When it comes to what women wear, everybody has an opinion. There is always somebody seeking to enforce some weird dress code, making it an issue in social as well as professional spheres. Recently, there was an almighty hullabaloo over Serena Williams’ sensational catsuit which was banned at the French Open (Not that her sponsors would ever allow her to repeat an outfit for a fresh season. Quelle horreur!), and a whole lot of chatter over her tulle tutu at the US Open.
Elsewhere in the world people debate the right to wear burkas and burkinis. Closer home, one can recall instances where celebs were pulled up for their fashion choices that failed to respect our glorious Indian traditions and culture. Priyanka Chopra was excoriated for wearing an ‘insensitive shirt’ that offended refugees, Jhanvi Kapoor and Suhana Khan are kept in the news for wearing bikinis and the twitterati work themselves into a tizzy defending or denigrating their sartorial choices.
Of course, for those of us who don’t have to deal with the hardships of being one among the glitterati, there is still a permanent dress code to contend with or the perennial pressure to look as good as Anushka Sharma does. Schools are forever enforcing rules, insisting that their female students wear longer skirts or salwar kameez with attached dupattas. There was even an institution in Pune that tried to regulate the colour of underwear!
In social settings, women are slut-shamed for being too hot, showing too much skin or wearing outfits that embrace their curves a little too lovingly—though one can never be certain about how much is too much. If you are someone like me who firmly believes that life would be far more fun if we were allowed to sail through it wearing nothing but plus-sized tees, shorts, tracks, and harem pants then there is the definite risk of being prude/behenji-shamed for not being hot enough in addition to dealing with not entirely unfounded accusations of being fugly, frumpy or a fuddy-duddy. It is a cruel world for those of us who choose to liberate our inner dowdy diva.
It is about time women addressed their enslavement by the fashion police and custodians of overpriced couture who bully us into squeezing ourselves into stilettos and flesh coloured thongs, insisting that it is the empowered thing to do. As is ridding ourselves of unsightly bodily hair, frizzy tresses, natural curls, meat on the bones, and the occasional blemish using pricey products foisted on us by the cosmetic industry. We spend more time and money than we can afford prettying up to meet the impossible standards of conventional beauty when we could be doing something far more constructive, instructive, edifying or enjoyable such as working on our inner beauty or lazing on a couch, and stuffing our faces with nutella cheesecake.
Ladies, it is time to wake up. And that goes double for you, Serena Williams. I recommend shorts. It is the champion’s choice.
Author of Arjuna, Kamadeva, Shakti, and Yama’s Lieutenant