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Why do We Indian Women wear…

Updated on March 7, 2011
The inexplicable Frock swimsuit
The inexplicable Frock swimsuit

(Written for and first published at on 21st July 2010)

For reasons of tradition, economy or just a rather misguided sense of style, some strange and astonishing sartorial aberrations have crept into Indian women’s closets. This is a list of my pet peeves:

The harem pant/dhoti pant – though I have vented my spleen on this foul object before, it bears repeating – that no one should be seen in a dhoti/harem pant particularly in its present pleated form with the clinched ankle – with a note that each woman, who out of a sense of duty to current trends, has purchased this balloon like mistake, must, forthwith banish it from her wardrobe.

The Faux Churidar – I was a happy camper when readymade cotton chudidars made from stretchy t-shirt fabric made their appearance at stores – this obviated the need to find a really good tailor to make a form fitting chudidar and the huffing and puffing that it takes to get into a really well fitting one. Also the fabric provides give at the knee and is very comfortable to wear.

However this item of convenience was soon succeeded by a hideous – a alas ubiquitous item – the faux chudidar with built in pleats – as if the built in pleats were not enough of an eyesore, to these are added various beads, strings and other objectionable additions.

The Frock Swimsuit – It is a telling indictment of our deep-seated Indian prudery, that the Indian Penal Code still retains intact the provision relating to “Outraging the modesty of women” from the year 1860 (this has not evolved into the less ambiguous term “sexual harassment” yet – probably because of the fact that the latter term contains that objectionable little three letter word).

But I digress – my intention was to heap scorn on that most egregious of creations – the Indian woman’s Swim Suit – It has a modest, high neckline – lest there be a hint of cleavage revealed. It has wide substantial straps, in many cases has built in sleeves as well – lest, horror of horrors a strap should slip! It has built in leggings – and most strangely it has a frill that transforms it into a perplexing dress like object!

Now this eccentric creation is meant to protect the woman’s modesty – thighs, rear end and cellulite are all meant to be kindly camouflaged. But seriously women, that very frill exaggerates the female posterior – it enhances rather than diminishes. And if one does have pretensions of serious swimming, the flapping of all that extraneous material is bound to get in the way.  

And this bizarre item has gained such extraordinary popularity that I was hard put to it to find a normal, unadorned swim suit for myself – the salesman looked at me in doubt and asked “ So you want a V shaped suit?” when I looked uncomprehending he elaborated – “ No leggings, frill, sleeves – not frock style?” When I shook my head, emphatically in the negative, he looked very disapproving (‘nirlaj’ his eyes seemed to say) as he dug out a simple swimsuit without accoutrement or appendage and reluctantly sold it to me.

May I end with apologies to my many friends and to the legions of other Indian women who find themselves unable to exit the dressing room of the swimming pool without being shrouded in this remarkable creation as well as a bathrobe/sarong/other concealing item on top? And also thanks for bearing with the tirade…


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