The Mod­ern Fairy­tale of Our Wardrobe

Vo­cal fash­ion critic and en­tre­pre­neur Kanika Bhatia writes, from breath­ing room for your breasts, an­kle sham­ing, fat sham­ing, and the over em­pha­sis on bound­aries per­tain­ing to trims on our cloth­ing, it’s been quite a jour­ney our ladies have bat­tled.

Shoes & Accessories - - Contents -

An­ti­cli­max- there is no Prince Charm­ing! It was a time of knight­hood, it was a time of slav­ery. It was a time of obe­di­ence, it was a time of silent de­fi­ance. It was a time of bound­aries and it was a time of free reign. Dick­ens twists and turns in his grave, whilst you won­der what is this about. Do me a favour, re-read the state­ment above in con­text of fash­ion for women since cen­turies. A large part of our bat­tle over cen­turies in­volved around ba­sic rights like vot­ing, free­dom to move with­out a chap­er­one, pub­lic gath­er­ings and be­lieve it or not cloth­ing of our choice.

To­day we talk of fash­ion evolv­ing for women. Hav­ing re­cently cel­e­brated In­de­pen­dence Day of Hun­gary and In­dia, I couldn’t help but no­tice how the idea of in­de­pen­dence is so im­por­tant for us all and how most of us don’t even know about the strug­gles be­hind each kind of free­dom we en­joy to­day. We wouldn’t be dis­cussing in depth the burkhas and hi­jabs still a mat­ter of de­bate and choice in a lot of na­tion­al­i­ties, though un­doubt­edly de­mand­ing a huge call out. How­ever, some of the shock­ers of the fash­ion world we freely en­joy to­day and the strug­gle it took to get here.

Corsets and bustiers Can you even imag­ine the days when women could walk around with their breasts freely out with no one bat­ting an eye­lid? 1500 BC and ahead saw this trend till in came the con­tro­ver­sial corsets. The his­tory here is more com­pli­cated than you think. For a large num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions fight­ing equal­ity, corsets were the worst en­emy for women. It was lit­eral caging in pa­tri­archy rid­den so­ci­ety back then. The idea was “fash­ion­ing the body” to a cul­tural fit of nar­row waists and high­lighted breasts. As re­cent as 1550s women were asked to wear corsets made of wood and whale­bones to en­sure nar­rowed (of­ten aim­ing 14-16 inches) waists lines. The trend con­tin­ued as other coun­tries adopted the same uni­form till al­most 19th cen­tury. Corsets to­day are a mat­ter of choice and de­signed more for shape wear than a bind­ing plan for de­form­ing nat­u­ral bod­ies.

Trousers to tight jeans Thir­teen women – in­clud­ing jour­nal­ist Lubna al-hus­sein – were ar­rested in Khar­toum, Su­dan, be­cause they wore trousers in pub­lic. Ten of the women were pun­ished with a fine of 250 Su­danese pounds, and re­ceived ten lashes. Lubna was fined $200, but not flogged. Will you be­lieve 2009 to be year for this news? I have re­peat­edly heard news of courts dis­miss­ing rapists based their judge­ments on the tight­ness of den­ims or trousers the vic­tims wore. 1998, an Ital­ian judge ac­quit­ted a rapist, call­ing the rape con­sen­sual sex be­cause the vic­tim wore tight jeans. Our con­tem­po­rary “his­tory” should talk about our re­gress­ing cul­tural growth per­haps a lit­tle more.

Skirts The num­ber of times the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of lengths in this piece of cloth­ing has been dis­cussed over cen­turies is al­most baf­fling. Around the 1890s, di­a­grams were re­leased to clar­ify what length of skirt was suit­able for what age (four year old girls could wear dresses to just be­low the knee – but girls of 16 must wear dresses to the arch of their foot.) 1942, while men’s cloth­ing re­mained the same, the USA in­tro­duced ‘Reg­u­la­tion L85’ which set skirt lengths at 17 inches above the floor – no longer, and no shorter. As we all vouch for equal­ity, it’s no sur­prise that clutches of pa­tri­archy has made men bor­der­line ob­ses­sive about women cloth­ing.

Pock­ets Chuck clothes, we had to fight for sacks within those at­tires. For the first time in his­tory (1800s), women’s dress pat­terns were al­lowed to in­clude pock­ets. Un­til now, if women had ac­cess to money (which was sig­nif­i­cantly less of­ten than men), they’d had to cut slits into the sides of their skirts. Sure, they could reach through to ac­cess two hang­ing draw­string pouches which they sus­pended on a belt un­der­neath their dress, but it was con­sid­ered vul­gar for a woman to hide her hands (un­less they were wear­ing gloves). Men, mean­while, had pock­ets since the 1600s. And they worked just fine, by the way.

The idea of revo­lu­tion for women be­fore us was so large and pro­found that it’s beyond our ca­pac­ity to fathom. From breath­ing room for your breasts, an­kle sham­ing, fat sham­ing, and the over em­pha­sis on bound­aries per­tain­ing to trims on our cloth­ing, it’s been quite a jour­ney our ladies have bat­tled. As a de­signer I see the trick­ing ef­fects of con­scious­ness till date in women as they self shame their bod­ies be­cause it’s not the stereo­typ­i­cal def­i­ni­tion of an at­trac­tive body. Dear ladies, this is an at­tempt to re­mind you of all the bat­tles we have fought to reach a stage where we can dis­cuss and I can freely write about self lov­ing your nat­u­ral self. Do not let it go for a waste.

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