At the risk of revealing my advanced age, I will freely admit that I joined Mount Carmel College in 1980 as a First Year Pre-University student. My father, who had until then taken zero interest in my wardrobe decided to buy me clothes. We went to Green Shop on Commercial Street in Bangalore and bought several lengths of light tropical wool and similar fabrics. I had several short pencil skirts and blouses tailored (sleeveless and sleeved). I had classmates who would wear fashionably skinny jeans (remember Wranglers?), capris, halters and mini skirts. Mount Carmel College was fairly fashion forward even then. I do not remember anyone beating off rabid, drooling men at the gates nor do I remember any staff outrage.
Why this boring foray into my sartorial past? I will explain. I read in the papers a couple of days ago that Bangalore colleges had laid down rigid dress codes for young men and women.
Bangalore College principals are fully confident that this will make the world a better place with colleges churning out modest, noble and chaste young men and women. As one principal proudly put it – “Last year I banned my students from wearing T-shirts with messages, this year I plan to introduce uniforms”.
From what I understand:
1. Jeans and T-shirts are out…………..salwars are in. And as we’ve seen, T-shirts with messages are clearly the work of the devil. Pure Indian male minds – hitherto only accustomed to the nun-like sartorial bent that our Katrina Kaifs, Rakhi Sawants and Kareena Kapoors favour – will presumably be driven mad with lust.
2. Kurtas are out………kurtis are in. Or maybe it’s the other way around. And actually maybe its time for me to make a jagged segue into a topic that’s been giving me sleepless nights. Exactly what is the difference between a kurta and a kurti? Are they related (like a mama and a mami?) Is a kurti a more cutesy pie version of a kurta. Anyway, I digress. I am also reliably informed that journalism students (those wild reprobates) are allowed jeans and kurtis, but MBAs must still stick to the sanctity of the salwar.
3. Checkered shirts are out…….and solids are in. Say what? I am not quite sure what statement a checkered shirt makes to the fevered mind of a college guard. Reminds him of his shady past? I’m sure Freud would have had something to say.
4. Sleeveless is out……..and this is a biggie. Who knows what apocalyptic events may take place at the sight of a bare arm. That little vaccination scar, that shoulder, the curve of the elbow and that wrist are apparently capable of rousing the basest instinct. No more urges to wear your heart on your sleeve, nothing to keep up that dratted sleeve. The principal will sleep well tonight – “Something attempted, something done… has earned a night’s repose” as old Longfellow would say.
5. Leggings are out……and I imagine broad palazzo type pants are in. Again the contour of the female leg covered in thick black fabric …. Aiyo!
6. Low-waisted pants are out..……and I don’t even want to go there.
Apparently, the people who are entrusted with the task of enforcing these rules are security guards who have been recruited from rural Karnataka. These men can decide on the spot what clothes are offensive or provocative and send students home to change their clothes. I submit that what constitutes a ‘provocative’ outfit to him must be taken with a grain of salt. Are these guards given a manual (length of sleeves, length of trousers, distance between navel and waistband….length of kurta/kurti) or do they just eyeball it?
Enough of the rant. If you followed the dress code to the letter, you could have any of the following scenarios which I sincerely hope the colleges will consider
Star Trek. I suggest unisex StarFleet uniforms – Command Gold for Staff and Red for students. Since the women in Star Trek wear teeny skirts, we can alter that to ankle length skirts. And everyone should wear uniforms two sizes too large. This should make everyone happy – Global, Nerdy and Modest.
Back to the seventies. Broad, loose bell bottoms and long sleeved floral patterned shirts with dog collars for both men and women
Back to the ‘30s. Pants for men that buckle at the neck, and sarees for women.
Full Burqa for women. The new fashion statement – Burqa is the new black.
The Osho / Sri Sri Sri Ravi Shankar look. Loose, flowing saffron robes
The ubiquitous Indian Nightie / Maxie for women with a saree underskirt. Voluminous, modest, hideously ugly and totally asexual. That should keep men away.
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