There is an exact science behind what men and women find attractive, right? While that is somewhat accurate (ex. symmetrical faces), it’s not an exact science. The standard of beauty varies among different societies and cultures. The perfect body has changed and reverted back so many times in the course of history as new trends […]
“I don’t make music for eyes. I make music for ears.” -Adele.
“You will see the Signs,” they say. I was not looking for any…
Last week, Tina and Sid dropped in for an impromptu Saturday tea. Conversations hovered for a bit over what is now, versus what was at our time. (Sheesh! I belong to a bygone era? How old am I?) Fashion, naturally, was one of the gazillion concerns. When Sid, a human encyclopedia commented, and I quote, “You know, women have always had to torture themselves to look a certain way. The corsets they wore in the early centuries literally broke their ribs.” Thank you Sid!
Two days later, my routine morning me-time saw me sipping on my routine glass of herbal water, while routinely browsing through my social media feed. A post by @bodyposipanda affirmed how to be comfortable in one’s own shape.
In between the Saturday tea and Hannah’s story, subtle hints continued to nudge; when Mum and I were shopping at M&S, an article about how most of us carry a size smaller to the fitting room…
Okay, okay, I get the point. I also will get some $#*@! for writing this, from people I know, and do not know, and my friends, who are players of an industry which endorses ‘the Image’. I am too.
Game rule: to get maximum results, hit your hardest, albeit politely, where it hurts the most- the Self.
Four seasons ago, Mona and I were at a quaint studio of a Delhi based designer. The racks were shift dresses in warm, bright pastels, fresh off the Fashion week. Mona could not try the canary yellow shift she fell in love with; she was two sizes larger. They agreed to custom make it for her. Happy Mona! “Sure, I’ll try it on for you Mona,” happy me agreed. Crash! My hips ‘pear-ed’ out markedly, as the dress struggled to breathe below my torso. I knew my hips to be two inches more than the perfect ratio of bust:waist:hips. Apparently, that was way too much?! Apparently, my body shape was not good enough.
I was hit, bad.
Ever watched an outfit walk down a fashion week ramp? Then seen an instagram post of that same perfect silhouette, on a Real person? How perfect does it remain, when it is reassembled to fit real body proportions? I wonder, who does the Real person see in the mirror?
A definite hit.
Perfect body shapes seemingly live perfect lives. Everything seems to ‘fit’; not just the clothes. When perfection looks at you through half closed eyes, you can feel the sensuality of the perfume kept right next to her fragile body. She lays her delicate self on a sofa to convince you of the sheer beauty of an apartment complex. Her flawless body size tells you what toothpaste works best for your teeth (no matter how unhappy her own teeth are; they can always be photoshopped). She is asleep like a feather on the mattress you should now own. Air travel is spacious and floaty for her, in economy class. We need to fly floaty airlines to her recommended destinations. How dreamlike the backdrops look, behind her (lithesome) silhouette!
Now, my life. The over-sized shirt I had tried at F…’s, looked like I had run out of clothes. Strike one. Feather-light sleep? I played pretend for one week, when we had changed the mattress. Got bored waiting to automatically drift waif-like to sleep. Strike two. Her perfect dish and laundry cleaners do not inspire me to do a Mary Poppins song and dance. Strike three. Flying economy is a dream I would love to wake up from. I am struck out.
I need to lose some inches to have a perfect life. Whacked again.
Ninety percent of my clients, want me to hold on to their garment fittings until the practically possible nth hour, before the occasion. I hear pride in their painful stories, working to grind those inches away before deadline. And after the non-caloried, sweet success is all over and done with? All is over and done with.
An advert scrolled down my screen for ‘weight’ loss. What it meant was ‘inch’ loss. These are not synonyms, the intentions behind the two are different. Anyways, back to my phone screen, “No exercise and diet needed to lose weight. Come to us, we will help you.” Err…
Our bad, our big ‘sized’ bad, is that we damn our own selves.
Dear clothing designers, don’t treat us as a ‘category’. Don’t simply revamp (resize) a silhouette designed for a catwalk body, for us, the Real bodies. Are we ever your muse?
Dear visualizers of adverts, we the Real bodies, are predominantly your crucial clients. What language do you speak when only svelte shapes are required to influence our buys? We would love for you to talk Real.
