In Fashion…The art of decorousness
Some years ago, I was in Rome. It was a hot summer’s evening, and my Italian friend, Valentina, suggested we go to a church. “It is beautiful architecture. It is a grand place”, she egged me on. As we entered the hallowed premises, a guy walked up to us and told Valentina that she was inappropriately dressed for the church. We walked out, and I was disappointed. My hope of seeing a remarkable piece of Roman history was dashed to the ground by Valentina’s fashion, if I may describe it so. She wore a skirt, which was knee-length. But what must have offended religious sentiment that evening must have been her top, sleeveless and skimpy.
This Roman holiday of mine came to mind the other morning when I read a newspaper report of a 23-year-old woman asked to get off a plane at San Diego, because the Southwest Airlines staff felt her skirt was seductively short.
While this may be a case of exaggerated sense of decency, there is a clear line of what constitutes decorousness and what does not. While I may be inclined to agree with the church in Rome, I would find it hard to do so with the airlines.
In India, dressing can be problematic. It is both unwise and illogical to ask college girls not to get into jeans, as some universities have been doing so. I am not in favour of such a dress code: after all jeans are comfortable and by no means offensive.
However, having said that I would like to emphasise that fashion has to be place and time specific. One cannot walk out of a hotel swimming pool into the lobby in a bikini. It is not done, and yet I have seen women strut about the lobby on the way to their rooms in the most daring of swim costumes. It is positively rude to wear revealing clothes in places of worship, as it is impolite, even hostile, to walk into a funeral in flaming read or bright blue.
Fashion is not just what YOU want; it is also what the community around you desires and considers suitable. And mind you, clothes have to respect the mood and sentiment of the times and place. It is fine, even fun, to be daringly dressed in a disco or a party, but trooping into a temple in a pair of hot pants may well invite trouble.
Plunging necklines and rising hemlines make great style statements when you are perhaps in the South of France. But try them in a conservative Indian town, the Heavens may fall.
So, the next time you dress up, remember you are being watched. Most important, it is good to be considerate to the feelings of those around you. For, the clothes you wear go a long way in creating impressions, apart from making personal statements. Fashion is not just what you feel. It is also what others want.
Till we meet again, goodbye and good day.
(Webposted September 10 2007)