Nepali Times
Uniformly smart



You can see them at the cinema, on the sidewalks, inside micros, on the backs of speeding motorcycles: boys and girls with modified college uniform.

The boys can't do much with their trousers and shirts, but with the girls, the skirts have edged higher and higher and long socks have come into vogue. Influenced by wildly popular South Korean teledramas and the proliferation of branded apparel, shoes and hand bags, Kathmandu's youth are not letting their college uniforms get in the way of their individualism.

There isn't much the parents seem to be able to do about this. And at a time of cut-throat competition, colleges appear secretly happy that the more risqu? the dress code, the more enrolments they get. Said one 10+2 principal: "Girls chose colleges with daring uniforms, and if the girls are there the boys come automatically."

Officially, colleges in Kathmandu do not allow students to individualise their clothing and take strict action against it, but the hemlines seem to go up as soon as the girls are outside the college gates.

Suyash, a student, says the media has made his peers pay more attention to fashion. But fellow student Anisha doesn't like the competition to experiment with uniforms: "Fashion is not for college students. We have the whole day to show how fashionable we are but we have to be properly dressed when we are in school."

Sonam says it's the South Korean films such as My Sassy Girl and My Tutor Friend , whose young stars are widely imitated, as can be seen from Sonam's own hairstyle. It seems youngsters are very easy to lure and fashion houses rely on them to spread new ideas.

Naresh P Shrestha, principal of Prime College in Naya Bajar takes a dim view of all this. "We have uniforms so that everyone is uniform," he said, "all this modification will also harm a student's future career."

The students appear to want to be part of a group where they judge each other by what they wear and which mobile phones they carry. But has the alteration of uniforms gone too far? "Absolutely not," says Sujita. "A big no. We should be allowed to wear our uniforms the way we want to and be comfortable, but of course a certain limitation should be enforced by the college."

Sujita adds: "We should be given a standard size to which the pants can be modified and to what extent can the skirts be short ."

Ultimately, most students want to fit into a crowd and show that they are cool enough to be in the group. This is seen particularly when students pass out from school and move to college. They may be insecure, there is peer pressure to conform and many don't know the real value of money.

Some colleges hold special sessions with parents when new students are admitted where the rules about uniforms are explained. When a student is not properly dressed, initially, they are given warnings and ultimately the parents are called.

Cafe Kantipur

The first season of one of Kantipur Television's more popular shows for youngsters, Caf? Kantipur, has come to an end. The show revolved around six friends and a caf? called Caf? Kantipur, much like the hit American sitcom, Friends.

Prachanda Shrestha and Reecha Sharma admit the show has made an impact on urban youth fashion, but that they themselves, would never wear modified college uniforms they wear in college.

"I wear dresses on the show that I am not comfortable in, and I don't dare wear them outside," says Reecha, "Students should not follow on-screen fashion because on-screen, it's more about appealing to the viewers. One's got to give respect to their uniform."

Assistant director, Prachanda Shrestha, says, "Fashion is all about seeking attention. It's an individual choice and we are not opposing anyone."

Is adolescent fashion influenced by television, or does college fashion influence television? When college girls wear short skirts, are they imitating what they see in the new teleserial College? Or are the producers of College just duplicating what they see on the streets outside the colleges in the capital?

In the past year, college fashion in Kathmandu has seen a transformation from knee-length pleated skirts to its stylish mini version and socks that come up to the thighs.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)