I’ve heard uttered umpteen times: You’re the only girl I know who doesn’t love to shop! Personally, I take it as an assurance that the world hasn’t soiled me yet.
I never liked pointless aimless wandering through streets (now malls) filled with goods and things. For as long as I remember, I considered it a waste of time and money. Neither did I have spare time then, nor do I have it today. Besides office, there are books to be read, feelings to be written, music to be danced to, chores to be completed, relationships to be watered, people to be helped, exercises to be done and inner thoughts to be indulged into. My buying behaviour, therefore, is need-based and point-to-point. I shop alone, and I shop quick. I belong to the old-school believers of the maxim: One who dies with most toys, is dead anyway. Understandably, my clothes and stuff last me a decade!
But there was a time when I did like buying for requirements (since necessity is a relative term). But a few years ago, that age went past without a whisper. It made an unceremonious exit from a world that is obsessed with trends. Now, shopping for me is a painful chore that must be carried out once in a few years to replenish long-standing wardrobe needs. And I’ll tell you why.
Mine may be a lone voice in the wilderness of commodity-lust, but I’d like to fancy it carries the weight of reason. Here is a list of concerns that women-apparel manufacturers and marketers may like to hear:
1. Bring back the cottons: India is a tropical country, and geologically speaking, Delhi is a desert. It is hot as hell in summers. And despite what they show you on TV, women sweat. The optimum summer fabric then, should be cotton, and not synthetic. To find one decent cotton shirt, one has to search through piles upon piles of lace/ frill/ nylon/ lycra/ satin/ net and the dubious world of ‘mixed’ fabrics dished out in the name of cotton...to arrive at real cotton. I discovered lately that Fabindia, my only resort for real cotton, has stopped making formal shirts for women. The choices available in other big brands is highly skewed – one cotton for every ten non-cotton.
2. Functionality is important: You may like to believe and project women as people who get work done by throwing dazzling smiles. Honestly, no matter how sexy or smart a woman is, she does work (if she doesn’t, she is neither smart nor sexy). So for heaven’s sake remember to add pockets to her trousers/ blazers/ kurtis. Also, when you get down to make those wallets for her, do provide pocket-size options like you do for men. At least practice gender equality where it’s entirely in your hands.
3. The skin also breathes: I know you like to club girls for the sake of convenience (and stereotypes), and presume that all women like to show off their contours. Wrong. Clothes that stick to skin are as annoying as people who cling to you (now you get the drift, I’m sure). The skin has pores which need ventilation. And to enlighten you, breasts and butts have skin too. I’ve no objection to the years of fat trussed up in stretchable lycra like a pack of brinjals in a gunny sack. But I have an equal right to wear moderately fitting and comfortable clothes. Left to you, you’ll rather have us back in the 16th century, wearing corsets and iron shoes.
4. There are colours other than pink: I went through the entire Connaught Place market, looking for formal cotton socks for women, and found none. The closest that came to formal was a pair of purple socks in a Van Huesen showroom. Other colours included bright pink, electric blue and fluorescent green. Pardon me for being old-fashioned, but I like being attired to suit the occasion. With due respect to the freedom of those who do, I DO NOT wear pink socks to my office, nor a stone-studded shalwar kameez to Goa beach. I might indulge in those colours once in a while, but I’ve a multi-faceted life (and personality), that subsumes the entire spectrum of white. I’m a person, not a kindergarten wall.
5. Breasts are naturally padded: You see, it is perfectly possible for some women to feel comfortable with their bodies, despite what your advertiser friends profess. Feel free to broaden the horizon of padded/wired/uplifted bras, but not at the expense of normal human bras. The diminishing range of latter is a disturbing trend, for it signals that the market is capable of launching padded panties. You may be right in assuming that these tricks attract men, but frankly, the men who are attracted to such ‘endowments’ are not worth attracting. We are interested in the men who are interested in the spare centimetre on our minds and hearts, not elsewhere. Besides, one more layer of blubber will not help camouflage the tyres of blubber below.
6. All fitness freaks don’t go to the gym: Puma/ Adidas/ Nike/ Reebok/ Lotto...I checked them all. Across the board, the running shorts for girls don’t go farther than mid-thigh, and the tees are designed to look like second skin, offering a delectable range of halter necks and racer backs. Interestingly, some of these tees end right below the breasts, allowing ventilation to a generous portion of midriff. Women who exercise behind the closed doors of a gym can risk wearing these clothes, but think about those who run on the roads of this city. If risked outside, you will have an entire mohalla running behind the runner, and not for the right reasons. And sadly, even the XS size tees/shorts among men are a tad too loose for a S size woman.
7. Sleeves don’t hurt: Some very good shirts, dresses, and T-shirts are available only in the range of sleeveless clothes. No, I have nothing against sleeveless. But is it unfair to expect a similar range among sleeved clothes? If your designer insists that only sleeveless looks fashionable, you may ask him/her: If Angelina Jolie has no objection to wearing sleeved dresses, why does s/he have it in tailoring them?
8. Keep it straight: I thank an empathetic reader for pointing this out. I shouldn’t have missed it at all. Talking of pants, including jeans and trousers, I have two issues. One, with the omnipresent low-rise level, and two, with the shape of legs, including cuffs. Let’s deal them one at a time.
The ideal belt-zone for a lower, as per my comfort, is right below the navel, and not right above the butt crack (for lack of a better word). The sight of precariously placed pants might look very cool to you, but it is awfully clumsy for the wearer. We are placed at the perennial risk of losing modesty by a slight snag, especially where the tailor was callous enough to not provide belt loops. Examine closely: the shirt lengths are going up, and the lowers are going down. May we ask you, where exactly are we headed?
Further, some of us love the sheer elegance of straight-fit lowers. Why would you want to deprive us of it simple satisfaction? Narrow fitting pants with cuffs that close in on the ankle, coupled with short single-button coats, evokes the image of Charlie Chaplin, not Uma Thurman. The point here is, don’t promote one type at the expense of another. Please.
You may dismiss these points as irritated ranting of an archaic shopper, but I know at least a few more who agree with me. And there’s good news for you:
A few weeks ago, a colleague told me without my asking him, that people in our office had conclusively voted me as the best dressed person (not just female) in office. One, I was not a part of this discussion, and two, I wear both Indian and western to office. Given my taste in clothes, if my dressing sense is considered good, there is a poorly catered market out there, crying for your attention.
As for Indian wear, long live Nalli and Fabindia! I personally request you both to create/ increase stock of western office wear. Special thanks for selling real cotton, that diminishing fabric in today’s synthetic – literally and figuratively – world.
PS: A thinking reader pointed out that the line “if she doesn’t work, she is neither smart nor sexy” sounds disrespectful of home-makers. The considerate observation made by this reader demands justification, and here it is: Work in this context should be understood as any valid and positive contribution made towards one’s fellow society. It could be monetary or free, official or voluntary, at home or outside. I have deepest regards for women who choose to work towards building better homes, just like I highly honour those who chase their dreams. Of course, whatsapping and facebooking all day don’t count as worthwhile work.