Wear Your attitude
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