Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 28, Tuesday July 15, 2008



The psychoanalyst declared all sorts of monstrosities-the better part of which she did not care to read and of the little that she did, she hastened to forget- ranging from lack of self-esteem (this is an all purpose ailment it seems) to obsessive compulsive behaviour to the outrageous likes of personality disorder.
Her age: 20; just reached.

Offence (read disease): a slight, absolutely harmless inclination towards purchase. And the engulfing, yet wholly true, fear that she NEVER has anything to wear.

Purchase of: clothes. ONLY. Sandals, jewellery, bags, accessories and the likes are mere complements. Inevitable tag-alongs if you will.

And the frequency? Only for specially special occasions of course, included in which are weddings, formal dinners, corporate meetings, presence at work, attendance of class, any day of the week, the rising of the sun etcetera etcetera.

No, the know-it-all woman's A3 size analysis of this 'personality disorder' changed nothing of her lifestyle and did even less for her conscience. It did however, give her footing for self-evaluation when more than a year later, an article on the-oh-so severe malady was required.

To begin with, perhaps debunking the aforementioned presumptions could aide to explain why or why not some people (names excluded, pointy fingers curled, blame absolved) deem it necessary, yes necessary, to compulsorily have a new outfit for…everything.

For one, attack on self-esteem is seemingly so obvious and yet so often the wrong answer. Physical presentation of oneself is the first basis on which a person is judged, not necessarily the most important one nor one you should pay heed to, but it is undeniably the criterion on which we all (by 'all' meaning 'each and every') judge people, at least before we get to know them, before they can throw in their conversation skills, or endearing wit, or thesaurus stock of vocabulary.

There are of course, more important arguments to lodge, for first impressions are indeed temporary. What is important, is to be able to realise that appearance is a part of your persona, one that tells tales (small ones) of who you are and what you like. More importantly, it is a matter of presentation. Perhaps not of the same ranking as how you present your heart or your soul, or your mind and your knowledge; but not too far below on the priority list either.

How you look at a Sunday afternoon brunch should never resemble what you pull off at the Friday night wedding or the Monday morning interview. Presentation, physical as well as intellectual (physical a little less) creates impressions and should someone, gender irrelevant, will that impression to be positive, it is beyond my reckoning why that should be taken as a signal of insecurity. After all, not every person who is conscious about self-image is a living example of scantily skin-deep beauty.

Minus the exceptions of the plastic stereotypes promoted by the typical blonde sorority girl who has spent more dollars than she has read or written alphabets, attention to appearance is one that boosts confidence, not declares the lack of it. The difference being that for the former it is the only fodder for esteem, for the others, it is one of many.

And giving resigned credit to the psychiatrist's dissection, yes perhaps there is an element of esteem attached. Only, not in terms of its scarcity, but its exponential growth. Whatever fashion sense you subscribe to, however shallow you may think people who spend time and money on outward appearance are, or however little it may matter to you what others think of you, I doubt there are many who do not enjoy the knowledge that they 'look good', whether in their own eyes or in others'. In plain and simple lingo, the look good factor comes with a feel good factor.

Admittedly, all excuses or explanations thus provided apply for the most part to 'normal' people who attach only the deserved amount of weight to being well-dressed and not to the obsession that is new clothes round the clock. Confessions first: I cannot put a finger on it but I can only hope the uncomplicated revelations (taken to a higher level) recently described have more to do with it than the callous extravagance of a shopaholic (you have a cream shalwar and dupatta already, spend Tk 65/meter on normal cotton of bottle green and surprisingly little on zari 'paar' enough for only the sleeves and the neck line and you have yourself a new outfit) or the chronic need to keep up with fashion so much you end up running a few steps ahead of it.

So some people indulge in the unhealthy habit of wanting to look good always, for which they feel every occasion should have its own outfit and every outfit its individual mark, its own purpose. And surely the daily need for satisfaction via attire as opposed to only on your graduation night is not half as respectable as a student who strives to be ahead throughout the academic year and not just during exams, but the thought processes could have similar stems.

If they do, is it pardonable that I NEVER have anything to wear?

By Subhi Shama Reehu
Photo: Zahedul I Khan
Model: Sarah F Ahmad
Wardrobe: Aami


Why do I need something new to wear on every occasion is a question I cannot answer, however much I try. It seems that all my clothes, even the ones I got stitched last week, are out of fashion. They are either too long or too short, and the ones that are perfect, never seem to have the right shade of white shalwar to go with. (I hate boutique stuff, I always have my kameez tailored and pair it with white shalwar or churidar, and white duppatta. At least most of the time).

Here is another catch: I don't want to wear what others are wearing. I like trendy stuff; in fact I like them very much, but I define my style. Trends are fleeting and changing but my own style flatters me in the exact ways I want. For instance I will never wear a georgette sari with sequins and stones, never wear bindis the size of saucers, never wear chandeliers on my ears. But I will most certainly wear French chiffon or muslin with embroidery. I will wear a taat kurti with white churidar and silver earrings. You get the picture; trendy but not flashy. I love saris, especially cotton taats, cotton jamdani and I wear them at all occasions. Starting from a tea party to weddings, to meeting a friend at a café to a corporate meeting.

This is just a small peek at my style and now coming back to why I don't have anything to wear again brings us back to square one. I don't know. I find this quite annoying, since I am so clear on how I want to look. Then why this dilemma?

Dressing right is very important to me. I don't want to make a fool of myself by wearing the wrong attire at the wrong place. Imagine your child's graduation, wearing a kathan there would be literally blasphemous; or sporting a bouffant at your child's 16th birthday will not only make you look like a buffoon, but ruin your child's social life in the process as well. Unfortunately these things are always at the back of my mind when I decide on what to wear. Therefore decision-making becomes a painstaking job. This one is too flashy for the occasion; this colour is last season, and this sari I wore quite a few times, this material is not right for this weather, and the nit picking goes on and on and on. There are times when I would buy a new sari or stitch a new shalwar kameez for even small intimate family gatherings. I'd drop invitations if I can't find the right attire. Quite spoilt many would say, but believe me, I can't reason with myself in those circumstances.

Well, I guess these are a few of the many reasons as to why I don't have anything decent to wear, but then again, please remember I am always trying.

By confused


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