Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dressing decently

Give me an instruction manual with clearly defined rules and I am comfortable. Something like "If he kicks you in the pants, he does not like you' and I know where I stand. The problem, though, is when things get imprecise. People, more often than not, are more like "Sometimes, he will yell at you. Sometimes, he will smile and walk away. Sometimes, you can keep talking and he will gaze over your shoulder as though he is listening to an angel blowing a trumpet in the far horizon. Any of that may mean that he does not like you. It may also mean that his mind is elsewhere. Or...". You know what I mean - imprecise!

Why individuals? Even Society is like that - and never more so than when it comes to defining decent dressing. The dratted thing seems to obey no rules. I have tried and tried to determine the rules to identify decent dressing and failed miserably.

My first assumption was that the more a dress revealed of skin acreage the more indecent it was. Applying that concept proved a failure. People wrinkled their noses at me for walking in wearing a lungi-kurta whereas the chap in shorts, showing spindly legs and knock-knees, was apparently the heights of decency. As for women, the half-sari was by far more decent than the salwar-kameez apparently though the latter concealed more than the former, since the former did leave portions of the mid-riff bare. (Tamil Nadu, ladies and gentlemen, so please do not poke in your 'indecent' North Indian ideas).

Assuming all this was merely applicable to adolescents and the rule would work much better in adulthood was also a fallacy. The first time I walked into a club wearing a round-neck disabused me of the notion that concealment was the essence of decency. "Collars! Collars!" was the cry as a man with his shirt-buttons open till the waist, revealing a chest that would rival a gorilla, walked insouciantly in, while I was stopped by a sneering security guard. Seemed to me that wearing collars without shirts was more decent than shirts without collars.

Perhaps, then, indecency constituted of WHAT was being revealed. Maybe I could derive a standard rule on that basis. I float this idea with a friend and he came out with a shocker. Apparently, at some point in time in England (Victorian age??), a woman could cut the neck of her dress to just above the nipples and still be decent. BUT, nobody would be tart enough to allow the hem of her dress to rise high enough to show her ankles. Ye Gods! If I cannot decide upon decent dressing by whether it conceals the most NOR even expect the need for the same parts of the body to be concealed - across cultures and across time in the same culture - I was sunk.

Seems to me that decency in dressing is what we decide is decent and the same shall change from time to time based on our whims and fancies. A lot of people, though, are not nimble enough to adapt to the fact that what was dressing indecently yesterday was the heights of decency today and the vice versa. No wonder they make fools of themselves by crying themselves hoarse over indecency and finding no support.

The way things are, I suppose something like this would have happened in the early days of mankind's existence.

"Do you know what Lilith has gone and done?"
"What now?"
"She is wearing leaves around her waist"
"NO! Really?"
"Yes! That tart will do anything to attract the attention of the men."
"True! Why can't she be decently nude like the rest of us."
"What next? Will she be covering her breasts too?"
"Wouldn't put it past her. Wanton hussy!"

(That, of course, with due apologies to those who KNOW that it was Eve who started it all after being inspired by eating an apple.)

Anyway, now I know that I will never get the hang of what decent dressing is all about. Will someone - PLEASE - give a detailed listing and blow the whistle on it every time there is a change?

48 comments:

  1. The conversation is mind-blowing, Suresh. Dressing sense is a problem with many - so, you are not alone. It sucks when a girl tells me, 'Do you have ANY dressing sense, man?'

    'Screw you', I shout within.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No girl ever told me that :) I think they were all pretty sure that no amount of dress sense would make me look any better :)

      Delete
  2. In our own (north) India, haryanvi and rajasthani women use their chunari to completely their face. They then let the chunari fall off down their back. The chunari does not fall anywhere near their bosom.

