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 !


37 responses »

  1. vimala ramu says:

    Did you never make sleeved blouses or you never made it to your first salary? ha,ha,just kidding !

    • vimala madon says:

      Salary? what salary? Convent run colleges used to pay pocket money and take double the work out of you! As for sleeved blouses, they made their appearance in their own good time!

  2. vimala madon says:

    Long ago in the 70’s when I joined a women’s college as a lecturer the Principal, an Italian nun, took me aside, to say that while I dressed very well, her other colleagues in veil were conservative Keralites, so would I mind not wearing sleeveless blouses with my saris? I had no sleeved blouses at the time and assured her I would get some made with my first salary. I never did.

  3. Dear Vimala.

    What else to expect from you? A lovely piece on the art of dressing or the lack of it. Great bit.

  4. Sonal Shree says:

    Going through your blog is like a roller coaster ride of laughter always. Loved it. There is no substitute to a person dressed smartly in a decent attire. We should consider actresses decent enough if they are at least wearing something and thank them for it 😉

  5. Nuggehalli Pankaja says:

    you have a very good set of witty friends! I enjoy reading their comments

  6. vimala ramu says:

    In one’s eagerness to show off, dressing for the occasion falls by wayside.

  7. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    Fantastic! In the capital following fashion is a frenzy. Those who don’t are considered/branded as the quintessential behenjis. While sometimes a really “well dressed” lady is a treat to sore eyes, most of the times low necks, tight jeans, tighter Capri, shortest of shorts, halters, straps and strings prick the eyes not because the nakedness that they casually or capriciously demonstrate but because these are so ill timed (read not as per the situation) that they do not at all fall in the category of as you rightly put “dressed for the occasions”.

  8. vimala ramu says:

    Thank you,Pankaja.

  9. Nuggehalli Pankaja says:

    As usua, very entertaining!you bring the sheen of humour into everything you touch ! I envy you Vimalu!

  10. sreelata menon says:

    I agree! Wholeheartedly.Very essential to be dressed for the occasion.
    The Siddhi Vinayak temple authorities in Mumbai introduced a dress code for devotees the other day.Only thing which I didn’t like was that it was only for women!
    But it was necessary.
    Skimpy outfits have their place no doubt but perhaps not in places of worship just like a three piece suit ( which is still acceptable ) or even Bermudas which seem to be a mark of the MNC culture these days!

    • vimala ramu says:

      Yes,Sreelatha, we are not condemning any dress in toto. It is just that it is decent to dress suiting an occasion. Thanks for endorsing my view.

  11. vimala ramu says:

    My dear Beyniaz, Regimentation is one thing. Sometimes it may be done blindly and is expected to be followed blindly too. What I am saying that when there is a choice, a person should dress suiting the occasion. Don’t you agree with me?

  12. Beyniaz says:

    Good blog, Vimala. Some clubs have a dress code too. The army club does not allow men in T shirts without a collar. Painter MF Hussain was turned out of Mumbai Club for not wearing shoes. Some places make a point of including suits as dress code. If its summer, then people are literally dressed to kill…sweating the sartorial commands!

  13. vimala ramu says:

    I am glad Mr Om that as a father you have realised your responsibility and try to shield your son from undesirable encounters. He has his whole lifetime for such things.
    Well, as for the gradation in being ‘well dressed’ they say it is Navy, Air force and Army in that order. But a well dressed man is well dressed wherever he is and in whatever dress he may be. It is just a matter of self discipline, good sense and taste.

  14. Vimala Madam,

    If you want to see the latest of weird dresses youngsters sport these days, you have got to see the Chennai times, a supplement of the times of India. On many days, I hide the supplement from my son’s eyes lest his innocent eyes chance upon the “dressed” women (these days, men too) whose lack of dress give them the definition of being dressed.

    As regards defence personnel, they are almost always impeccably dressed – ( even if they have to wear six different uniforms) – the airforce, the navy, and the army – in that order – atleast, what I have seen.

