- Sivaram Srikandath
Story Dated: Saturday, August 18, 2012 10:32 hrs IST
Call me old fashioned, square, or even a prude, if you will. But I believe that being suitably attired is a sign of civilized life. I am not suggesting that one should be dressed to the nines all the time; but certainly dressing correctly for the occasion is important. That is not too much to ask for, is it? And yes, dressing appropriately has to become a habit, a part of one's life. For, as Oscar winning Hollywood costume designer Edith Head said, good clothes are not a matter of good luck. I would add that it is a matter of conscious intent.
But to be quite frank,I am appalled by the manner in which many people dress in public spaces. A couple of weeks ago when I was in Delhi there was an interesting news item in the metro edition of a national newspaper. The story was captioned Parent Pyjama Party at School and carried photographs of parents dressed in shorts, T-shirts, track pants and other casual nightwear, dropping off their tiny (and not so tiny) tots at school. Some of the parents looked as though they had just woken up from bed, clothes rumpled, and looks all dishevelled. Of course, the pictures had been photo shopped and the faces masked to avoid embarrassment to the concerned parents and their wards.But the point had been well made in the accompanying story which raised the pertinent question of whether or not parents have a responsibility to dress appropriately while escorting their wards to school?
It appears that Delhi schools are not alone in expressing concern in this matter. On June 30, it was reported that several schools in Bangalore were forced to issue a " dress diktat" to parents guilty of being seen in boxer shorts, night dresses, noodle strap tops and other intimate apparel near the gates of Bangalore schools.
The principal of the Blossoms School in Bangalore, D.Shashi Kumar told reporters that he was forced to take this extreme step. "We endured this for a long time because we used to leave such private issues to parental discretion. But now some kids have become the butt of their classmates' jokes because of their parents' folly....... It became an embarrassment for everyone around." And as the organizing secretary of the Karnataka State Private Schools Management Federation, he is trying to persuade other schools to join his campaign. Already Indian High School, Vidya Niketan Public School and Raja Rajeswari School have issued notices to parents requesting them not to appear in school wearing nightwear. But others have preferred to remain quiet for fear of triggering unnecessary controversy..
While quite a few parents have understood the spirit in which the dress advisory has been issued, many others, including even some school authorities seem to consider the move as being too intrusive. The principal of a Delhi school says " we should only be bothered about the dress of our students and not the parents. It's very unfair to expect a parent to dress up at 6.30 am." Many parents view it as a private matter, purely one of individual choice. A young mother whose husband works in a BPO had harsh words about the dress code. " My husband usually works in the night shift and comes home in the morning, So it's my job to drop the kids before I leave for work. How is it possible to dress up in such a hurry? " Now, how long does it take to put on a pair of jeans anyway? A minute ? Surely, you are not that busy in the morning !
I don't know what it is, but it seems that people have lost their sense of propriety when it comes to sartorial matters. Looks like the changing mores of modern living have given them an unfettered licence to dress whatever, whenever, wherever and I see it every day on the streets.
There is this middle aged housewife, who stops at the little shop in front of my office to buy her milk. She dashes out of the car, dressed in her sleepwear ( more of a negligee than the ubiquitous Kerala "nightie dress") holding it chastely wrapped around her body as if to avoid the stares of passers by; and then, after grabbing the packets of milk she quickly makes a run back into the car. Whew, she seems to think, I have made it back safely!
Or the young executive, who takes his morning constitutional, wearing a pair of brightly patterned boxer shorts which he considers a fashion statement to be made in public. Hellooooo ! Do we really need to see you in your underwear?
And the young desperately-trying-to-be-hip girls who are forever unkempt and bedraggled, often wearing kitschy harem pants, tacky tank tops and sandals to work. This too in Cochin ! I really cannot figure out the look they are aiming for - is it uber cool or urban trash? Perhaps, they themselves do not know.
The celebrated fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent famously remarked that dressing is a way of life. So, true indeed. The way we dress often reveals who we really are. I only wish more people would realize this.