Dear inch-loss promoters, how about being health promoters? It is unhealthy for us, playing the game vice-versa. You still win, because gaining health, is a swear-by guarantee to losing inches.
We are venting loud now, and yes, we are getting there. Finally, some happy moments:
Katie Sturino, of The 12ish Style, a plus-size blogger of the #LoveMyShape campaign is questioning fashion brands about the exclusion of her size with her #MakeMySize strategy. She has posted her frustrating trial room photos on Instagram (@the12ishstyle).
“…some designers move away from traditional runway casting, in favor of ‘real people’. A familiar list of designers, led by Chromat and Christian Siriano, presented their new collections on women of all sizes…”
“Body diversity is finally being celebrated in the modeling industry, and we’re all for it. Designers are giving people what they want by including more curve models in their shows and campaigns. It truly seems like 2018 is the year we see a change in the fashion world.”
All the above seems like a luxurious blindfold; this thought did cross my mind. What do you think?
“Does the fashion industry truly care about body-positivity and diversity—or just invoking it to sell their clothes?”- Stylecaster.com
Back home, I look forward to new updates by plantationhouse.in. Plantation House creates fluid silhouettes using geometric shapes. These are eternal, individualist styles, not recommended for fast-fashion followers (until this silhouette starts trending). I see freedom in their shapes because I do not have to fit into a size ratio. I prefer the old fashioned browsing through offline stores; I need to visit their studio in Bengaluru city.
I found my voice in the understated, contemporary stylings of @tapasyalife. Seema Rituraj of Tapasya, could not be more explicit about affirming positive self image, when designing her clothing line; she spreads it extensively over six sizes. “My sizing is not generous, it is real! I tell them (clients), you are as skinny or large as your attitude. Feel good when you wear what fits well; when your heart smiles, you cannot not look fabulous.” Well proven words; from Bengaluru, again.
Dear all, can Real people be Perfect?
Yes, as long as we stop playing victim to external impressions.
I am in the birthing land of Jeans at the moment, so predictably, shopping for the indigos here is very very necessary. And there is just way too much ‘wow’. It is very distracting, the options that show themselves in ‘neat’ chaotic rows and stacks, until confused eyes mercifully hover over display signs. Plain Skinny, Skinny low-rise, Skinny high-rise, Ankle-length Skinny, Skinny tights, Skinny embroidered, Boyfriend jeans, and yeah, also the newest to hit me, Girlfriend jeans, all this, discounting the color options. This is a seriously exhaustive vocabulary in Jeans styles!
Nope. That was my attempt at sarcasm.
“Jeans represent democracy in fashion.” -Giorgio Armani.
Truth is, they used to. I am currently an involuntary victim of this Sticky Jeans trend (It is circa seven years since).
Dear Lords of Jeans, is this how far your design ethics go? Because you left me out. And the many others like me. I need my right to freedom of Choice. I want classics, the originals in raw denims (how can classics get extinct?!), I want straight, I want boot-cuts. I ‘almost live’ in my Jeans. (Am I wrong to assume a lot of us do?) So, I don’t want to squeeze myself into a toothpick thin tube. My skin needs to breathe, my muscles, my nerves, hell, ‘I’ need to breathe!
Also, the silhouette just does not appeal to me.
Also, I do not fancy ‘Dictatorship’; so this fad repels me even more.
(Do you have Skinny Jeans in your closet? An ‘I love it’ choice?)
Eighth store now; I was bending forward, half crouched under the racks, with two shopping bags, scouting for any hem widths wider than four inches. (Wish they displayed Jeans, bottom side up. I felt like a woman crazed.) Two pretty shoes I bumped into apologized for not stocking the old-fashioned, would I like to try their Baggy Boyfriend Jeans? There was an err…nope, thank you, when I saw Her! Flared flare bottoms. Heart, heart, heart! Cross my heart honesty, this was true happily-ever-after drama; it was the only piece, in an only color, available in the only size- mine, mine, mine!
Sigh! If fairytales could materialize more often…
“You get so attached to jeans, they’re like old friends.” -Lily Donaldson.
“I just can’t perform well unless I’m wearing jeans.” -Grimes.
“Blue jeans and Hollywood and rock & roll won the cold war.” -Ben Dreyfuss.
