What Was Wendell Rodericks Thinking; Making An Ageist Comment On Badass PC Rocking That Designer Gown?

Designer Wendell Rodricks' comments about Priyanka Chopra’s Grammys gown, reek of ageism and body shaming. Even in 2020, we have patriarchal rules about clothes!

Designer Wendell Rodricks’ comments about Priyanka Chopra’s Grammy gown, reek of ageism and body shaming. Even in 2020, we have patriarchal “rules” about clothes!

Everyone has an opinion about Priyanka Chopra’s Ralph and Russo Grammy dress. From random men feeling wrathful on the behalf of Indian women and sanskaar to other celebrities.

Some liked the dress, which seemed to call back to the “jungle dress” popularised by Jennifer Lopez. Others had no issues with the dress, but had issues with Priyanka wearing it. A third set of people felt that the dress itself was ugly, but appreciated Priyanka for carrying it off beautifully.

Isn’t it body shaming?

It is designer Wendell Rodricks comments that have received the most attention. In a now deleted Instagram post, he wrote, “It’s not for her this @ralphandrusso.” The post was perceived by many as body shaming.

Actor Suchitra Krishnamurthy came out in support of Priyanka in another Instagram post, writing “I think the fact that Priyanka is not trying to hide her belly with her clutch is what makes this pic so beautiful. Makes her the rockstar she is. Her confidence an inspiration to every woman.

“Women have been so enslaved by men’s opinion of how women should look this photograph of Priyanka to me at the world’s most publicised event is the height of liberation.”

Others, such as plus size fashion blogger and body positive influencer, Amena, also praised Priyanka’s confidence in carrying the dress.

As she pointed out in another tweet –“sagging boobs” are not an insult. Many women Priyanka’s age (37) and even younger, do have breasts that sag – it is normal and natural. The expectation that women must only have perky breasts is irrational. And in a world that constantly expects women to live up to unattainable beauty standards, it is lovely to see a woman, especially a famous one, being comfortable and confident in her non-airbrushed, natural body.

Clothes don’t really have an age

Wendell Rodricks of course, doesn’t see it like that. Saying that what he said was “more dress shaming than body shaming.” In another Instagram post, he went on to defend himself by saying that “There is an age to wear some clothes. Men with huge bellies should not wear tight T shirts. Same with women who wear minis past a certain age. If you don’t have it, don’t flaunt it. I stopped wearing Bermudas as I have a few varicose veins.”

Now, let’s get this straight – dress shaming IS body shaming. The idea that clothes are meant to hide “bodily flaws” and not flaunt them is not body positive. The idea that certain clothes can only be worn at a certain age, is plain ageist.

Women’s clothes and “rules” around

Women’s clothes, especially, are subject to a host of arbitrary and patriarchal rules. They are shamed for repeating clothes. For wearing clothes that are too colourful. Or for wearing clothes that are not colourful enough. Slut shamed for wearing “revealing” clothes. Called “behenji” for choosing to dress in traditional clothes/clothes that are simple and unostentatious. It goes on and on.

Wendell’s comments then, are not just about Priyanka. They add to the already loud voices that police what women can and cannot wear.

A few years ago, a senior woman I know was visiting the US, during winter. At the time, this woman only wore sarees, believing that any other style of clothing was inappropriate for her age. Knowing that a saree, lovely garment though it is, offers barely any protection against the harsh winters where she was going, I advised her to bring a few leggings and kurtas with her.

When she arrived in the US, she had bought only sarees, and realised quickly that they were in fact inadequate. Luckily, her daughter-in-law shared her own leggings and kurtas with her. The woman soon discovered that not only did they offer better protection against the weather, they also offered her more ease of movement, especially while exercising.

To hell with “log kya kahenge!”

Since then, she wears leggings and kurtas on a regular basis in India and abroad. She also wears jeans –but only when she is visiting the US for now, because she is still afraid that in India “log kya kahenge” (what will people say).

This “log kya kahenge” is the bane of women’s lives. It is time now that we set aside the opinions of others, and celebrate our own bodies and minds, and wear what we like. What makes us feel good.

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