    To me, that is very perplexing. I guess I too am clueless about what constitutes 'decent' dressing. :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AND the conclusions we come to about the character of a person based on whether he/she is 'decently' dressed or not! :)

      Delete
  3. I think everyone's idea of 'decent' dressing is different :P Frankly if there is no code set out (explicitly or understood) for a particular occasion/place, frankly who can stop anyone from wearing what they please? But yeah if you wear the same tee for weeks together or come dressed in torn jeans at work, now that will form perceptions wont it? The conversation you put up was funny, i think given how naive we Indians are when it comes to dressing, that day is not far away :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dirty clothing, yes - 'grunge' has still not reached those depths :) Not too sure about torn jeans though :) I do not know whether that fashion of having a few holes (bullet-wash or some such crap used to be the name in my times) still persists :) If it does, then I would not assume away the possibility of torn jeans being decent wear, even in office :)

      THAT conversation was also meant to say that ideas of decency arise out of what is expected. In a world where clothing had not made its appearance, the first people to use them must have been considered 'indecent' :)

      Delete
  4. I make my own style and place comfort over any dress codes even at the cost of violating it:) To hell with the world!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aha! A man after my own heart. Like me! Who was the guy dressed in jeans, shirt and sports shoes in the middle of pin-striped suit country - meeting with bankers and lawyers in Lombard Street, London - Me, that's who :P

      Delete
    2. I had written something on it. Please re-read it here:
      http://amitaag.blogspot.in/2013/02/blog-post.html

      Delete
    3. I remembered that as soon as I saw it, Amit! Quite apt for this post :)

      Delete
  5. "Collars! Collars!" was the cry as a man with his shirt-buttons open till the waist, revealing a chest that would rival a gorilla, walked insouciantly in, while I was stopped by a sneering security guard. Seemed to me that wearing collars without shirts was more decent than shirts without collars. - That was pure PG Wodehouse sir :)


    There is a whole book to be written about footwear! Lady colleagues can walk in to work just wearing coloured hawai chappals, while the poor male member of the specie should come in polished shoes that match the colour of one's trousers. God forbid sandals!!! It will become a scandal if I wear socks and sandals!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do not get me started on footwear Mahesh :)

      Delete
  6. I have no clue about what decent dressing is. For me personally it may be defined by the occasion, the place and the company. For eg. I wouldn't wear a short dress (I don't wear short dresses anyway) while traveling in a crowded bus or walking down the street. It would be okay to wear if I am going to a party of similarly dressed people. Like Dagny said, I was confused when I went to Rajasthan. I saw these women wearing lovely ghagra choli with their dupattas completely covering their faces while their bosoms were totally exposed very different from how I would wear my dupatta. One lady I spoke to had a humourous explanation. She said, she covers the asset that is different from others :). And ideally when going to a temple or a festival, I would wear traditional clothes. The point you made about sari and salwar kameez makes a lot of sense. I have often wondered the same about the saree not to mention how much the blouses expose too. Yet they are more decent than a garment that fully covers. So I've given up completely trying to understand what 'decent' dressing is. What parameters I have, I apply solely to myself.

    ReplyDelete
  7. That conversation about Lilith is hillarious :)
    Living on south Indian coast, my mantra in dressing is simple - three C's - Cotton, Comfortable, Casual :) But of course comfortable and casual can be defined differently by different folks, that's cool by me. That's another c - cool :) Interesting read, as always, Suresh!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Beloo - mine shrinks to one - comfort :)

      Delete
  8. My dress sense borders on dress 'non'sense so to speak and I therefore will try and learn as much as I can from the comments of well dressed people here :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Including me, Jairam? :) I wear tracks and tees everywhere - including weddings :)

      Delete
  9. Awesome post! That conversation was brilliant!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I liked that part the best too while writing :)

      Delete
  10. I think definition of decency has something to do with sexual attraction. I think dressing or the lack of it possibly has something to do with making oneself attractive to the opposite gender. So anything different from what all others wear tends to attract attention and along with it possibly the indecent tag. I remember reading one Asimov story about a community that covers the hair of the head. So the women of the community find the hero's exposed head sexually attractive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See what I mean :) There ARE no rules :) Yes, decency seems to be determined based on impact on the opposite sex, but there are NO rules on WHAT constitutes such attraction in the eyes of Society :)

      Delete
  11. The typical Suresh post -subtle humour with lot of things to ponder over... Liked it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Rajeev! Love to think that there is something called a 'typical' Suresh style - especially the way you describe it, because that is what I try to do :)

