We judge and are judged by what we wear. But is that all that clothes mean to us?
How much thought do you put into what you wear? Or let me frame the question in other words — How much does your outfit say about you or your current state of mind? As a woman, I understand the gravity of the situation, slightly better than the other gender. A pair of stilettos or flat ballerinas, flared pants, rugged denim, suede blazer, et al are just a few items on the basis of which we give away who we are, what we do, how much we earn, etc. — we’re told so, often. But then aren’t we different individuals on different days or at different stages in life — then how can an LBD on a Friday evening define us? I may be a ‘casual tee-shirt girl’ today and transform into ‘only jumpsuits girl’ the next week. We judge and are judged by what we wear. But is that all that clothes mean to us?
A couple of weekends ago as I watched the play Love, Loss and What I Wore I decided to dwell on the topic. Scripted by playwrights Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron it was about matters of the hearts and matters of the wardrobe. A cast of eight female actors, all dressed in black, presented a view into the lives of 27 women. It stirred in many different emotions. It spoke of how many of us try to fit into a trend and get accepted or how we hold certain clothing items close to us because they bring us comfort. It also saw women (and men) in the audience also laugh and moan at outfit dilemmas that we encounter. Whilst the women under the direction of Penny Mackenzie put up a great show, they got me to do more than rummage through the wardrobe. I brought up clothes as a topic of conversation with people I met up with and found a few answers.
A son waits for the day when he can wear the same size of shoes like his dad. Likewise, a father takes pride when the said moment arrives. An ex-university mate says that while he now often slips into his father’s shoes he has begun to realise how tough it is to put himself in his shoes. ‘My dad never missed an annual day or failed to buy us new clothes on a birthday — I am a dad now and I wonder if I can walk in his footsteps’.
During her growing up years, this friend often complained about her mum’s choice of clothing for her. Loose pants, polka-dotted dresses, and mid-length skirts. They’d often argue. When she’ll look at her pictures from those times, she knew who was to be blamed. Last year, her mum passed away. In her wardrobe today, lie a few clothing items that belonged to her mum. She confessed that she’ll probably never get a chance to wear them but ‘It is nice to have her next to me — each morning when I decide what to wear to work I know she’s watching me.’
There are these two siblings in my neighbourhood, who for the last three years, I’ve seen fight over clothes. The younger one is convinced that the elder one has better clothes. Period. The elder one leaves for the university this winter, she’s decided to leave her favourite things behind. ‘It’s strange, but I don’t want that top with bell flared sleeves anymore, I want her to have it’.
Perhaps, there’s always more to clothes than meets the eye. Last month, my eight-year-old niece, a big girl now, asked me if I would share my pair of heels with her. In my parents’ home, tucked in a trunk is the first pair of socks I wore. As I type this, I reminded of a pink t-shirt that my hostel mate wore on weekends. It was torn at many places; until date, she’s struggling to replace it with something similar.
Maybe then, not only do our clothes say a lot about us but also they say a lot to us.
This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.