“Back in the day, a pair of tight jeans was enough to earn a girl a bad reputation. Now slutty has gone Main Street.” -Linda Chavez.
“I like the sort of ‘nothingness’ of the jeans and the T-shirt. I feel that’s about as close as I can get to the future because it seems like something so old that will always be, so I feel it’s a safe bet for the future.” -Marc Jacobs.
This one is mine:
“Jeans are honest. Let’s not adulterate them.”
(This is a sequel to ‘I am not old-fashioned, I am angry.’ A short on Jeans scouting.)
Black, just black. What do you see? Or is it ‘that’ what you can’t see?
“Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all…”- Coco Chanel.
Black, simply black, is a mind-challenging, densely weighted subject; hence, some humor to unburden here. ‘Orange/ red/ fuschia/ blah,blah… is the new Black.’
If you are even smirking, we are pretty much on the same side here. Black as a yardstick for other colors now? That deserves the over clichéd ‘OHH-MY-GOD’ drama of a beauty pageant winner. Why? Because Black’s membership into the esteemed color palette is an overly-emoted, perennial debate between artists and physicists.
And no, there can be no resolution.
A girly late evening out, Gaya, Sonj and I, were celebrating our existence as women. Two rounds of martinis later, Black had made our conversations visibly animated and louder. We were attempting to define it. Our list looked a bit like this:
: life, death
: positive, negative
: freedom, fear
: love, hate
and it went on as long as our experiential vocabulary worked in tandem with our (considerably over- heightened) enthusiasm. We identified, without thinking, a habitual instinct, which of these were ‘painted’ the notorious shade. (I am not proud of the discrimination, but do you know of any ‘tra-la-la’ happy person have a black dot marked as their profile picture?) And yet, the Little Black Dress is a messiah for most of us (honest obeisance to the grande-dame of fashion, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel). Black is the most self-contradictory, hence misconstrued concept I have ever known. We realized that evening, what a sensational coffee table book Black could be.
It has been almost two years, we have not worked on that proposal as yet.
I love working with Anita, for her uncomplicated, no-flounce-and-frills professionalism. She represents an illustrious couture label for men. Anita meets me, impeccably sharp in precise tailored shirts, in Black; always. The only visible variants, besides her differently structured shirts, are her boots of varying heels and lengths, and her trousers, which she substitutes for deep blue raw denims. The underlying rule of first impressions, is that clothes do the honors. But Anita announces herself, by herself; it may be first introductions or several meet-ups old. Black encourages her. Black retracts into the background, and I meet ‘Anita the personality’ each time. Not ‘Anita the sage pant suit’ one day and ‘Anita the pale blue shift’ on another.
Also, it is a less complex chore, making wardrobe choices for work each day; saves time, loads of it.
“I love black because it affirms, designs and styles. A woman in a black dress is a pencil stroke.” – Yves Saint Laurent
My first garment created for Maya was a basic V-necked shift dress in Black. Two years followed of varying Black silhouettes, when we decided to intersperse a few jeweled tones in her wardrobe. Maya has a strong, tall, well proportioned body shape, complimented by an equally, fiercely independent personality; extroverted to a blinding brilliance. She shines bright in the blood reds, the emerald greens, the deep midnight blues, the deep wines, that I worked with her. But in Black she shines brighter. Jeweled palettes add more texture to her personality, Black extorts it forth. She uses Black for her relaxed loungings, for pushing her work-out limits, her official engagements, for sensual evenings-out; it is only Black’s multi-faceted attitude that can keep up to her whims and fancies. And Maya knows it. Hence her obsession with it.
“Black is the hardest color in the world to get right- except for gray…” – Diana Vreeland.
I know I emote for Black here, but Gray is my swear-by shade.
In all my years of experience, the more simpler, quieter, undisturbed a garment design is, the more complex it is to construct. Each wrinkle shows up as a flaw. Black (and white too) reigns as supreme challenger. It’s authority lies in the depth of it’s tone. The more intense and concentrated it is, the deeper is it’s silence. You cannot cover up the tiniest of errors. It is a badly done garment. Period.
“I see black light.”- Victor Hugo
Black is a complicated adjective; a multitude of restless personalities of peaceful and warring colors all sucked into it. A calm, serene exterior shields the turmoil. And so we fear a Black ripple. And so we do the best we can. Victimize by discrimination.
