Thanks so much for letting me ramble on like this. Sending a hug your way even as I secretly agonise over what I’m going to write next and how it’s going to turn out. For now, I will continue with Stuff That Should Be Mainstream But Isn’t, because (surprise! ) the list grows longer the more I think about it. On to part 3, my beautiful devis!
5. The Skirt
Bear with me as I contradict my own stand on gendered clothing for women; I’ll explain. While I’m all ‘Down, cruel corsetry! Down, skinny jeans that numb your legs and ruin your gait!’, I’m also all ‘Why you no wear prettyfloaty things no’ mo’?’ Historically, prettyfloaty clothing has been gender neutral (Exhibit A- Jesus. Exhibit B- the Pope and his Peeps. Exhibit C- the Greeks. Pretty much everyone in the Iliad, especially Brad Pitt and Eric Bana. Wait, that’s Troy. Damn you, skirt-wearing, taut-calved, brain-scrambling men! Exhibit D- the Romans. Thank you, Russell Crowe in Gladiator. We haven’t met but let’s skirt that issue, shall we? Exhibit E- the Mughals, with their love of kalis (pleats) and gher (float factor). And Exhibit F- most men in the Game of Thrones, which references costumes from Ye Olde Ages. You get the picture. Never question a list with Jesus and G.O.T. in it.)
Luckily for women, the men decided to ditch their skirts, with three notable exceptions.
1. The Scots. Adorable, bumbling King Fergus with his three baby boys in Brave. And Mel Gibson reprising William Wallace in Braveheart.(“Ow many did you kill, William?” “I don’t know. I kilt a lot.” An exchange that should have been part of the movie, but wasn’t.)
2. The Tams and the Keralites, with their lungis and their mundus respectively. The lungi is also worn in Bangladesh and the Maldives.
3. Archie Aymslowe, wizard and president of the Fresh Air Refreshes Totally (F.A.R.T.) movement, a bunch of wizards who refuse to wear Muggle trousers because “..they stem the magical flow at source”. He turned up at the Quidditch World Cup in a flowery night dress because he much preferred “..a healthy breeze around the privates, thanks.”
Now that most men aren’t wearing skirts, here’s our chance to reclaim a garment that may not score a 10/10 on logic, but does look damn fine, and does wear well on the bloaty, bloody days of the month. After so many years of sitting on the fence, the skirt is finally feminine- and yet, it is disappearing from the urban Indian landscape faster than you can say ‘Sari!’
There could be many reasons. One is the androgynization of female work attire, requiring working women to adapt their wardrobes to a male sartorial aesthetic and the judge-y male gaze. The other is growing street crimes, causing women to reach for clothing that covers, muffles and drowns. Ironically, women in the northern, north-western, western and north-eastern rural parts of the country continue to wear their cotton and wool skirts with pride. The Kalbelias come to mind, as do many tribes in Nagaland. So much hate for you, stupid pants that are pinching my belly as I write this.
This is a lucky day to be arguing for the skirt, because Kalki Koechlin just gave me a clincher in the form of a ranty poem about how much it sucks to be a woman. I’m not a big fan of the chest-beating school of poetry but I do like these lines-
Here we are,
On International Women’s Day,
With some minor disappointments,
And few things to say.
The woman in red,
The girl in pink,
The widow in white,
The Burqa in black,
The colour of lipstick,
Viva Glam, Lady Danger, Fresh brew, Faux, Frenzy, Hot Gossip and Sweetie.
Ramblin, Siss, Crème Cup, Paramount and Modesty
Fetish, Spice It Up, Naked Paris, Honey Love and Odyssey.
Apply, line, smack, seal, pout,
And you’re ready to go out.
Sometimes I just want an oversized T shirt, boxer shorts, unkempt hair and unibrows.
I want armpit hair long enough to plait,
I want a clean face without a trace of make up
I want to look the way I do when I wake up.
I want to scratch my head,
Dig my nose,
Lick my fingers,
Stretch my legs
And spread my toes.
I want to smile with my gums showing,
Bare my teeth and
Contort my pretty face into wrinkles.
I want my crow’s feet to look sexy,
Or my salt and pepper hair,
Or my sun burnt skin,
I want to be George Clooney basically,
But with breasts and a muffin.
If you’re a habitual pants-wearer who struggles with breathing because damn mass produced clothing with no logical sizing and because damn leches on the Metro and because damn potato-sack legs with clumpy calves, I urge you to put your fears and body issues aside for a minute and hatch a devious plan that involves a skirt, chocolate and a movie. Promise me that on your next trip to the movies (because its indoors and there’s less likelihood of gropey-ness), you will NOT punish yourself and WILL air your leggity-legs in a garment that’s basically just a fun tube made of cloth that’s also pretty. AND you will kick off your slippers and rest your feet against the seat in front (because who cares, it’s dark and everyone has eyes only for the loveplay on the screen), and munch on a chocolate bar and remember me every time you feel a nice breeze around the privates, much like Archie Aymslowe.
6. The Hat
This is a hot country, and the sun is a bastard for most of the year. Which makes me wonder why we don’t wear hats. Hats are bad for hairdos but great for facial skin, and I’d choose facial skin over hairdo every time you asked me who I’d save if both were drowning in a shark-filled sea. And then, I don’t get why the Brits wear hats. It’s a sunless country and your perky black felt will turn to pulp in the rain, so why bother? (This does not apply to the characters on Downton Abbey, Mister Darcy, Don Draper, and the Ladies at the Royal Ascot. Please continue to be the stuff of our collective fantasies. PS- Isn’t Ascot Aishwarya a definite improvement over Normal Aishwarya? She looks amazingly dreamy in those Philip Treacy beauties.)
But seriously. Hats look great. They’re a lot like bow ties in their ability to ‘finish’ and round out an outfit, in addition to being great mediums of expression. So why aren’t we wearing any except on vacays? Do we fear that we will look stupid? (This, by the way, is a valid fear. I instinctively distrust men who wear small fedoras. There’s a type. K Fed and Honey Singh come to mind.) Are they inconvenient to carry? Why aren’t there any hat-stands in our homes and our workplaces, or is this a chicken and egg story?
I have no answers. Do you?
I own only three hats- a large black floppy, a black mid-sized felt bought from Marks & Spencer for a ridiculous price that had the Husband eyerolling me for days, and a chic cream cloche with a giant black button on the brim. But these are Winter Hats. I’m still looking for the perfect Summer Hat. Till then, it’s a double-smack of SPF on my face and an under-the-breath Jai Mata Di before I step into the sun.
As an aside, there’s also the Fascinator, an aptly named thing you wear on your head for high impact and low, gossipy whispers. I love fascinators. They glam you up instantly and go with anything, barring onesies and dungarees. Shilpa Chavan of Little Shilpa makes horribly expensive, stunning pieces and Claire’s, your friendly neighbourhood junk jewellery store stocks excellent inexpensive options.
I cannot end this post without my favourite Hat Joke. I told this a lot as a kid, sometimes four to five times a day. Never gets old.
Q: What’s this?
A: A Mexican on a bicycle.
Wait. I also cannot end this post without sharing this hilarious sketch from Saturday Night Live. It’s about hats, features all of my imaginary best friends, and pokes fun at how fashion is often unreasonable and stupid, and yet, great fun. 🙂
Thanks for visiting!