Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tucking in.....

Boggling.  I know. I am not missspelling "blogging".....

It is difficult to define "boggling" , but the mind sure does that,  when I look back at the history of fashion, and how it has shaped society , in my lifetime.

I remember preparing to go to college in the mid sixties of the last century. I was to stay in the hostel, and a large bunch of gathered skirts (below the knees), with assorted matching blouses were promptly stitched, along with a few sarees with matching blouses, just in case. Since I played decent college level badminton, a white pleated divided skirt and a shirt, were the unlikely additions. It was understood that you didn't wander anywhere outside the badminton court in these short skirts.  Childhood pajamas graduated to housecoats as was the fashion in the hostel.

The very next year, it was decided that it was time to be sari-fied. One would be a full time sari person, and the wardrobe got replenished with all kinds of petticoats,  and standard cotton sarees. The sleeves ,necks, and lengths  of blouses were all predecided and long. And it didn't matter if you had to cycle each day .

Unfortunately, the very next year, chudidar kurtas suddenly came into fashion. Midriff cover won over parental approval, and all of a sudden , for the next two years, I was back to churidar kurtas, and occasional skirts.  Various relatives got great joy out of  commenting derogatorily on the skin tight aspect of chudidars.  I was even asked by aunt types , amidst guffaws , how long it took to put on one. Notice, that the parents said nothing, because they trusted me.

Around the time I graduated, pants happened. There were a lot of disapproving glances, or maybe, they were jealous glances. Pants were so much easier to wear than chudidars.

Across the last half century, fashion has really,  for the common person, revolved around skirts, blouses, kurtas, salwars, churidars, pants, shirts and sarees. The lengths have gone up and down, usages have been modified, things earlier thought of as shameless, are suddenly being touted as fashionable.

Today fashion is about redefining. 

Once all the neck shapes were tried, they tried no-necks.  What was earlier the neck, kind of expanded and sat on the arms, unable to decide whether to be a sleeve or a neck. Internal anatomic anchoring was still required, and all of a sudden, visible bra straps became fashionable. Just to be different, they then created a market for detachable plastic straps.

Unable to dip further in front, the saree blouse necks dipped alarmingly at the back.  Prompting someone (a male) , at a fancy do, to remark on an outfit (after a back view of the same),  as something with "only sleeves".

The downward trend continued. Pants slipped down the god given waists, which were a natural anchor . They now started at the hips, and were called low-waist pants. For the sake of staying on, they had to cling close to the skin.  At the ankle, out of sheer relief, they sometimes flared, sometimes straightened, and sometimes, preferred to keep gutlessly clinging.

While this caused  a lot of mirth, disgust and sometimes, bright eyes, in buses where you had to bend and sit,  the gents fashion people joined in with pants that were worn so low, it looked as if the person was waddling, and probably needed a good sensible whack and a pair of suspenders.     

If you look back, you will notice that fashion has been all about kurtas rising high and sinking way below. Salwars, blooming in Patiala comfort, or crunching miserly, or finally ending up being chudidars.  Dupattas , when they existed, often became stoles; and sometimes fell about gracefully.  Shoulders suddenly became fashionable, and sleeves disappeared, to anchor the outfit behind the neck.

Pants , with not much scope for wild fashion, suddenly gave in to the scissors. It is today, considered fashionable, to pay loads of money to buy a pair of pants, which have scissor cuts and  hanging threads , all across the front.  The last time I saw these were when nitric acid fell on someones pants in our college chemistry practicals, destroying a perfectly decent pair.

These are now called distressed genes, which is a disgusting an example of transposition of adjectives. I know someone who might be even more distressed.  The lengths of pants too went up and down. In the original well defined old world of full pants and half pants, we now had three fourth pants (fashionably called Capris; (why use Greek cities, what was wrong with calling them Kolhapurs?))  , and knee length pants, prompting my aunt to once ask someone if he was short of fabric.

And then we had Fashion Weeks. Days and Days of showing stuff you could never wear to work, or while running to catch the  7:30 am CST fast, or the standing room only bus, chock a block with office goers and students.  I mean, who would wear long trench coats, with buttons open, displaying some hot pants and fancy shirt inside ?  And when was the last time you saw a lady with a saree , and a palloo on the wrong shoulder, hanging like a marxist shabnam bag, trying to take public transport to work?  I mean, even in a AC car, that outfit to work would be too much.  And then there were outfits inspired by the combination of fabrics seen on the municipal sweeper lady;  two different pieces, used to fashion a make shift saree, because she must prioritise her funds towards the kids school fees, and deny herself  a new saree.

The fashion types, wore heels , something completely useless in a potholed city.  And then again, hats were introduced, incorporating hardware, flowers, twigs, plastic, and anything you could lay your hands on; in a city bent on destroying trees, the only thing that worked for the hoi polloi were good plain cotton hats.          

Sarees were de rigeur when I started working. And so one learnt to run and catch buses and trains amidst massive crowds with suitably anchored sarees, with palloos wrapped and tucked in here and there,  while our mothers rued the destruction of saree fabric with so many pins that were used. And very unconsciously , one learnt to tuck in the palloo at the waist, after taking it around the back.

This became such a habit, that even after I started working at a place within walking distance from home, with a lot of corridors, and interaction on two feet,  a friend with similar thinking and I, would unconsciously tuck in our saree palloos and walk rapidly down the corridors , to have a cup of tea, or on work to another building, often the butt of comments and jokes , from those, who walked the corridors, utterly gracefully in sarees with fancy palloos draped just so, and disciplined pleats.

The tucked in palloo stance needs further research. Maybe someone can study the origin and history. Maybe they will have a Fashion Week session dedicated to it.   A further piece of fashion could be pleats slightly hitched up  and tucked in , a la monsoon rains.  I am sure there will be people planning zardozi or swarovski on the palloo ends, and petticoat bottoms.  

So folks, here is a request.

When you see the show stopper actress, walking down hand and hand with the designer, as the models with tucked in palloos and hitched pleats, clap politely in the background , remember , that you heard it here first.....

1 comment:

  1. hahaaha. The last paragraph brought a smile to me and reminded me of my first job In a college .It was in Konkan where rainy season would last for more than four months and we hitched pleats and walked from bus stop to college ,and wore Bata Sandak(a special monsoon range of foot wear) regularly.
    I enjoyed reading this fashion evolution saga and walked the journey with you.