CHENNAI: Just a few years ago, the term ‘fashion’ would conjure up images of stick-thin models with stiletto heals sashaying on ramps. With an increase in the number of shops that are flashing newer trends, fashion now means much more than mere television shows. Interestingly, shoppers point fingers at the fashion-conscious youngsters for sourcing trendier outfits.

“Our prime aim is to meet customers’ demands. The change in their fashion outlook could be attributed to media exposure,” says Rehane, a noted fashion designer.

She is all praise for Chennai’s fashion quotient and finds the city possessing appreciable dress sense even before the term fashion gained much significance. “Chennai has always chosen comfort over style, which is the first step towards being fashionable. Major change is that people take effort to look good. Even ‘home clothes’ are chosen with greater care,” she says.

Affordability is seen as yet another reason for the increasing fashion awareness.

Highly unaffordable

“Few years ago, what the market would wear would be highly unaffordable. Things have changed with export surplus and some retailers bringing all brands together in their outlets. Fashion has percolated to all segments,” she adds.

However, the market for ethnic wears has its own takers. According to Vidya Balakrishnan, Director of Viba, a textile outlet, half-sarees are back in vogue by integrating new fashion concepts.

“The traditional silk skirts and cotton stoles of half-sarees have been replaced with attractively designed skirts and printed duppattas,” she says.

They now look near-similar to Ghagra-cholis, which have caught the fancy of youngsters for its north-Indian look.

Owners of plush-looking boutiques, which are earlier seen as a place for the elite, are glad about growing patronage.

“Women are all for embroidered saris with fancy blouses. Party wears are no more meant just for parties. Chennai women these days are not shying away from vibrant colours and heavy works.

They look for dresses that fuse north and south-Indian flavour,” says Amit Khanna, a partner in Roshanlal, an 80-year-old firm that sells ethnic outfits.

The change, he says, is more perceptible in salwars, a fact Ms.Rehane agrees upon.

“Women experiment with salwars. But they don’t get as much prominence as it did few years ago among the younger lot. Salwar suits don’t go well with the physique of south Indian women, who are gifted with a figure to carry shirts and trousers well,” Ms.Rehane says.

Women, meanwhile, seem to consider various options before picking a dress of their choice.

“Fancy dresses are saved for special occasions. Since I have to commute long distance to work, I prefer to choose dress that is both stylish and comfortable,” says Chitra Ram, a programme analyst.

“Cotton pants and kurtis are my staple everyday wear. After all, we dress good to feel good.”