Night gowns, House coats and knickerbockers 15/09/2011

Today while on my morning walk I  looked around  and my attention was drawn to other morning walkers and mothers waiting for their children’s school bus to arrive. I watched particularly  the way they were dressed. Men were in knickerbockers, women in saris and salwars,  mothers with their kids in tow half bent under  their weighty school bags were in their house coats with a dupatta wound around their neck. I was reminded of  a comment made by a well known historian in his column about  Chennai women’s casual way of dressing irrespective of the occasion. Just because they wear a dupatta over their house coat, it doesn’t mean they are properly dressed. It is  certainly not a substitute for  salwar kamiz which is more formal, he had written.  I wondered why he failed to mention men dressed in knickerbockers ( a sign that they lived abroad or visited a foreign country)  who are increasingly being found all over the place, whether they are shopping for their daily needs or for luxuries. Compared to this a house coat doesn’t expose the skin, thank the Chennai women for not  stepping out in a night gown/dress. The other tribe  are the ones dressed in veshtis, a regional attire which is very decent and dignified, that is if the wearer doesn’t fold it into half baring his hairy legs in the name of comfort like his ‘western’ counterpart !

n.meera raghavendra rao


6 thoughts on “Night gowns, House coats and knickerbockers 15/09/2011

  1. V Raghavan

    I agree with your comments. I go for a work-out in a gym every morning. The dress regulation says full length trousers and T-shirts for both men and women. Whereas women adhere to this code, some men wear knickerbockers. A few even appear in sandow banians (armless vests). Well, this is Madras alias Chennai! I do not think the other cities are any better.

  2. Prof. V.N.K.Kumar

    I had a good laugh when I read the last sentence. The lungis of the real natives folded up and tucked baring the lower legs competing with the knickerbockers of the westernized folks which also exposes the lower legs. In the humid heat of chennai this becomes a necessity. But mothers wearing housecoats with a dupatta evokes pity. These poor creatures have to coax their children to finish their ablutions, help them with their dresses and prepare & feed them a tasty breakfast, all the time keeping an eye on the clock. Then they have to escort them to the school bus pickup point. Where would they get enough time to dress up neatly ? Housecoats with dupattas is par for the course. Now that they are married, anyway there is no need to impress anybody with their looks.

    In Mysore I see many womenfolk come to the park, in the early morning hours, for their walking, in their night gowns, with a unbuttoned sweater as a top. 11 years ago when we migrated to this place from madras, it was quite shocking to see that, but now we have got used to the scene. We console ourselves saying ” At least they are not naked !”.

  3. Prof. V.N.K.Kumar

    I am no expert on feminine sartorial psychology but I have observed somethings. Why do humans dress up ? To protect oneself from the inclement weather of the artics, people dress up in seal/bear skins. Some stay naked or nude in the equatorial regions of the amazon jungles. It is a matter of climate. Then again if a Indian woman scientist has ventured deep into a subterranian cave for exploration and there is a nuclear disaster and all life on earth is destroyed and she emerges from the cave to find herself all alone in this world, how will she dress up thereafter ? When there is nobody to watch, will an Indian woman bother about saree matching blouses or sandals or bangles or bindis or jewellery sets ? I would say probably not. Any bedclothes (sheets or blankets) to wrap around herself to protect herself from the cold will do, if she is in North India or she might like wearing her birthday suit, if she is in madras.

    The dress sense of the girl is influenced right from childhood by her parents, siblings and peers and this becomes hardwired in her neuronic circuitry and later on she internalizes these into her own mental calculus. She might think she is trying to please herself by dressing up nicely but it is actually an attempt to please others. After all self-esteem is based on other-esteem.

  4. Though it is said, Clothes make a man , I think dressing well first gives confidence to a person and increases his/her self esteem. The older you get, the brighter are the colours you wear because they accentuate your personality .I think this applies to both men and women .

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