Clothing has long ago ceased to be just a protection from the cold and the sun and has evolved as fast as the human race. Animals show off bright colours to attract others at mating time and the human animal too has found it necessary to flaunt his or her looks. To help us to do this, since we have neither features nor fur, we have clothes as an excellent substitute. Just like cultivation, clothes have evolved differently in different countries.
So each country has its own traditional clothes. Usually clothes start out as being practical and later evolve as fashions. Clothes too develop according to cultures and, especially, religious beliefs.
In countries where women are expected to be modest in dress, they cover themselves more. In other cultures there are no rules. In come societies where being practical in order to survive is the main rule, minimum clothing is emphasized for both men and women.
But one thing stands out; traditional dress is usually graceful and says a lot about the history and cultures of the people. Most traditional clothes are graceful; at least cultures of the wearers.
Most societies in the world want to maintain their cultures. In countries where many cultures prevail because of migrant communities like Singapore, there is fervour to preserve all the cultures when the word culture is mentioned, almost without exception clothes take a leading position. It is common to see clothes of bygone eras being exhibited in museums as examples of culture.
Along with dancing, art and language clothes are one of the visible aspects of a culture. If we agree that tradition must be preserved then, traditional clothes must be preserved. The two can be said to be inseparable.
Preserving tradition, on the other hand, does not mean that we should always wear them. The tendency today is to adopt clothes from other societies if they are more convenient: for example, the worker in India who has been wearing the white clothing for centuries, when doing outdoor work now finds that jeans, that great American creation is much more convenient. In fact, he probably wonders how his ancestors ever worked in clothes. But this does not in the least mean that he has given up clothes and begun to wear jeans- far from it; out of work he still wears the traditional clothing. So we have a good example of tradition being maintained while being practical about clothes.
There are certain occasions when it is more practical to wear clothes from other countries, usually western clothes and it would be simply to insist otherwise. Then, again, as it is important to preserve traditional clothes there are certain other occasions when traditional clothes will be ideal. There are also certain occasions when traditional clothes are a must. There are occasions like weddings and other cultural functions when the graceful traditional clothes will add colour and gaiety to the occasion. In Singapore, it is permissible to wear one’s ethnic traditional clothes to even the most formal function, even at the presidential palace.
However, it turns out that only the ladies will appear in traditional clothes at such functions. This is no wonder as theirs, all our culture’s are truly magnificent whereas, for some inexplicable reason, gentlemen’s clothes are plain and simple. Men wearing the traditional clothes beside their ladies are likely to appear like servants. Hence, it is common to find ladies adorned in traditional clothes while the gentlemen are in smart tuxedos; so much for preserving traditional clothes. The argument could be: preserving them need not mean wearing them. Preserving traditions is akin to preserving the soul of a society. They take centuries to evolve and represent milestones in the evolving of a culture. Traditional clothes take the leading position when it comes to maintaining traditions and this is most welcome.