I miss your clothes

Updated: 11 October, 2020 07:18 IST | Paromita Vohra | Mumbai

Meetings are good for accomplishing work and conferences for the intellectual and gossip quotient. But, oh the joy of other people's clothes!

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Paromita VohraThese feelings started one day, when I was attending an online conference. I clicked Leave Meeting, but had an odd sense of something unfinished. Then, I realised what it was.

I fished out the email of one of the speakers, whom I did not actually know, and wrote: "Hi, I just wanted to say how much I loved what you were wearing." A magenta flower in her hair, a yellow dupatta with a biscuit brown pattern of sparrows, her witty outfit had filled me with enjoyment. She wrote back to inform me that someone had left the dupatta in her office and she had claimed it for herself, so "our tastes match." This is the post panel moment I so miss.

As someone who has enjoyed this time of being alone, I wasn't prepared for the sitar twang pang I felt when confronted with my first virtual exhibition interface. Technology is cool, but it don't dress cool.

Meetings are good for accomplishing work and conferences for the intellectual and gossip quotient. But, oh the joy of other people's clothes!

I miss taking constant sneak peaks at someone's dazzling earrings or dashing spectacle frames, the glory of someone's sharbati lipstick. I miss the sculpted pleats on the rose-patterned saris of office-going women in trains. I miss admiring the pizzazz of college fashion on young people at bus stops, from my auto at traffic lights.

I miss the unexpected colour combinations of blouse and sari—maroon with yellow, electric blue with purple, orange with bottle green of flower and vegetable sellers. I miss the debonair ribbons of little girls in frocks like layered cakes. I miss the insouciant floral shirts and hectically patchworked jeans of boys finger combing their sharp haircuts at street corners. I miss the familiarity with which women, meeting each other for the first time, touch each other's saris or scarves to feel the fabric and say, "mast hai". I miss exclaiming, "that colour is thrilling". I miss the flourishes and fancies people bring into a room with their clothes. How many friendships have I begun with liking someone's clothes, I cannot say.

Some weeks ago, I got dressed up for a friend's online book launch. As soon as we connected on Zoom, we took two minutes to assess and admire each other's outfits. The discussion which ensued was marvelous and mischievous, but the most melting moment was surely, when one audience member said, "loving you ladies' clothes, thank you for the great outfits".

Nowadays, when I open my cupboard, I sometimes feel I've entered a bhoot bangla, clothes hanging with an eerie sense of a lost past. I swiftly close it and return to my nightie-numa lockdown dress code. I've always snorted a little at the cliché "I dress for myself". But, the lockdown sure has given it a hollow ring. We dress for ourselves, but we also dress up to share the pleasure and mazaa of colours and textures and cuts and the unknown eye catching possibilities we offer each other.

Running into other people's outfits is like a bonus adventure. You never know what you will encounter—the exact opposite of scrolling through fashion influencer Instagram accounts, which can be pre-fabricated and self-congratulatory. I miss the unexpected delights of other people's clothes. Yeah, may be the unexpected delights of the people in those clothes a little, too.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at paromita.vohra@mid-day.com

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First Published: 11 October, 2020 04:45 IST

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