Maya Sidhu

Past Perfect Essay
by Maya Sidhu

Style is communication. Let me explain. Whether one admits to adhering to a certain personal style, everyone, within the limits of their means and freedom of expression in any given space, has a choice in what they wear; and this choice is a form of communication.

For someone like me, who has been lucky enough to travel fairly consistently throughout my adulthood, I see all kinds of cultural messages in clothing I’ve witnessed from around the world. For example, I currently live in Paris and can’t help be influenced by the local aesthetic. The clothes talk to me about their owners. In France, they say, “Hey! Notice how I’m paying attention to the newest trend!” …But let me blend in at the same time. » There’s nothing sacred here about being unique. In Paris, people accept ways of doing things and don’t divert!  A nod to this ethos is visible in the way the French dress. That doesn’t mean, however, if you took a room full of Parisians and a room full of Americans, the Frenchies wouldn’t out-dress us Yanks in high numbers. Parisian and French brand of aesthetic has taught me exactly that: tone it down. Simplify your life, girl! Don’t pair that short skirt with some crazy heels and a loud, low-cut shirt! Choose one piece to accentuate, and everyone will notice it.  The fashion trends and deeper meaning behind them are easily observable, especially on the fashion plates of other cultures. Who a person is comes out through their clothes, it’s a beautiful thing.

The opportunity to express my identity through my style is not only what makes me so passionate about fashion, but is also my way of showing consideration for the people around me. For example, when I’m in India, you better believe I wear a long, bright pink skirt with mirrors that I wouldn’t be caught dead in here. In Bahrain, where my mother lives, I always feel compelled to somehow bedazzle myself. Trying to conform in some way to the local style, is my way of saying that I respect the people around me.  I add my personal take to their mold. Mixing the different styles I’ve experienced internationally helps me create and thus communicate my own style.

My ideal outfit is the perfect harmony of personal creativity and culturally relativism. In sum, I try to be myself without being a jerk. In America, the only Western land of – it’s okay to wear your pajamas in public- despite our wealth of ingenuity and complete freedom of expression, Americans sometimes lose this sense of dressing up for each other. I’m trying to bring fashion sensibility back in a fun, exciting way.

I think this style philosophy is visible in my piece. It’s based on something I purchased in Europe, this weirdly wonderful  gray leather vest  that zips up the side with a big cowl neck. I thought how great would it be in an Indian influenced saffron yellow, to put a non-Euro bright color twist on it.  Jamie then came up the idea of making it into more of shirt, which was brilliant. I can’t wait to add Vietnam to the mix and see what comes out next!

Bio Born and raised in St. Louis, Maya moved to Chicago at age eighteen for college. After her undergraduate studies, she taught French to elementary school aged children for three years in the Chicago Public Schools.  In 2008, she moved to Paris to complete a master’s degree. She now currently resides in Chicago where she is working on a PhD in French Studies.  A lover of all things film, Maya spends her free time volunteering for film festivals and hopes to focus her graduate work on cinema studies.

photo by Alix Lambert
reference photo and Jamie Hayes notes

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