      Delete
  12. Hahaha....each of us should define our own 'decent' dressing. Let me tell you something that came to my mind last evening when I was walking my daughter from the parking lot to the swim pool. Not completely relevant here though. I see a dad with a daughter. The dad wore shorts and and t-shirt (body hugging). The thing that came to my mind immediately was, "Why do men wear body hugging t-shirts? Ohhh to show off their muscles, isn't it? Then, why do they call it exposing if girls do the same?" still scratching my head from that thought.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably because they know they ogle and assume that women do not :)

      Delete
  13. That temple that I went to? I wore a sleeveless kurta over jeans, and a couple of people I know, whom I met there "pointed" out the "in-appropriateness" of the dress......!! An aunt lectured me how a mother of two(read: me) should not be going around wearing skirts (for god's sake.. they were ankle length!)
    Of course that doesn't stop me from wearing what I think is comfortable....I can't be draped in shimmering silk sarees in hot summers even if those aunties think it's the most appropriate way to dress up!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Good one...we Indians seem to be totally confused when it comes to dressing...what to adopt from the west and what to retain from our traditions..the mindset needs an overhauling!

    ReplyDelete
  15. My dear namesake,

    Just imagined a girl clad in skin-tight dress that matched the overall colour of her skin..... That also reminded me of Mr.Kini of the Twin Cities (Hyd'bad-Sec'bad) who had become a proud owner of a green colured Kurta and to flaunt his new possession, he proposed to dine out with his family members and a two other friends. Sporting that Kurta, he barged into the expensive and cozy restaurant only to realise that all the waiters wore green coloured tunics and 'phut' went Mr. Kini's exclusive claim!!!
    Suresh Panje

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahaha! NOW THAT is improper dressing, though not indecent :)

      Delete
  16. hahha ROFL button opened till waist!! the image itself is so hilarious :P
    this dressing sense has started baffling me too since I am appearing for interviews. For men it's so simple - suit tie shoes done. But for women, should I wear pant suit, or dress suit or skirt suit ... should I wear matching closed shoe and match the handbag with the color of the shoe. Gosh tips on sites leaves me biting my nails ....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just went as I normally dress - like it or lump it basis :)

      Delete
  17. Wearing collars without shirt ! oh..:-D :-D..actually I find this club dressing really irritating...we should wear in which we are most comfortable ( that doesn't imply that one should go to office wearing a loose tee-shirt and a pair of shorts:-P ) ..and when it comes to women ..it becomes all the more complex ...the conversation about Lilith says it all... :-D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have always found this 'dress-code' thing funny :)

      Delete
  18. I wonder why they consider a sari decent and trousers indecent even though a sari reveals much more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As indeed did I. The only conclusion I could come to was that they did not want women to show that they too had two legs like men :)

      Delete
  19. I feel we should dress comfortably & wear what we comfortable wearing!
    It shows, Sureshji...

    ReplyDelete
  20. This is just like beauty in the eyes of the beholder. We are the best judge of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Every beholder judges differently :) So, it is best to please one's own self :)

      Delete
  21. LOL ! The last conversation was awesome ! Ha ha ! Women in saris sometimes show more skin that women wearing western dresses like jeans/trousers, but still that is what is considered propah :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, Ash - which is why the whole concept beats me :)

      Delete
  22. Decency definition varies from person to person & region to region :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. That dialogue was hilarious Suresh. I think decent dressing would be related to wearing what one is comfortable in and what one knows how to carry him/herself in. (Long sentence, please forgive if grammatical ly flawed :) ) . Yes, ones physical status also matters. Here in SEAsia I see so many women in simple shorts and T Shirts all the time. Shorts that truly explain what gave them the name. The ladies look perfectly ok and normal and decent. But it's not a very common sight in Chennai. For one the Indian woman's physique is quite different and not many will know how to carry themselves with grace and confidence. Plus socially there are unwritten rules about decent dressing like wearing collars without shirts at pubs hi hi

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was the social rules that I was making fun of, Jaish! :)

      Delete