The fine line between fashion and obscenity

National-Saree-DayBy Bhavani Krishna Iyer

As the recent Friday went past us, I was visually feasting on the sea of colourful saree-clad girls and women who took centre-stage. From social media posts and forwarded text messages I learnt that thereafter July 1 would be declared National Saree Day.

Wonderful, but I need to share my two-cents worth here and if indeed my guileless opinion riles certain groups and individuals, I am unapologetic about it.

Was it a week ago that the furore started when a certain City Council footnoted in its invitation for the Iftar that no saree was allowed.

Indians and women’s groups came out in full force condemning the act and the issue took off into space and returned with a sense of closure when the same council made amends.

Meanwhile, we had all and sundry, come out in social media unabashedly condemning the local authority for allegedly classifying the saree as “indecent”. Cynics had a field day making references and far-fetched comparisons to women in the olden days in India who went about their business without blouses, claiming it was not even an issue then.

All who jumped on the bandwagon failed to get to the root of the issue. Was it the saree per se that was perceived as “indecent”, or the way it was worn by some individuals that started this needless and fierce wrangle?

It is sad that this simple and innocent apparel was made the subject of this controversy, taking many twists and turns from hearsay. All that you hear and see may not be the truth till it is investigated, clarified and explained.

Reliable sources tell me that that the invitation to exclude the saree came about only because some female staff of the Council had on previous occasions turned up in sarees, worn in a way not befitting official functions.

A mainstream print media carried a letter from a reader who posed this question as to what was wrong with those who wore the saree “baring a little flesh”. The question has always been what is “little” and what is “too much.”

Some objective argument is needed here without getting too sensitive and emotionally charged about the issue. Have we not ourselves come across the fairer sex appearing in sarees revealing just too much of everything? If it is at a social event or a wedding, I suppose it is fine but when this happens in places of worship or at an event where the attire may be sensitive due to the diverse beliefs of the host, moderation is the all-important word.

The saree, as we know, can be worn in 100 or more ways and it is known as one of the most versatile pieces of clothing ever conceived.

Its infinite adaptability makes the saree, which can be of a length between 5 to 8 metres, endearing to the young and old as well as traditionalists, the culturally sensitive and the fashionistas.

The saree is probably the only surviving unstitched garment from the past that has evolved over the millennia to an extent that it has been become fashionable beyond borders and cultures. The fact that it is left unstitched allows for the limitless flexibility and creativity of the saree. On that same note, it can also be used or misused in any number of ways.

As we know, traditional costumes are the most visible signs of civilisation and was adopted in ancient times according to sex, age, class, caste, religion, region, occasion and occupation. It is true that in the olden days, women wore the saree without a blouse, with affordability being one of the reasons.

Girls and women who came up with free-spirited arguments and liberated views that women should be unrestricted in presenting themselves in any manner anywhere, should think again. There is a fine line between fashion and tastelessness.

If we do not want to be told off by others, the onus should be on the women in the family to educate their own so that we remain respected first, then admired and adored. Not forgetting also that dressing appropriately to an occasion applies to both men and women.

Fashion does not solely rest in the way we dress, the very state of our being is an unspoken fashion statement in itself.

Bhavani Krishna Iyer is an FMT reader.

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