A passion for fashion

A passion for fashion

Bell-bottoms were immensely popular in the late 1960s

I recently witnessed a visual presentation to mark the birthday of a distinguished personage. Image followed image, depicting his progress through life from early years to the present day. While thanking those who had arranged the slideshow, the man of the moment expressed relief that the photographs (chosen without his knowledge) did not include any of him in bell-bottoms.

I know exactly what he meant for I remember, with embarrassment, my long-ago fondness for that item of clothing. Bell-bottoms were immensely popular in the late 1960s and, if one was to be considered ‘hip’ (cool) and ‘mod’ (modern), one had to flaunt them. I shudder to recall my orange bell-bottoms. They were made of some sort of polyester fabric and I wore them with a short green kurta, patterned with roses that matched my flared trousers. Another outfit consisted of pink bell-bottoms and a loose-fitting shirt of the same vivid hue. I also possessed tight stretch pants that tapered at the ankles, extending to strap-supports beneath my feet. I paired those plain stirrup leggings with bright tops in striking designs.

In short, there was hardly anything in my wardrobe that was simple and sober. I did not believe in understated elegance and neither did my friends. Flamboyantly clad, we shopped for gaudy garments. Just as exciting was the hunt for accessories to complement them. When we were at school, we had to wear small studs on our earlobes, but the minute that we were out of uniform we exchanged those commonplace ornaments for dangling go-go earrings. They came in various shades and geometric shapes, and we each had an impressive collection. I was particularly proud of my crimson ‘diamonds’.
One morning, they were entirely eclipsed by a pair of extraordinary earrings. As bold as she was beautiful, my classmate Shalini brought them to school and slipped them on during the short break.

Wonderstruck, we gazed at the little Hawaiian dancers (complete with realistic-looking grass skirts) that hung halfway down her neck. Basking in our admiration, Shalini tossed her head from side to side, and the dolls capered as merrily as the daffodils in the famous poem by Wordsworth. Not too farfetched a comparison, since to us all forms of finery were as absorbing as nature was to that great poet.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Nafde not had the slightest sympathy with youthful fads and fancies. ‘What are you doing?” she yelled, entering suddenly and finding us grouped around Shalini’s desk. Startled out of our skins, we scrambled to our seats as Shalini tried to extricate her ears from her earrings. Other teachers might have taken a tolerant view of our conduct. Mrs. Nafde, however, believed that there was only one thing worthy of extreme enthusiasm.