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Wardrobe function

“Aren’t you changing into something better?” “A kurta with jeans is not Indian ethnic!” “Why does she dress like a 16 year old at 60?’ These are oft-heard exclamations in many homes!

A person’s apparel is a part of non-verbal communication and has tremendous social significance. The colours we choose to wear, the styles we adopt, our make-up and accessories reflect our personality and thought process. It forms a large part of the “first impression’ that can make or mar a person’s chances of success. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet , Polonius tells his son Laertes to dress well because “apparel oft proclaims the man” or in other words, “clothes maketh the man”.

We create stereotypes based on a person’s appearance. We have the jhola variety — activist, academic or intellectual — wearing khadi with studied negligence. The mainstream “filmi” type wears showy clothes that scream for attention. The “MBA kinds” look dapper in suits and rimless glasses, while the young “IT variety” or techies, have “lost to the world” looks, shabbier the better. Shorts are becoming every country’s national dress. especially if you are young and cool! A bureaucrat, a medical representative, an artiste or a politician can be easily recognised by their clothes.

Clothes can be formal, casual or functional. Hosts and/or invitations request us to wear smart casuals, formals, Indian ethnic or fusion dressing depending on the purpose, mood or occasion — a dance recital, a picnic, a wedding, a meeting with superiors or an outing with peers. The LBD stokes the heat of the Saturday night fever! A well-cut suit helps you to walk tall in the precincts of business centres of luxury hotels. If there’s a wedding in the family, a ghagra for the sangeet, chiffon for the cocktails and a silk sari for the wedding are safe outfits to wear!

Shorts and large floral prints are staples if you are on a holiday in Hawaii! Lockdown or WFH dressing has become a wardrobe by itself giving us many an opportunity for either mirth or embarrassment! “Uniform” dressing, which is a norm in all schools, armed forces and some corporate houses, brings in a sense of unity and solidarity. Clubs, social organisations and colleges have mandatory dress codes which you may break at your own peril!

Toyota added pockets to their workers’ overalls so that they could carry all necessary tools on their person — functionality at its best!

Changing norms

The norms of dressing have changed over time. Jeans have replaced both pavadais and ‘pajamas’. Clothes, these days, range from microscopic shorts for casual wear to elaborate evening gowns for red carpet events! Strappy or cold shoulder blouses for women and girls and pink and lilac shirts for the metrosexual man are passé.

Taboos have largely disappeared, and conservative dressing has been replaced by a casual show of skin. There is little difference in Bollywood, between what yesteryear vamps used to wear and what lead actors wear these days. “Fashion,” they say, “is like eating. You shouldn’t stick to the same menu.”

It’s a dynamic, vibrant component that adds joie de vivre to our lives. Fads and fashions appear and disappear in cycles. As ideas of comfort and style evolve, fashions change from skin tight to flares, minis to maxis and changing colours for the year or season. And with every change, the older generation wonders how “anyone” can like the kind of outfits that are being currently worn!

Individuals vary tremendously in their penchant for dressing up. Some like to dress up very enthusiastically, and follow the latest trends in fashion, literally to their fingertips. Others dress down and wear grey khadi and a bare visage, even for a Deepavali get-together! Some couples like to dress with colour-coded outfits. Theme parties are a huge draw for people who love to dress. While some dress for the “shock and awe” effect, yet another set of people dress to show the world that they believe in “simple living and high thinking”. We dress to “keep up with the Joneses” so that we feel that we “belong”! Divas, all over the world, dress to kill! If the attention to dressing is plotted with age, we will surely get a platykurtic curve which peaks between the ages of 25 and 50!

Ralph Waldo Emerson had said, “ Being perfectly well-dressed gives one a tranquillity that no religion can bestow.” Looking good isn’t self importance; it is self respect. It is also believed that dressing well is an expression of manners. Just as punctuality is a way of respecting someone else’s time, being well dressed to suit the occasion expresses your respect for the sentiments of the people around you.

As a wise man has rightly said, “Dress the way you want to be addressed.”

datar.himani@gmail.com


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Printable version | May 14, 2022 6:29:45 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/wardrobe-function/article38307569.ece