I wore this dress yesterday. It is loose and long. It flows and moves. Some of you may describe it as a “fat” dress, others may scoff and say it hides all feminine curves and does not allow a woman to express her sexuality and yet others will scorn and call it a “bag dress.” I on the other hand, love it and describe it as a non-conforming, breathable, with a tremendous comfort quotient, super-stylish dress. (I am entitled to my opinion, right? After all we do have the fundamental First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech.)
On the same day, as I was watching mindless television (in my very loose pajamas), I “inadvertently” ran into the Kardashian show. The television screen flashed images of the enticing Kim Kardashian squeezed into a super-tight-to the point of being bound and bandaged, abbreviated dress. She was the embodiment of sexuality. Every nook, cranny and curve of her voluptuous, buxomy frame was tightly crunched into the “bandage dress.”
And, no I did not conjure up the moniker of the “bandage dress.” Believe it or not, it is the official description of the Herve Leger contraption. A royal feat for women’s lib (no pun intended)!
I had no choice and was compelled to compare my “bag dress” with Kim’s “bandage dress.”
I do have to make a disclaimer here. I am in no way eschewing overt sexuality. Women have beautiful bodies and we work hard to keep them in shape. There is absolutely nothing wrong in flaunting our curves or wearing tight clothes. Deep down it satisfies the vanity of a woman to know that she has a body that can carry off (for a lack of a better term) a “bandage dress.” Fashion, a multi-billion dollar industry, rests upon gratifying this very desire for unequivocal sexuality.
However, time and again, I have been compelled to make an astute observation. An observation that bewilders me and makes me question the validity of it. Precisely the reason, why I am sharing my confusion with you today. Maybe you can infuse some semblance of clarity to my confusion.
When I look around, I notice that most women are very hesitant to wear loose clothes. Most women’s comfort zone is tight-fitted clothes. Case in point is jeans. I see one woman after another, no matter what their body size or shape, feel very comfortable in fitted jeans with a fitted shirt. In fact, the hesitation to wear loose clothes is so pervasive that my very first blog was devoted to it. (You can read it here, if you are interested.)
I am intrigued by the machinations of the female brain and what dictates their choice of a dress as tight as the “bandage dress” over a breathable, free-flowing, stylish albeit loose dress. Is it easier and quicker to put on as not much thought is required? Maybe, it is like jeans, a sort of “no-thinking” garment! Is it possible that such clothing is comfortable (although, the mere sight of the “bandage dress” makes me want to take a deep breath)! Does wearing a garment so tight impart confidence to a woman? Is it possible that women think they look fat when they wear loose clothes and make every effort to squeeze into a garment a size too small to look thin? Is a “bandage dress” not constricting for a woman? I refer to the term “constricting” in both the literal and metaphorical sense. Literally for the body and metaphorically for the spirit of a woman.
Even the term, “bandage dress” has connotations of oppression and subjugation. It’s ironic that after fighting for women’s rights for centuries, women continue to seek the “aid” of the “bandage dress” to prove their sexuality.
Questions, questions and more questions pop into my brain. Is it possible that a dress such as the “bandage dress” is worn to satisfy certain acceptable societal norms? Fashion magazines are riddled with the do’s and don’ts of fashion symmetry. Wearing loose clothes is always in the “don’t list,” no matter what your body type. If you are petite, you will get dwarfed and if you are fat you will look even fatter. So, sadly my poor loose “bag dress” is absolutely unacceptable as per societal fashion norms.
Women often come up to me and make this verbatim statement, “I love the loose dress you are wearing; I wish I had the guts to wear it.” Really, is it truly about guts? If so, what is stopping such women from wearing loose garments, despite the fact that they appreciate the beauty of it and even admire it on others. I don’t see anybody getting arrested for wearing loose clothes.
I work as a lawyer and I often hear my female peers comment upon “sexing up” their clothes to get a better result from the male Judge or the male opposing attorney. When I ask them to define “sexing up”, it always includes something “tight and short.” This information leads me to another direction, maybe we women have an ulterior, more sinister, a more practical reason for wearing the “bandage dress.” I mean, whatever it takes to get the work done, right!
Since, my blog is all about honesty, I will admit that when I wear tight clothes, I do get admirable glances from men, which is not the case when wearing my looser counter-parts.
If this is the case, do women dress up solely to please men? Do women derive a sense of self-worth and self-confidence only when admirable glances are thrown their way by the darker sex? Are women blatantly using their sexuality for ulterior motives? Are these the reasons that we do not have the ” guts” to wear loose clothes, even though we consider them stylish and attractive?
I know I am asking a multitude of questions, but this topic has intrigued me immensely and I would love to know your opinion. What is it for you, a “bandage or bag dress”? Or maybe as we say in legalese “it all depends.”
The first two words that crossed my mind when I started writing a blog on Muslim fashion were Oppression and Expression. As I tried to build the blog around these two pillars, I realized that the two words are truly the essence of a woman, in particular a Muslim woman.
When we think of Muslim women in today’s post-Bin Laden world, what is the first word that comes to our mind? I would think that the unanimous answer will be Oppression. What is the first image that seeps into our mind? Most likely of a woman wrapped in yards and mounds of cloth, eyes peeking from between the wrapped clothing, head bowed. Whether you call it a burqa, hijab or an ayab, it is binding, restricting and suffocating.
Of course, I absolutely realize and am aware of the fact, that there are many liberated, emancipated Muslim women who do not wear the head/body covering and some who even choose to wear it of their own free will without any Oppression whatsoever. However, the majority’s perception of a Muslim woman is that of being oppressed and bound, literally and metaphorically.
Oppression is not restricted only to Muslim women. Women from times immemorial have struggled to express themselves and attain their individuality. Women have faced struggles in all walks of life-the first woman on the Supreme Court Bench, the first woman to be the CEO of a fortune 500 company, the first woman who was allowed into the Gentleman’s Club, the first woman who has yet not become the President of the United States. Recent studies have clearly shown that the fairer sex is the lower wage earner for similar positions held by both the genders.
It has been a long, winding struggle and continues to be a struggle for women, hence the expression “the glass ceiling.” Have we women truly broken the glass ceiling or only made a fissure in it?
Yet, as women we all have the innate desire to express ourselves, our individuality and our essence. A Western woman may exercise that expression by wearing a bold Herve Leger bandage dress (an irony indeed that an emancipated woman needs to wear a bandaged dress to be bound and the bound woman wants to be free.)
The more demure Muslim woman, who is bound by centuries of traditions, customs and culture, will probably express herself by lining her beautiful eyes with dark, dark kohl and place intricate henna designs on her hands and feet. After all, for some such women, only the eyes and the tips of the extremities are the exposed body parts.
For the more unfettered Muslim woman, for example from the United Arab Emirates, the Expression is seen in a peek of the expensive Jimmy Choo or Roger Vivier heels or a quick flash of the Cartier tiger bracelet on the delicate wrist or the limited edition, diamond encrusted Fendi glasses forming a part of the shield along with the hijab.
All these women are manifesting their Expression, one in an unflinching and self-assured way and the other with a timid defiance.
Someday, the “veil” will be pierced forever; not only for Muslim women, but women in general. No more glass ceilings to break, no Oppression, only Expression.