Earlier I was under the impression that Indian Air Force men wore the smart blue uniform always. It was only later that I got to know that they were expected to wear 6 different types, suiting (no pun intended) the occasion- Blues for winters (only in declared winter stations), Khakis, whites, DJ for Dining- in nights, ceremonial uniform for VVIP visits, white shirts and shorts for Exercise time in addition to Lounge suits for dinners, cocktails etc and whites for casual wear, not to speak of ‘flying gear’ and other working outfits. Even if an item were to be missing while in uniform, they would be labeled as ‘improperly dressed in uniform’ and would have to face the consequences. Moreover, all these uniforms were not supposed to be worn at the wrong time and wrong place. The credo ‘Dressed for the occasion’ was to be strictly followed.
Of course, there was an ‘infra dig’ gag about a Casanova who was caught in ‘Full Monty’ chasing a girl, but got away pleading that he was ‘Dressed for the occasion’!
Even in civilian life, if not in uniforms (except in Schools), people are expected to dress befitting the occasion- University Convocations, occasions like marriages and funerals, fashion shows (ramp modeling). Earlier we would never see the doctors (women) sporting loose, open hair. Nowadays the rule seems to be more relaxed.
The college girls are supposed to be in decent wear which they are most of the time. It is only in movies that we see the heroine (lecturer/student) attending college wearing the miniest of the minis, tight provocative dresses with bare shoulders, bare midriffs and bare everything else and sticking out like a sore thumb. Thank God, Fact remains Fact though Fiction continues to be Fantasy. As for the fashions displayed on the ramps, I am yet to see sensible people dressing in those weird outfits in daily life. When State visitors come for the Official visits, they sport the correct dress strictly going by the occasion. But, when ordinary foreigners come to see India, they sport gaudy, gauzy maxis and lehengas, which give them the feeling (totally wrong, of course) that they are ‘dressed for India’.
I loved my mom-in-law’s naïve, hesitant query when she asked me whether I swim in a swimsuit. The standard gear for ladies bathing in the holy rivers is a blouseless sari or the petticoat tied at the chest under the arms making them look more sexy than Mandakini in Raj Kapoor’s ‘Ram teri Ganga Maili’. The worst case of sartorial abuse I have seen is when South Indian ‘mami’s demonstrate cookery on the TV. I have never seen them wearing an apron. They will be decked in expensive Kanjivarams with gold borders and jewellery of all descriptions and in plenty too.( you appear on TV, a chance of life time and your folks need to see you at your best ) So, when the hands get into the dough, the rings, bangles and everything else gets in.
During our mothers’ time of course, Kanjivaram saris (or Dharmavaram saris), 2 or 3 at the most, used to be their daily wear on a ‘one wear one wash’ basis. But these days, it is considered to be a formal attire, particularly by the ladies in North. Even the VIP ladies (except our Railway minister) wear them for special official occasions.
But the men’s attire is at least dictated by climate. Used to seeing men in South in white dhoti and white shirt, the men in North including Taxi drivers wearing jackets and pull-overs, seemed extremely well dressed to me. Of course, like everything else, the credo ‘Dressed for the occasion’ also seems to be undergoing a change. I see girls and boys visiting temples in all sorts of dresses- jJeans, screaming T shirts etc.
The athletes on tracks are seen donning Bikinis (or something very close to it). Nobody would believe me if I claimed that one of my classmates used to run the State level running races clad in a saree and win them too over the girls in Shorts !