Dressing up and dressing down

Dressing up and dressing down

It is amazing how everyone makes it a point to mind everyone else’s business when it comes to fashion advice. This is in no small measure due to the volumes of material available online. Even newspaper supplements and magazines devote reams of newsprint to dressing up tips. Therefore everyone is armed with an opinion, on how to make that special look work.

As a consequence, along with love and fresh air, it is fashion advice that’s free. I have resisted this onslaught not consciously, but due to sheer lack of time and perhaps a lack of that inborn instinct. Or perhaps, it was born out of empathy for the troubles that Bertie Wooster faced when he was under instructions from his Aunt Agatha to write an article on “What the well-dressed man is wearing”.

I have often wondered why frumpy is frowned upon. It could well be a statement of purpose, of choosing comfort over another’s opinion of what is smart. However, it is commonly assumed that a person is under stress if they do not conform to accepted standards of chic. I guess it takes a refined eye to appreciate the charm of imperfection.

It is not as if that one can escape the scrutiny of the fashion police as age catches up. Even when it’s an ageless garment like the sari which can never go out of fashion, free from whims of the latest pattern and cut, advice pours in. It could be on the draping style, on the accessories, on the suitability of the colours and fabric. The lectures on sartorial elegance flow on incessantly.

The comfort that comes from wearing old, unfashionable clothes is unparalleled. It is a relationship that ripens and sweetens with time. Knowledge of how one can manage a tear or a stain with a nip and a tuck gives a sense of fulfilment. Memories are woven into old garments even as they fade. They tell several tales — of a hard bargain made, a shopping expedition with a friend, the salesman who narrated a story.

Maybe the most difficult to discard are the gifts that invoke special moments. Even when such clothes become outdated, they are too precious to give away. These old garments have an allure and character that no fashionista can fathom. Unless of course, some high priest proclaims that it is vintage fashion. The secret advantages of dowdy chic are known only to the few ardent adherents.

I have found millennials, with their casual dress code, outdo themselves in following their heart. Every day seems to be a dress down Friday. Work clothes, street clothes, sportswear and even sleep clothes seamlessly blend into a monochromatic amorphous mass.

The subtle distinctions amongst them are only discernible to the millennial eye. The main motto is to be comfortable in one’s skin. As they have reached an enviable degree of coolness, no fashion police can give them a dressing down.