Friday, July 3, 2009

Dress rehearsal

We were watching TV the other day and caught that super annoying Appy-Grappy Fizz ad. S, after taking another look at them – the four boys, the girls and the bottles, had a minor meltdown about the unfairness of the genders expectations and roles – especially in the teens.

He claimed that the gaggle of giggly girls weren’t expected to do anything, but just sit around and blush and giggle while the boys posed, postured and tried to outdo each other in wit in some weird mating ritual to attract them. (I smell a story here; I should rummage a little bit in that closet!)

True enough I suppose, but I added a caveat. Told him, that this rule of just turning up and giggling was applicable to pretty, feminine girls. The not so pretty ones, the not so slim ones, the not so girly ones, had to resort to wit as well.

And as such conversations will, it degenerated to him turning to ask me “Well, were you pretty or were you funny?” (Sigh)

So I wryly thought back to my teen years – through late school, and early college, and suddenly realized how many people I know from that era funny ( many of them have subsequently acquired prettiness or handsomeness, and forgotten that funniness).

When I looked back of acquaintances from that era, I remember some with good features, other’s with reasonably good figures – but I can’t for the life of me remember anyone who jaw-dropping, traffic stopping hot. That itself is rather intriguing. Yes, one goes through that gauche, gangly, acned teenage phase – but not for a decade. Probabilistically speaking, I ought to have acquired at least one hot acquaintance during that time, no?

And I had an epiphany – the clothes!

I grew up in a generation with fashion dyslexia. That's the kindest way to describe it.

I think back to the school and college years and what stands out is the terrible fashion sense, and well I suffered from it too. When I recall that hideous magenta skirt set, or that crushed crepe thingummy, I want to put my head through a wall (and this is coming from a fashion agnostic)

Many of memories of people are inextricably linked up with what they wore. If someone mentions a Mr. Sharma, to me, the first image that comes to mind is a vermillion shirt with big fat white polka dots. Or the Ms. Singh (who later became an international airline airhostess), is always associated with that bilious green sack-like, sack-material-like dress. Or even the more recent Mr. A with his brick orange shirt, with the er, brick pattern on it. Mr. A, I know for a fact has become quite trendy and has so many young girls buzzing around him, that we are planning to auction him off as a gigolo.

And it wasn’t only the designs – it was the material, the cut, the fitting, everything. I had a salwar suit in various shades of blue (which for some reason I thought was my lucky dress) which could easily have doubled up as a raincoat.

In undergrad, all the girls took to rather voluminous dresses (a couple of sizes too large- usually picked up from Fashion Street). Perhaps this was to cloak burgeoning figures, perhaps this was the modern avatar of half saris – but whatever it was, they looked terrible. I know I had this one white shirt, which reached halfway to my knees and could have easily be worn as a lab-coat. Or that other tee-shirt which was so huge, I could have worn it as a dress (this particular one was subsequently passed it off to my male cousin who is roughly twice my height and girth). Or those oh-so-ghastly checked umbrella cut skirts in towel-like materials which ended as dead-weights after a bout with the mumbai monsoons.

The best that could be said of most people’s fashion sense was that it was consistent. People stuck to their types – my friend S had a wardrobe which consisted exclusively of south cottons in shades of dark green, dark maroon, and dark rust in college. My other friend B had a penchant for knitted tops. Other classmate BP had a couple of these bandhni red shirts which were a particular favourite of his.

It took a few years of working before most of us started dressing up normally and discovering that it is okay to buy clothes from shops rather than from footpath. That clothes need to be approximately the same size as the individual wearing them. That accessories and shoes exist. That brands are brands for a reason.

I look at all the college kids today and am amazed at how well turned out they are – rebonded hair, hip, designer clothes, stunning shoes. I think we all looked so well, raw!

Ah well, the old order giveth way to the new.

Next: Much ado about Mouch ( Ever noticed how ALL boys went through growing moustaches as soon as they could and shaving it off once they hit 25?)


Shachii said...

LOL!! :)
I vividly remember the neon capris (pedal-pushers!) and striped t-shirts with a neon buckle that we used to tie one corner of the t-shirt with!! Oh! How I loathe those pictures! What flummoxes me more is that a lot of things like the tights and long tops are back in fashion.. but still end up looking so much smarter than they used to then! How?
About pretty vs. witty: You're darned right! Hmm.. now you've got me thinking about those days of yore!!!
Have a good one, Cyn!

gooddaysunshine said...

Ooh yes, I absolutely refuse to look at pics of a teen me. I think its to do with the lack of options as well. Growing up we hardly had the kind of stores that are there today..from the Lifestyles, Shoppers Stops and the Westsides to the small export surplus stores that are more friendly on the pocket. I used to buy clothes from this tacky store called London Stores in Madras back then in my early teens! But I guess college was way better as these bigger and better stores came along. Then again we hardly spent the kind of money people do on clothes now! I guess the people who dressed well back then had some relative who lived abroad that supplied them with the decent clothes!

