For women, the freedom to dress as they want, has been a long battle. It’s a battle we have hardly won. As 21st century feminists we have asserted our freedom to dress as we like. But what if what we want to wear is not being manufactured at all? It is 2019, the age of Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook apps. All of us carry a phone wherever we go. And they simply aren’t making women’s clothing with pockets for these phones.
How many times have you come across a pant with a pocket that is stitched on, only for show? How many times have you tried to put a phone inside your pocket but the pocket is so small that it almost falls out? Or was the pocket so small that you never even bothered to try? How many times have you wanted to dance at a party and wondered where to keep your purse? Or pre-planned and carried a sling? Have you also had to give your phone to a male friend for safe keeping?
Our pants are so busy being skin tight to look great that they don’t have the space to accommodate pockets. Once, while buying denims the saleswoman gave me a size smaller than I requested, suggested buying a smaller size because that would look better. Most dresses, skirts and kurtas don’t have pockets. In contrast, most men’s kurtas have pockets. Women live in the same world as men do. We have important stuff to carry too. Phone. Keys. Money. We need pockets. It is not fair that most clothes for us in the market don’t have pockets. You may laugh over this or find it trivial. It is not just about having pockets, I want women’s clothing to be practical.
Our pants are so busy being skin tight to look great that they don’t have the space to accommodate pockets. Once, while buying denims the saleswoman gave me a size smaller than I requested, suggested buying a smaller size because that would look better.
High heeled shoes are another dysfunctional aspect of women’s clothing. Wearing heels forces your ankles to bend forward, like you’re standing on your tiptoes. This can restrict blood circulation in your lower limbs which can lead to spider veins. Wearing heels for long periods of time can cause pain not only in your legs and feet but also your knees and back. There is enough evidence to suggest that high heels can do irreparable damage to feet. Why is it then that most shoes at every store have heels? Do we really want to wear heels or are we victims of consumer culture that sells them? If you are looking for flats, the market sure offers very limited options. Shouldn’t it be the other way round since heels are supposed to be worn occasionally?
It is not only our pants that are skin tight, but the rest of our clothing too. Even though we have successfully done away with corsets, clothes are still designed for the small-waisted corset-shaped body. Slimming shapewear for the waist and thighs is a reality not very far from corsets. With the arrival of the winter stock in stores you will find crop sweatshirts and short, thin, and tight sweaters. How is clothing that leaves your waist bare sensible in winters?
Even as the size of clothing increases this shape remains constant. Women’s bodies are naturally shaped differently, why then, does our clothing follow only one particular shape? The result is clothes that are both loose and tight. As someone who usually wears large sizes, I have often gone to local stores that do not have clothing for me. Often the salesperson would say, somewhat ridiculously, that they have a particular item in only one ‘free size’ which I can assure you, does not fit everyone. Is expensive branded clothing to be the only option for those of us who require large sizes?
It is a challenge to find standard and simple women’s clothing with fashion trends always changing. Over the past two decades we have moved from short tops and low waist jeans, to tunics, to finally high waist jeans and short tops. One of the reasons why women’s clothing is always changing is because the thriving fashion industry profits by counting on women to buy their ‘new’ clothes. The trend of toe length Indian gowns means the mid-calf anarkalis lay waste in my wardrobe. Another problem with market supplying according to these clothing trends is that they may not suit every bodytype. For instance, the current trend of long kurtas makes it difficult for my short mother to find kurtas for herself.
One of the reasons why women’s clothing is always changing is because the thriving fashion industry profits by counting on women to buy their ‘new’ clothes.
According to the dominant norms of beauty, clothing that sexualizes our body is what makes us look beautiful. It is the male gaze fetish for a woman’s legs, cleavage and slim waist that defines woman’s clothing resulting in the creation of clothes like tight skirts that restrict mobility. Women have the choice of wearing whatever they want, an agency I do not want to undermine.
But is it a real choice when we have been fed certain images of beauty throughout our lives. We women have also internalised societal norms of beauty. For women really choosing clothing then, involves negotiating with societal norms. To truly find out what we want to wear maybe we need to first unlearn the social norms of beauty we have grown into, which is definitely easier said than done.
The fashion industry continually produces functional clothing for men, while women’s clothing continues to be about visual appeal. It is high time women’s clothing becomes practical and not so painful. That means shifting focus from designing shapewear that changes your body’s appearance to designing clothes for women’s real bodies.
Featured Image Source: Independent Women’s Forum