I saw a shirt bearing the first few lines of a handwritten letter enlarged and printed on the front, while the back bore its envelope complete with postage stamp.
But today, I saw something that takes the cake (thank God no pictures of cakes on shirts yet). What really takes the cake is a shirt printed all over with light bulbs. Yes, light bulbs, the old fashioned kind with tops that were round and bulbous (pun definitely intended).
This digital print craze has put a new spin on a very old fad. Wearing a shirt with the face of your favourite celebrity is back in fashion. Enter shirts with faces of Imran Khan, Marilyn Monroe, Che Guevara — whoever strikes your fancy.
T-shirts bearing slogans and messages have always been around (remember ‘I’m with stupid,’ ‘Peace on earth,’ ‘Save the whales’?). This concept is now being re-worked using Urdu and Arabic calligraphy. Urdu verses, the ‘rickshaw wallah’ type slogans and activist statements have all found their place on items of clothing.
Digital prints have extended their repertoire to Japanese gardens complete with small pagodas. Kimono-clad ladies can be seen carrying paper fans as they stroll among peach trees heavy with blossom. These look like landscapes on shirts or ‘shirtscapes’ as I like to call them.
The Japanese motif is carried further with scrolls bearing Japanese or Chinese characters. Beautiful Chinese watercolour paintings and mother of pearl wall hangings have all lent their designs to adorn shirts.
Birds, Chinese, Japanese or otherwise, have also found their way on to clothes and accessories. This trend for birds was launched by fashion houses in Paris and Milan. Birds of all description, colour, and size have been in vogue for the past few seasons. For the hip and trendy, they have replaced florals. Peacocks, flamingos, cranes and storks remain the most popular. Although embraced by trendsetters and trend followers alike, they are frowned upon by the truly chic.
A very sophisticated lady I know who only dresses in solid neutrals (a la Coco Chanel) once remarked, “How can people bear to have birds on their clothes? They are not trees!”
Well, this is a hot trend, and people like to follow trends. I admit I have been guilty of wearing a shirt with a bird of paradise on it, and another one with storks (very small ones); but I draw the line at the Eiffel Tower. With printed lawns bearing enough birds to fill an aviary, what do you think follows? Naturally, bird cages! Stylish bird cages adorned with filigree work can be found on clothes and accessories.
As with all trends, it is not what you wear but the way you wear it that is important. The same piece can look tacky or uber cool; it depends on how you style it. So girls, wear birds, but tastefully. Wear ‘shirtscapes’ too, if you like, but make sure there are no big buildings stretched across your behind.