From the ramps to the roads

From the ramps to the roads

I remember my first fashion faux pas like it was yesterday. I was working at the country's leading women's magazine. I went up to the editor and asked if I could do a 'slightly different' fashion piece. What about, she asked. Why, I said breezily, how fashion is quite far removed from everyday life and 'normal' people. How not too many women would drop a lakh on an LBD. How...

To cut that story short, my idea was shot down, so hard you could hear the thud as it hit the ground!

Over the years, my other fashion faux pas have been more of a personal kind, involving 'elephant pants', four-inch red wooden clogs, belts of metal discs and suchlike.

Despite this, I consider myself a fashionista, in that I read most fashion mags with the avid interest usually reserved for Amitav Ghosh's latest. In that I totally get that a woman sometimes needs 20 metres of tulle, whalebone corsetry and vertiginous skyscraper heels to look gorgeous. In that I feel muslin dhotis and man-buns up the sexiness quotient in many, though not all, men. In that I'll willingly try anything once, be it cold-shoulder tops, origami gowns, and on one tragic occasion, gold lame culottes.

Over the years spent observing fashion, I've also had time to think about that vital haute couture query - does one sacrifice comfort and utility for cutting-edge trends?

I won't keep you in suspense, dear reader. The answer is a short and crisp 'yes and no'.

I've been to a fashion show where the spikes on the bralettes the models wore actually scratched people backstage as they (the models and the spikes) squeezed through into the changing room; I've watched many a model abruptly brought down to Mother Earth because her footwear was not made for walking; I was there when one waif-like model actually fainted during the show because she'd been on a fruits-only diet for a fortnight to get into the clothes.

You, dear reader, will, of course, infer from the above that real fashion can never be utility-oriented because it would go against the gossamer grain. That we have to continue dressing in puce, moss, aubergine, mud, and that colour between mustard and tan which designers who specialise in earthy tones and weaves bring out every season ­ ­ ­ - colours that look terrible on most Indian skins. That women who go to the Derby must sport feathered and frilled millinery, just as if they were at Ascot.

But the answer was, if you remember, 'a yes and a no'. The 'no' comes from the aam janta, who have taken fashion and happily moulded it to their comfort. Like those really roomy wide-legged pants. Did you say only slender and tall women can really look good in them? Well, many haven't got that memo or have rejected it, and the pants are amazingly comfortable, so there. Like those flowing gathered skirts (even more comfortable than the aforementioned pants and can hide everything, including the kitchen sink); shining white footwear (it pains me too much to expand on this fashion crime); and the very on-trend 'athleisure' wear, where you take your gym clothes - Lululemon if you are PNLU (people not like us), Adidas if you are PLU (people like us) - out to a swanky lunch.

Then there is India's unique garment: the nightie. Just last week, I saw a woman wearing a velvet-trimmed nightie to chat with her girlfriends outside her gate at 7.30 pm. She wore it with an elan that Gigi Hadid would envy. So there.

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