Truth is, Black actually gives a damn, and herein lies it’s power.
“Fashion wasn’t what you wore someplace anymore; it was the whole reason for going.”- Andy Warhol.
That would seem so absolutely absurd as my profile status. Still, there are times…
I am so high strung at the moment, I’d rather keep myself away from me. Hubby is too ‘wise’ to do otherwise. I have precisely ten days (I love you Hubby, for the short notice) to complete all work-in-progress (home and studio), scout for gifts (this is the part where I totally lose track of time), get some very necessary grooming done for the self (wish I can squeeze in hair braiding), and pack bags for a two month family trip to the Western Continent. (I love a challenge, but be serious!) Priority- a checklist. I am a to-do-list kind of person. Wish I could be more carefree, it is less stressful; I am trying. My list has two un-ticked articles: a pair of feel-easy sweat pants and a hoodie; essentials to ensure me an illusion of atleast business class comfort for the long travel hours. The stores I am scouting: H&M, Forever 21 (it seems to be disappearing here), Zara, Adidas, Puma. And they offer me grey, navy and black. Why on earth?! Now I wish I could have access to Juicy still or even Bebe.
It is Holiday season at the stores. Even if I was not scheduled for a vacation, the stores do their hocus-pocus. They are talking my language- beach; of sunkissed margaritas and moonlight dancing (absolute wrong timing).
H&M has most of the works: tropical printed swim wear, brilliant colored kaftans, big ribboned bows on straw sun hats, metallic orchids and long long beaded tassels for the ears in colors and colors, the cutest pair of ecru canvas mules with a ribbon tie up. I love the vintage round sun glasses at Aldo. Also their fake jute beret; very European chic. I did not realize when my brain started humming, ‘I forget where we were’ (Ben Howard) in deep base, a non-existent martini in hand staring at non-existent waves breaking on sandy lands far away. Goa. I need to be in Goa. I need to wear all these sweet baitings…
I let myself go, playing dress-up in the trial room. Then I hand over my fling back. Sigh!
The thing about a Goan holiday is, it makes me realize how conditioned my everyday dressings are. These are choices which conform to a routined City Living: work, meetings, social obligations. So basically, I dress for a Reason (other than me). But at a holiday in Goa, there is no reason, just Me. So too with all my ‘what-to-wears’.
Rewind to April ’18. ‘Thalassa’ at Little Vagator beach in North Goa, was swinging to full capacity as usual, which meant some more wine and time as Hubby and I waited a bit longer for our Greek dinner of Gyros and Souvlaki (must tries). No complaints. The fan-power it enjoys, has made Thalassa a magnet for various nationalities, languages and skin colors to converge. And it turned into my study class in street fashion.
A cute ‘new’ (they looked raw in love) couple was led to their table; the girl in white shorts and a flirty blouse in flame orange flowers, with off shouldered ruffles (I missed observing her partner). A daisy tucked sweetly behind her ear and a sequined hobo were all the accents she wore. Perfectly beach. Perfectly holiday. Err… not perfectly Goa.
The ruffles fell too precise, the single rip in the shorts looked too calculated. But the tell-tale was her consistent unease; pressing the ruffles flat, tugging her blouse waist lower. It seemed she didn’t wear her clothes, the clothes were manipulating her to feel free.
And this is not new for most of us.
Sure, the ‘what-to-wears’ make a statement, but the ‘how-to-wears’ overwrite. How ironic, we are so conditioned to dressing up for a purpose, that when the purpose is to not have a purpose, we do not know otherwise.We start faking our comfort with a self which wants to dress and Be just the self.
“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” – Oscar Wilde.
“So, what is in fashion now?”- the classic conversation starter, which most people fancy for me (too fancy for my liking). Even my do-not-disturb neighbour spiels it eloquently, when we need to make polite pretences, whilst sharing elevator space.
“So, what is in fashion now?” I am sitting across a stunning woman, elegant with years of finesse; scribbles strewn on the studio table; we are outlining design criteria for her daughter. “Ahem!” Feels like something in my throat. “I still wear the very first piece you created for me. I want the same for Natasha, something trendy, in fashion, something she will carry through the years.” “Ahem! Ahem!” Something is really clawing at my throat now. It is Confusion. ‘Trendy’ and ‘forever’ in the same breath?
