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A Giant Leap Backwards

A Giant Leap Backwards

August 06, 2012

Meanwhile back home....the fashion police go into overdrive. When did burqas become the new black?

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. 


  • anna
    11.08.12 05:00 PM
    She is not talking about school uniforms,but about college uniforms. And college is the coming of age type years where people experiment and find new aspects of oneselfs. Its like a sand box for want to be grown ups and its probaly better mistakes get made there and then than later on. Comparing this with work isnt quite right. Very few employes actucally live right on worksite wheras many hostel and dormitory students do.
  • Rajpriya
    11.08.12 02:07 PM

    "Beside being sort of corporal identity, uniforms help balancing social and material inequalities while wearing trendy clothes is usually a rather shameful display of wealth. Being taught that there are rules to follow is not the worst thing in the world."

    Hats off to you.
  • Ala
    11.08.12 01:31 PM
    I agree 100% with Harry. There is nothing wrong with uniforms and one certainly can expect from young people to accept dressing code of their college. What is so terrible about it and what do they lose if they don't? Personal freedom, really? They can wear what they want after school, of course if their parents agree. Beside being sort of corporal identity, uniforms help balancing social and material inequalities while wearing trendy clothes is usually a rather shameful display of wealth. Being taught that there are rules to follow is not the worst thing in the world.
    06.08.12 09:31 PM
    @ Achala

    From your article I can't seem to understand your outrage. I don't know what's upsetting you more, is it that people are not allowed to wear what they want, or the uniforms that are about to be introduced.

    I am sure you would understand if you had gone to upper class schools and colleges in UK or Europe that you are not allowed to wear that sort of clothing that makes you look common. They have strict dress codes, what they can wear and what they can't.

    If your clothing is outrageous and offensive where you could influence others, then you shouldn't be allowed to wear in such domain.

    A so called friend of mine used to wear T-shirts that used to have a variety of stupid slogans. One used to be "MILLIONS OF MY POTENTIAL CHILDREN HAVE DIED ON YOUR DAUGHTERS FACE" with a woman's face covered in white liquid on it.

    Now if the young man in question came to your house wearing this with your daughter, how would you react? And also I didn't see the point he was trying to make either. It clearly wasn't about fashion and he wasn't a fashion icon.

    I'm not against fashion clothings, but there is a time and place for them and I don't think colleges are places for it. Every institution has to have rules or people will start to take the piss.

    What I can't seem to understand is your outrage for such clothings and what's wrong in wearing uniforms and looking smart and modest clothes. I may sound prude but I'm not a killjoy and like I said, there is a time and place for everything.

  • Rajpriya
    06.08.12 03:06 PM
    Don't be sadly mistaken. Boys start at tender ages these days.

    It won’t be long before 6 year olds start. Here is a link.
  • Ash
    06.08.12 01:08 PM
    Oh boy... how about restricting all men above 12 from going out unaccompanied after 7 pm?
  • Rajpriya
    06.08.12 11:03 AM
    Of course! It could be A Giant Leap Forwards.
  • Rajpriya
    06.08.12 10:54 AM
    I would suggest scientists in India start taking prenatal genetic testing to detect male children who possibly could have the genes to turn psychopaths and abort their birth.

    Nipping them in the bud could allow women walk around freely wearing what they like. There is no easy way to this increasing problem of Rapes.
  • Deepa
    06.08.12 10:15 AM
    If dressing was the one that led to rape, then how come women wearing sarees get raped too? For that matter, if we talking about revealing, I find that sarees are the most revealing - both shapes and skin leaving nothing to the imaginiation! Wonder why jeans and T-shirts would get targeted. Sucks!

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