Are You What You Wear?

Does wearing a Gandhi topi make you more of a rebel? Or, does it at least make you feel more rebellious? ( revolting? ๐Ÿ˜€ )

One much too long ago evening, a friend and i were wondering if this was true – does what you wear affect the way you behave? Based on a few empirical observations, we came to the conclusion that it, in fact, did : He posited that I’d be more playful and well…fritty….if i were wearing a pair of shorts and a tee, act more composed and lady-like if i was wearing a patiala suit. I observed that he seemed more academic and business-like if he wore a collared shirt, and tremendously more flippant if he was wearing shorts and floaters. We mutually agreed that a common friend was much better behaved (like a good little church girl) on days she styled her long beautiful hair into a plait, a bit flirtatious on days she left it open,ย and sort of aggressive (“i’m going to beat them boys up!”) on days she wore her Converse shoes. Another one’s entire presence varied according to what she had on – skirts would make her all shy and girly, suits would make her matronly, shorts would make her downright naughty. Yet another would unknowingly behave as jazzy as Elvis when he wore his blue suede shoes ( i swear, he owned a pair! ) and would be transformed into the most eligible bachelor, dignified and mature, when he wore his white kurta-pyjama. I’d even observed changes in the way people walked, and their posture – chest out, back straight, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other if they thought they had something flattering on, like a crisp shirt and pleated steel-grey trousers and shiny leather boots; or monkey-like, climbing trees and falling all over the place if they were wearing something casual / unwashed / old….so yeah, this went on for a while because it was just so funny…As an aside, boys can be such bitches, but anyway…..

So, to be honest, I guess how we present ourselves does affect the mood – buoyant, confident, nervous, indifferent – and it lasts for as long as it’s on us. In a sense, what i wear wears me too, molds itself around and into me. But this really isn’t an argument for what’s-on-you being a definitive part of one’s character in the long-term. I don’t know about that. But on an everyday basis, does it work because most of us do look at ourselves through the eyes of those in front of us too? Or does demeanor have something to do with how expensive or fancy your clothes are?

Any which way, how you dress seems to me an important part of our lives. Our lives, specifically, although you might call it elitist, hegemonising or something to that effect. To pretend that you just don’t care about how you look could mean one of two things: you’re either tremendously under-confident or you’re trying to set that casual-i’m-too-cool-for-my-shirt attitude. Because, frankly, if you believe in the dictum ‘first impressions last forever’, you cannot not believe in being what you’re wearing. Or wearing what you’re being.

Split-personalities in order, you say? No, just ruffling things up!

PS – my latest addiction : The Sartorialist. For regular endless hours of gauze-steeped self-indulgence. Scott Schuman is IT! ๐Ÿ˜€

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This story is not about undermining a woman’s choice to wear or be what she wants.

…It is about perceptions and generation gaps.

So, a couple of evenings ago, ma and i were gluttonously popping pani pooris at that famous stall in GK1’s M-Block market. We were also silently indulging in our second favourite pastime in markets (no prizes for guessing what is at number 1) : Voyeurism of the Venus-ites. It is by now common knowledge that while men check out women everywhere, women, too, check out other women more often than they size-up the mans on the prowl. And what is it that we’re checking for? A quick 5-second once-over can take in clothes, make up, hair, shoes, accessories, nail color, waistline, other lines and sizes and come to conclusions as to the nature and character of the studied specimen (speciman? speciwoman?). If you add another 2 seconds, judgements can be doled out if you have the ‘right’ company: all you need to do is raise eyebrows and make eye contact at the right moment. The smile is passed, the shoulders are shrugged in a it-takes-all-kinds-to-make-a-world way, and some bitchy part of the soul is satisfied at the one-uppance. There is nothing monumental about this process – it happens everywhere, all the time. But, I theorise, and thereby digress from my story.

So, ma n i have moved on to aloo chaat and somehow look up from the plate to take in this sight: three young women whose figures suggest they practice anorexia regularly, doddering up the street in painful high heels. The shortest of them wearing what seemed to be only a corset ( of the undergarment-of-yore variety, and therefore decidedly not classy ) and tight, terribly low-slung jeans, poker straight hair, heavy eyeliner, thick mascara, a peachy pout. Extremely conscious of herself, she has the air of one whose feet are barely making contact with the ground, she’s so high on how good she thinks she’s looking. Frantically gazes down at herself to check that just the right amount of skin is visible. Comes off looking like a brainless tart.

The mother and i quickly look at each other, smile. Grimace is more the word actually. We’re both tch-tching in our heads till the tittering trio are out of earshot.

And then, ma says, she’s clearly a small-town girl grown too big for her boots. Iske toh par nikal rahe hain, aur dekho kaise!

I say, yeah, well, what can one do? more tch-tching happens.

And then it occurs to me, hah! look at us, how arrogantly we talk, like we were born into the big-moneyed, big-city ranks. 11 years here and just look at us!

We laugh at ourselves. But then comes the punchline from the learned one: True, we’re middle class people, belonging to small towns. We’re bourgeois to the best of our abilities, but we never EVER behave like that. Never have, never will.

Point noted, O mother. There’s a lesson in decency to be had somewhere in there.

On a related note, I urge you to walk the talk, get down and dirty at Slutwalk Delhi on June 25. Talk about inverting roles, taking to the streets and taking back the power!

Jump! for my love…

The jumpsuit is back! more flowy, feminine and pret than ever before. this amazingly convenient item of clothing was once the need of assembly line workers, astronauts, and was generally something that must’ve been a harbinger of all those moments of boredom spent at dreary work.

Then some high flying fashion designer, on a hot, tedious summer afternoon, with the weight of heat and unproductiveness, glanced in the direction of his son and realised the beauty of the coverall he was wearing. And decided to display it to the world. On the ramps and on the profiles of hot bods of the time. since then, there’s been no stopping the jumpsuit from hopping to the forefront of any fashion show.

And then, it gained mega-celebrity status when Elvis Presley did a number in it.

And today, although in and out of fashionistas wardrobes and the racks of haute couture, it has gained the status of the stiletto- not always in the limelight, but forever sexy. and its sexiness is largely attributed to its comfort-ability. like that favourite pair of dungarees that you’d never want to take off, all those days ago. And altered to a little less here, a stitch there, it can make the most (unwantedly) curvacious bodies look like flat ironed steel. this time, its chanel, zoya and even Indian designers like Arjun who are doing the honours.

time for another swagger down high fashion’s memory lane. (and that is such a pleasantly vicious circle!)