Why Should What We Wear Define Who We Are?

Posted: April 9, 2015

We wear beautiful clothes to look beautiful. So, does this mean we are what we wear? Let’s rip apart this veil and learn to look beyond clothes.

There can be nothing more satisfying than looking into the mirror and feeling good about the person looking back at you. But more often than not, this feel-good factor comes from the way we look rather than from being the person we are. Today, a lot of effort is being taken to redefine the whole concept of this feel-good factor, and re-look at clothes and outfits being largely responsible for making women feel good about themselves. But is this enough to change the long-lived and survived mindset of the Indian society?

There can be nothing more satisfying than looking into the mirror and feeling good about the person looking back at you.




For example, the fashion industry is now moving away from the anorexic and size minus-zero looks to more healthy body types. In her interviews, the size-zero brand ambassador, Kareena Kapoor, herself says that she would never want to go down that road again. The campaign by Dove is another attempt to change the way we, women, constantly analyse the way we look. It tells that women are too hard and critical on themselves about how they look, to an extend that sometimes their self image is distorted and that they are, in reality, far more beautiful than they give themselves credit for.

Another example is the campaign launched by Nandita Das, a Bollywood actress and celebrity, in which she attempts to change the thought and mindset towards dark-skinned women in a culture like India’s where fair skin equals beauty. Another powerful example is the international campaign where physically-disabled people were used as models to design store mannequins based on their body type to create the idea that all bodies are beautiful. Although, we can find a number of examples like the ones I’ve listed above to argue that there is a change in the way society is looking at beauty, I still feel that there is still a long way to go before women stop defining themselves, or people stop defining women by their outfits or looks.

In Indian culture, the society, since generations, defines women by their beauty. In fact it is so deep-seated that a lot of work needs to be done to change it. The scary part of it is that, as women, we have subconsciously accepted these benchmarks of beauty and are constantly trying to measure up to it. The first question or comment in a social gathering is still on the way a woman looks. Either it’s about how much weight the lady has lost or gained, or about her complexion or about her outfit. How her career is going or how she is doing is asked only as an after thought. Isn’t it time we break free from these bonds?

The first question or comment in a social gathering is still on the way a woman looks. Either it’s about how much weight the lady has lost or gained, or about her complexion or about her outfit.

We don’t even realise how much pressure the lady might be going through to keep her confidence going amidst all these comments. It’s bad enough that we, as women, pressurize each other, what is worse is that it seems to be passing on from one generation to another. With the whole selfie-culture and putting up pictures on Facebook seems to be taking the problem of looking good to another level. I have heard of situations where people don’t want to attend social gatherings in the fear of not being able to match up to the looks of others attending the party. There have also been stories where college girls have spent their entire pocket money on trying to look good or trying to impress her girl gang.

It was only during my recent travel to Malaysia that I realised the women around the world, across different religions and cultures are so much more than their outfits and looks. The experience that triggered this thought in me was when I went snorkelling during my holiday. Since we went snorkelling in the sea, there was really no restriction on the swimwear one chose to wear. Many people were in their swimsuits and many others were in shorts and tees. There was, however, a group of women who went in to snorkel wearing their traditional outfits, which included full-sleeved tops and full-length pants with their heads covered.

As I first saw them get off the boats with their families, I wondered how they would enjoy their outing as I assumed they wouldn’t be able to swim in their attire. The others in my travel group were discussing on how young the women looked and it was really a shame that they appeared to be so domesticated with their children. It was a very hot afternoon and the common thought was how are they even going to enjoy being covered up so much in this heat? It was then time to go and change into our swim wear. I had recently put on some weight and was quite conscious of getting into my swimsuit. In fact, I must admit that I was debating with self if I should get into the water at all. I always thought that one had to look good in their beach wear and wondered how I’d look. Despite all the reluctance, I changed and got into the water with my group.

To my surprise, after the initial few moments of self-consciousness, I realised that everyone’s attention was not on the clothes, but on the fishes we were there to see and all the fun we were having. I relaxed instantly and had a lovely time snorkelling and honestly, the photographs came out really well as I was so happy. What was even more surprising was that the group of women we thought were the domesticated-poor souls is that not only did they swim and snorkel in their traditional outfits, but they took their children snorkelling as well and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  This group of women were not only excellent swimmers, but they were free in their mind and spirit for that day. These women showed us that day that they were not defined by what they wore, in fact what they wore was just their outer skin.

We need to change the feel-good lens not only for ourselves, but also for our girlfriends, sisters, mothers and colleagues.

So, whose responsibility is it to change this mindset? The society’s, the family’s or the friends’? Yes, of course, they all play a part in it, but a large part of the responsibility lies with us as well. We need to change the feel-good lens not only for ourselves, but also for our girlfriends, sisters, mothers and colleagues. A girl who wears salwar kameez should not be stereotyped as unambitous and homely, neither should the one wearing jeans and a tee be stereotyped as modern and western. We don’t have to belong to a certain size and shape and wear a certain type of outfit to be a certain type of person. We can be the person we want to be, the minute we decide in our hearts and minds.

My attempt through this article is to encourage every woman to look into the mirror and see her talents, interests and intellect first, and then her outfit.

Image of a woman via Shutterstock

A learning and development professional with a passion for writing. Publishing my writing is my

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