Of choices and choices of how people dress

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 13 Aug 2017 12:12:49




THE scene in the restaurant offered a pleasant surprise. The place was not too crowded, yet busy enough to appear so. A couple of birthday parties, too, were attracting everybody’s attention, plus groups of diners sat here and there in the well-lit hall divided into two segments. The sense of ease and happiness was obvious, which is not unusual. Yet, what attracted attention was that almost everybody of those 40-50 persons was dressed rather formally, or in other words less casually, almost no denims, so to say, almost no T-shirts, and of course no bermudas, to be sure. The leaning toward formal dressing had its own aroma, its own feel-good factor.

In times like these when casual dressing is becoming part of sartorial culture of urban communities, such a scene naturally attracts attention. No matter how posh or how starred the restaurant is, countless people are seen in more-than-casual dressing. Many are seen even in what could pass as bathroom-slippers. A good number of people in these so-called fashionable places appear as if they have carefully ensured that they look disheveled, carefully casual, carefully looking almost careless (in a stupid bid to look carefree) about their attire. And that was the reason why I noticed the coincidental emphasis on rather formal dressing of almost all the people in the restaurant.

I have no complaints about whatever dress others would choose to wear. That I am never dressed in carefully careless attire is my choice, but I have no issues with how others present themselves. Everything is welcome when we accept the principle of variety and diversity. Yet, that evening, I could not help but feel surprised that almost all of them, having come there in different groups and for different purposes, were dressed less casually. The restaurant was not very swanky so as to attract rather formal dressing by the visitors. And that made me feel good.  Why? Why should I feel good about such a collective coincidence?

A little search of my mind brought me to realise that habitually, I do not appreciate too much casualness in conduct. Of course, I am not a brood or a bore, and often welcome newness, diversity. Still, despite a very big exposure to life’s variety, I have not been able to make friends with too much casualness, at least in appearance. That surprises me, therefore, to see even in five-star hotels and swanky malls people dressed as if they have just jumped out of bed and rushed to the place, having not washed and polished themselves to look somewhat presentable. I am eternally surprised -- and at times shocked -- to see elderly men wearing denim trousers and T-shirts and chappals to conferences and conventions where formal dressing is cultural norm.

One may not wear a three-piece suit complete with double-knotted tie or a traditional Indian male attire with bandhgala or oddly shining kurta-paijama, but one could be in a decent and formal shirt with formal pair of trousers and formal shoes. A woman may not wear a Kanjeevaram or flowing salwaar-khameez all the time, but can be dressed rather in a formal manner at certain places, which is a norm. Yet, when that is not found, then one feels rather ‘out of touch’, so to say.

See how norms change, influenced by the showy culture ushered by television and cinema! At funerals in rich homes, certainly sad moments by any standard, most people are in shining whites, washed and pressed -- and kept ready-- for such occasions (as if for the camera, may I say!). Will I offend some people’s susceptibilities if I call this trend a ‘pseudo’-norm? These are only observations, and not comments at all. This is only recording the changes that keep taking place in our sartorial choices over time. This is only feeling a little amused, a little less-amused, a little surprised, and occasionally a little shocked. Nothing more.