  15. J S Broca says:

    Dear Vimala ji, I notice from your background that you are a teacher with a long experience.Yes,I agree, one should always be dressed for the occasion.I don’t know about you women but we men often and mostly love (?) seeing eye- candy pieces dressed in various different varieties of dresses.My collegues in an office used to note down what dress a boss’ secratary wore and when,what colour it was,when it was (or will be) repeated etc.Often, he used to bet that today she will be wearing a particular dress or a particular colour and mostly he was proved right and I had lost a few bets with him too ! I also wonder why chicken-meat sellers always say it is a dressed chicken,when all its feathers have been removed while processing it before selling it and technically it is undressed ! Think on that Teacher ji ! I hope this student has not asked a difficult question ! Keep posting such blogs !GBU !

    New Delhi

    • vimala ramu says:

      Mr.Broca, I am glad you agree with me that people should dress suiting the occasion. Well, if the Romeos in the office make a pastime of keeping tab on the different dresses a secretary wears, that only talks about their moral calibre. Did the secretary try tying the Rakhi on all your wrists?!

  16. Shernaz says:

    Good blog as always, Vimala. Your classmate must have been great to be able to run in a saree and win! Just two days back, seeing some security guards in sarees at a hospital I remarked that they would be better able to handle an emergency if they had a more ‘sensible’ uniform.

  17. vimala ramu says:

    Thank you, Nadi. I feel my outright way of expressing might have given rise to an army of dissenters !

  18. nadi says:

    enjoyed reading this.
    as always, Vimala.
    there’s something lovable about your words…

  19. vimala ramu says:

    Thank you Irene. Yes, I do know that the fashions do keep changing, particularly ‘Ladies” and they are somewhat cyclic in nature too. When the modern dresses are so skimpy, why treat a lowly beggar with disdain ?!!!

  20. Irene says:

    The times they’re always changing! My Mom used to often find my skirts a bit short… my ten year old’s skirts are sometimes so short that you have to make an effort to locate them!
    Enjoyed the piece!

  21. A.Hari says:

    Very interesting to know how the trends have changed over a period of time. Now there is different dress code in educational institutions & even corporates. What do do?

    • vimala ramu says:

      Thank you, Hari. So long as the dressing suits the occasion, it is Ok. I am only whining about where they do not !

  22. vimala ramu says:

    The famous ‘Sport and Pastime’ magazine had published her picture too, running in the saree.

  23. […] one country to another. Different communities have their own way and tradition to celebrate the occasion of Christmas. But there are some activities which are common in every community while celebrating […]

  24. Indrani Talukdar says:

    A very nice blog, Vimala. I am trying to imagine your classmate running a race in a sari, Very appropriately dressed, I have to say 🙂

  25. isabel says:

    Long time ago we were all disciplined to follow proper dress code in school and at home. Not allowed to wear any skirts if not below the knee, no short shorts or shorts at all, not allowed to wear pants—mother and father said they’re intended for men only. No plunging necklines, hair must not be too short like men. Nails cut short, no nail polish, no make-up [ but being young then, we use bougainvillea petals to color our lips! ]
    When we smile we’re supposed to cover our lips and no showing of teeth, we have to be proper. Smiling too much connotes that a woman is of a lesser character.

    Grew old still following 80-90% of these rules imposed on me as a young child…dont like mini skirts, preferred long broomstick skirts and feminine T-shirt-blouse with semi-puffed sleeves or ruffles. Always wear chemise, sando and pantalettes even on hot summer days…could not go out without them. Bathing suit? I’ve worn them many times but they stay under a long shirt and long shorts! My friends said it’s useless to go shop long hours to find nice ones and not flaunt them! But I still refused, I wear them alright but under and well covered. =)

    Simple straight hair just below the shoulder gathered at the back, held by simple unadorned head band or simply tucked behind the ears. Simple powder on the face and a hint of stain on the lips just enough to color it and not look like death itself! But on big occasions like weddings and christening I wear/ put on a light purple eyeshadow and dark brown eyeliner. Picture time?…I seldom smile, just a little and would never smile showing my teeth…my mom said I could smile faintly with my eyes and that would be enough—” simplicity is beauty” she would always say. Yes indeed, simplicity is beauty!

    • vimala ramu says:

      Thank you Isabel for your lengthy comments. I am glad my blog has taken you back to your younger days. I feel that good values always remain good.

  26. Sneha says:

    Yes, dear Vimala. Cannot agree more. I’ve been asked to wear specific ‘kurtas’ of a “particular length” to college. One of my General Knowledge teacher’s in school mentioned the same thing – athletes wearing a saree winning a running race during her school times.
    Loved the tongue-in-cheek comments.

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