(Guest Post by Saheli Mitra)
#PowerDressing for a 40plus woman can be a challenge. Saheli Mitra tells us why …
Well, I have often asked myself, every time I grabbed that casual skirt from my wardrobe in a rushing spree, with the clock ticking at a pace outpacing me, if I have been using this favourite attire of mine to negotiate between power and comfort. I never had time or patience to analyze the visual sociology of an attire before wearing it. So much so, that my mom, who is an extremely fashionable woman, has often let me down at the last-minute saying: “Your skirt doesn’t match with the top, or you look so obese in that particular skirt, wear this saree, you will look slim.” As usual my hurried exit through the door to meet deadlines of a media house would often be cut short with mom criticizing my sense of dressing. Not to mention the innumerable instances in my last 20 years, when literally she dragged me up the stairs and made me change the casual floral skirt or even a black mini skirt that looked more flirty than official!
My tryst with skirts didn’t end there. As my 14-year-old son stepped into adolescence, he made it clear if I ever go to his school to pick him, I must not wear skirts. The shocking statement from the son of a feminist poet was followed by graphics of how mothers of his classmates came parading in suits from some expensive boutique and me stomping up his school courtyard in a simple kalamkari ethnic or a sensuous slit skirt with muddy boots on a romantic monsoon afternoon. My son’s diktat almost pushed me into a state of self-denial. But not for long. For I have hardly ever indulged in chauvinistic comments either from this boy of mine or from his father, regarding my dress sense, though I did rely often on my mother, who spoke of skirts from a purely aesthetic angle.
However, my curiosity was awakened at last as to why a 14-year-old child would dislike my skirts. A one-to-one chat revealed he would not love his mother to flaunt her legs. Oh, yes, I always prided in having long and sexy legs even at 42, thanks to my daily dose of swimming. And I perfectly recalled then that at the age of 3-4 years, my son would just pull my skirt down as much as he could, before I left for office. Though then I thought he was trying to clutch on to me and wished me not to leave for work, on reflection, I realised, it was done to use that flirty skirt to hide my sexy legs, that it couldn’t!
Skirts for me have always been an expression of freedom, be it from the fun of wading through water-logged streets during Kolkata monsoons, without my skirt getting wet, to the breathing that my legs got on a hot summer noon. Trousers or salwar suits could never offer me the comfort that a skirt could do, be it running around in office or even taking that public transport to work. Over decades this attire has been used in the West as the best power-dressing tool, as it helped in dividing the female form in two parts with a top, covered in a jacket to de-emphasize a woman’s breasts and hence help male workers concentrate on work. But for me a skirt is a reminder of my femininity that had the right tone to be blown in the wind on a date to lend a subtle hint of titillation or even stick to the legs to give a formal look. Versatility at its height.
And not to mention the hilarious tale of my skirts worn in the wrong way! Hyper as always, trying to plug in the challenges of being a multi-tasking woman, I have on occasions dared to step out wearing my skirts inside out! Onlookers had stared at my wrap around skirt one fine day, while I strutted down a busy market buying vegetables. At first glance, I thought they were ogling at the wrap around clinging to my shape, only to realise later after my chauffeur pointed out, that the attention of vendors and onlookers was attracted to the wrong skirt pleats. But thanks to the immense confidence I feel when wearing skirts, I did not budge an eye, did not feel embarrassed, instead used that batik printed skirt in the wrong way only, finished my shopping, thanked my driver for mentioning my wardrobe malfunction and headed home. Only to be greeted by a packet that arrived by courier that afternoon containing a majestic silk skirt with accompanying dangling earrings that one of my friends sent on my birthday. Yes, that was my birthday, when my skirt decided to be displayed in a round-about way. And I just loved this versatile attire, that no matter whichever way you wear, will always make you the center of attraction.
Saheli Mitra is a journalist, author and Internationally published poet who is also a partner at Talespin Media.