‘Trendy’ is trending.
I walked into a formal setting one evening, Tish’s silver wedding anniversary. I had opted for a classic Indian silhouette, an ethereal ivory silk, hand embroidered in traditional stitches of Lucknow with silver sparkles. I intended to dissolve into the occasion. A dreamy tunnel-way of virgin white orchids and lilies peek-a-booing with starry lights, led me to an expanse of drapes floating about. Actually, let me undress that last bit; I was swept right into a gaudy parade of fashionable caped crusaders.The entire collection drifting about, was nothing less than a Pinterest search result. Sweeping capes in filmy chiffons and nets, romantic ones in french lace, capes with embroidered decorations, also printed georgettes, boldly experimental asymmetrics (thumbs up), capes imitating long stoles; I particularly fell in love with a dupion mint one, just long enough to cover the shoulders down, it had flowers bursting in antique silver. ‘Trendy’ was doing most of the talk at the party; comparing whose trend was more trendy.
I wonder, how does it feel to be a part of this ‘themed fancy dress’? And what fate are these innocent capes subjected to, now that ‘trendy’ changed trend two years ago? It is not a happy thought.
‘We’ are one of the significant whys which make ‘trendy’ change; our moods, our habits, our priorities manipulate its existence. So why do I feel like the joke is on me?
Shopping for the right pair of jeans is a well strategised, ‘trialed and errored’, challenging project for me. (Hence, I deliberately avoid company while shopping for them; especially Hubby.) I need to feel ready for it in my bones, and I was, on the prowl, my senses keen, but the timing could not have been worse. Skin fit, stretch, pencil, toothpick, ankle length had invaded and devoured every possible retail rack. To give them due credit, the invaders did entice with innumerable choices of indigos, finishes, rips, red tags, blue tags. It was like going to Brownie Point where every possible form of the sinful square stared at you, only, no classic brownie. Levi’s, Pepe, Wrangler, Lee, Mango, Zara totally wore me and my patience; they were just replications of each other, competing amongst themselves. I dropped dead, defeated, at Marks &Spencers which so kindly offered me a glass of water and two styles in classic bootlegs and flared bottoms. Blessed!
‘Trendy’ had played dictator to me. I was definitely not happy.
Last summer, Jasmine had needed 1-a wardrobe overhaul which 2- fit into a suitcase to 3-carry on a road trip in Italy, courtesy her new found Italian romance. Challenge accepted. We shopped and shopped and shopped, thanks to pints of cappuccino from Starbucks. Jasmine is pear-bodied, with a short stature exaggerating her shape. So, her insistence on a body kissing pair of stretch jeans made me frown stiff. But I gave up. I gave up because they made her happy. She saw a C.K. model flaunting her poise, staring back at her from the mirror.
And ‘trendy’ had scored. Again.
“Trendy is the last stage before tacky.” Thank you, Karl Lagerfeld.
The only thing discarded quicker than relationships is fashion. ‘Worthless’ is the new value.
I confess to stacking a tall pile of ‘fashionables’ myself; but I plead non-guilty. They are not relabeled as ‘disposables’ for me. These are quirky statements I collect and hoard, till ‘trendy’ changes clothes again, and the ‘fashionables’ turn exclusive; I then have fun flaunting them, my way, unapologetically.
‘Style’ breathes. I smile.
Natasha? We have given her an off shoulder, shapeless dress in deep black, billowy organza; traditional antique gold zardozi outlining her neck and shoulders. The shoulder highlights- very now (but a classic nevertheless); the silhouette- very Natasha; and so, will be a ‘forever’ in her wardrobe.
“Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live.” – Gianni Versace
“Most people lie with clothes”– Ann-Sofie Back.
“Your meeting at the Retailers Conference is at 10.30 a.m,” Alexa is so meticulously polite, I find myself thanking my A.I disc. It is 7a.m. My wardrobe stares at me wide-eyed as I fervently calculate my situation here; not much different from a math problem of putting two and two together, just that the answer ‘four’ does not excite me- it is too expected and obvious a solution. My challenge here is a crisp corporate event, I am a maverick clothing designer, and the only ‘white collar’ I own, is constructed as d-r-a-m-a. Also, a camouflage to fit me in the pant-suit brigade can only be hypothetical.