Wear Your at­ti­tude

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - INDULGE -

FASH­ION IS of­ten dis­missed as friv­o­lous. Not the kind of thing that a ‘se­ri­ous’ wo­man should con­cern her­self with. Not for her the need­less ob­sess­ing with hem­lines and neck­lines; not for her a sea­sonal up­date of her wardrobe; not for her a closet full of high-heeled shoes.

No, the ‘se­ri­ous’ wo­man is not sup­posed to pay much at­ten­tion to her clothes. She should ideally have a util­i­tar­ian ‘uni­form’, the kind she can step into ev­ery morn­ing with the min­i­mum of fuss and then go out andd con­quer ththe world.ld

But what of the women who haave, in ef­fect, con­quered their world? How muchm at­ten­tion do they pay to clothes? And what do their fash­ion choices telll us about them?

This is an in­ter­est­ing ques­tioon to ask at this time when the world is teem­ing with women lead­ers, all ofo them with a dis­tinc­tive style of theiir own. A style that has been honedd over the years to project an im­agee. This im­age may por­tray any­thingg from power to hu­mil­ity, fem­i­nin­i­tyy to fem­i­nism, style to prac­ti­cal­ity. Buut ev­ery im­age sends forth a strong meessage about the women be­hind it.

Let’s take a quick trip around thhis pic­ture gallery to see what it tells usu about those fea­tured? Frau Merkel doesn’t care what any­one thinks of her. And noth­ing says that more clearly and loudly than her wardrobe choices – or more ac­cu­rately, the lack of them. She is al­ways dressed in an ill-fit­ting suit, which makes no con­ces­sions to the Ger­man Chan­cel­lor’s fig­ure. The mes­sage is clear: this wo­man has more im­por­tant things to think about than the fit of her clothes. And that is, in it­self, a style state­ment of sorts.

What women politi­cians tell us with their fash­ion choices


Fromm the time she en­tered pol­i­tics, Sonia has based her r look on that of her fa­mous mother-in-law. It prob­abl ly helps that she in­her­ited Indira Gandhi’s amaz­ingg col­lec­tion of saris, a ver­i­ta­ble trea­sure trove of hand­looms ac­cessed from all parts of In­dia. And Sonia wears them well, al­ways well-starched and pinned into place, loose enough around the pleats so that she can take the same long strides that were an Indira trade­mark, head cov­ered by her pallu when she heads into ru­ral parts. She is the Gandhi bahu, the repos­i­tory of the fam­ily legacy, and there is never a mo­ment when she doesn’t look the part.


In her per­son, she em­bod­ies the dream of Dalit em­pow­er­ment. So, it is no ac­ci­dent that Mayawati is the only fe­male In­dian politi­cian who is seen in pub­lic car­ry­ing a de­signer hand­bag; or that she sports di­a­monds in her ears that look straight out of J Jay­alalithaa’s col­lec­tion. Or even, that she wears smart sal­war kameez en­sem­bles of the kind that up­per mid­dle class ur­ban women live in. Her im­age con­veys a strong mes­sage to her fol­low­ers: ex­pen­sive tastes are no longer a pre­serve of the up­per castes. Dal­its have as much right to them as any­one else.


Her crum­pled cot­ton saris and flip-flops have be­come her sig­na­ture style ever since she de­scended on the streets of Cal­cutta to fight the Com­mu­nists. And now that she is chief min­is­ter of the state, it serves to sig­nal that Ma­matadi is the same as ever: power has not gone to her head, or in­deed in­fil­trated her wardrobe. She re­mains the same sim­ple wo­man who lives in a one-bed­room apart­ment and de­votes her life to her ‘peepul’. A wo­man like that has no time for an iron­ing board, even if some­one else is do­ing the iron­ing.


She is the chameleon of In­dian pol­i­tics. And just as she keeps the coun­try guess­ing about her po­lit­i­cal in­ten­tions, she also tends to mix it up as far as her sar­to­rial choices are con­cerned. In the city, she dresses like any other 40-some­thing mother of two (al­beit one with a bet­ter fig­ure than most) in jeans and T-shirts. When she heads for the fam­ily con­stituen­cies of Ame­thi and Rae Bareli, she drapes her­self in a hand­loom sari, just like her mother and grand­mother be­fore her. In that, she is like Su­per­man or Bat­man, chang­ing into cos­tume be­fore charg­ing into bat­tle. I guess the Ut­tar Pradesh elec­tions will show if she re­ally is Won­der Wo­man!

KEEP­ING IT SIM­PLE Power has not in­fil­trated Ma­mata Ban­er­jee’s wardrobe (left); Hil­lary Clin­ton is con­fi­dent enough to find her style

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