Mampi said...

Oh My god Girl, this could have been my story...How alike we were. ANd my admitting this proves your thesis that we were a funny generation in our teenage.

rads said...

Totally agree! I lived in Lucknowi kurtas for a good few years I think. Thanks to the parents who thought that made their skinny pimpled teen a picture of elegance!..and I wonder who cared for elegance at all?

Arunima said...

hey, this is so nice. I studied in a school, which was considered elite and people hated the students from there. We all were considered quite hip those days and there was tremendous peer pressure to look good or dress well. This is not about the dress. What I wanted to mention here is that we were unknowingly very rude to other people from other schools as we often used to comment on their dressing sense. (Looking back, as you said, we might not have been good dressers.) This translated to me being rude to my own elder sister, who went to a school with a lot of poor students. She cried one day and screamed at me at how rude I was to her with my comments. I learnt many things that day and began respecting people. Thanks to my sister and her timely whack!

(fodder for a post in my blog)

現在建築式™ said...

My Blog
Thanks for your share
Nice to meet you

Hsinchu, Taiwan

現在建築式™ said...

My Blog
Thanks for your share
Nice to meet you

Hsinchu, Taiwan

D said...

Hi! My first time here and I must say, found this post quite interesting. I don't know which generation you belong to, but I am from an in-between kind of generation - with one foot in fashion dyslexia, the other in fashion feista! I do remember those moments from school/college where we wore hideous clothes, but I also remember the gradual transition to something more tolerable :)

As for the first part of your post, coincidentally, I had something similar on my mind for a post - about looks and wit, but not quite what you're saying: "The not so pretty ones, the not so slim ones, the not so girly ones, had to resort to wit as well."
Pretty people do have wit, and it's unfair to assume that they can get by life just looking good!

Cynic in Wonderland said...

shachii - oh yes, how could i forget the neon stuff!! and pedal pushers for some reason always remind of karishma kapoor - now why is that?

goodday sunshine - yes, we didnt have that kind of money - and somehow there was no concept on brands and all - just go to that neighbourhood fellow and pick up something from him. and get those ghastly dress materials as well.

mampi - there is a nice term for those who grew up in nineties called the transitional behaviour - essentially everyone behaves like a schrizo - old enuf to remember the nineties, with enuf money to spend in their twenties. so they swing between the two extremes.

rads - ah yes, the lucknowy 'chikans' remember those too. i rather like em tho. erm.. elegant only?

arunima - that school snobbery was very much there in the schools i went to too. which were also considered hep. but er my issue is with the nature of hepness. i mean sack as cutting edge fashion??!!!

Hsinchu, Taiwan - uhm thanks.

D - well i went thru the teens in the nineties so the so called transitional generation too. but like goodday sunshine said, i dont think we got into the spending money on clothes bandwagon till quite late - and consequently the groomed and perfectly turned out look, didnt really happen for a while. And by no means am i saying that pretty girls are not witty - i am saying that pretty girls in their teenage do not have to desperately resort to wit to get attention. know quite a few average looking humourless people too come to think of it.

D said...

Oh yes, we had modest wardrobes for sure! I remember buying my first Levi's and feeling super elated! Get that feeling.

Trauma Queen said...

If you went thru fashion dyslexia - you're so Gen X

if you can afford to hang out at hard rock cafe while still in college - you're so gen Y

weird eh? I think we guys still have some value for money. Sure we did not have wikipedia to aid us with school projects...but I still think it's nice to go thru than transition gradually, than have everything offered to you on a plate.

if you're a pretty girl who is also witty, you're probably 'weird'. Sad eh?

Meira said...

Well, I kinda liked the way we were at school/college. That, I think, is NOT the age to worry about brands and expensive coordinated clothes.I mean, how different will these kids be once they turn executives?
We, on the other hand, Evolved :D

Shruthi said...

I can so relate to this post. And completely agree with the phrase - “fashion dyslexia”.
My dad used to select clothes for me. There was a particular shop in Bangalore that he would take me to and this guy had atrocious colors (to match my very boring looks). My first ever jeans was green. Will I wear them now, I wonder :p
Apart from these I wore borrowed clothes, from my elder cousins and my sister. And we didn’t really have the same size so I wore those ultra big shirts and skirts (with pins on my waist for it to not fall off). If I knew the F of fashion perhaps I would ask my mom to stitch it.

Kids these days are so conscious. My cousin’s daughter chooses her clothes! How does a 6 year old know what to wear? That’s insulting!

Btw came here while blog hopping. Will come back for more :) keep writing!

thenitknumbskulls said...

i'm from the 'inbetween generation' too. kids of today are shocking, i tell you, with all their obsessions with clothes and accessories.
maybe being fashion-dyslexic was good in a way... i don't judge people by the clothes they wear. my much-younger cousins on the other hand.....