Tell me what to wear

Published: Sep 22, 2019, 05:43 IST | Paromita Vohra |

"I'm crazy like that." Reducing sartorial eccentricity to a one-line joke we have heard too many times before is surely an alarming sign of impending uncle-dom

Photo imaging/Uday Mohite
Photo imaging/Uday Mohite

Paromita VohraWhen the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket woven of climate change and violent fundamentalism, it is natural, as you try to fall asleep at 1 am after a too-hectic day to turn to soothing things like an article about the clothes people wore to IIFA. But, there is no rest for the downtrodden, because it made me sit up in bed and exclaim: "Yeh kya ho raha hai Duryodhana! What is up with celebrity dressing in India?"

The clothes situation at IIFA was such a picture of neurotic crisis that even the fashion and celeb-watching columns were too depressed to be snarky. After all, gleeful shade can only be thrown when there is glorious excellence on display for contrast; a robust opposition so to speak. Otherwise, to criticise only seems to underline a sense of social hopelessness.

Only Deepika Padukone, that self-contained beauty, seemed mischievously glamorous in a lavender feathery snow-queen look besides the effortlessly individualistic Neena Gupta. Ranveer Singh, whose bling often makes my heart sing, looked like a misplaced bagpipe in an outfit of billow and sash that said a little too seriously ki "I'm crazy like that." Reducing sartorial eccentricity to a one-line joke we have heard too many times before is surely an alarming sign of impending uncle-dom.

Amid the Oscar-wannabe gowns, blazer epidemic and statement sleeves what stood out was the crushing pressure to stand out which had created an aesthetic short-circuit and in the cartoonish explosion, someone's skirt had got attached to someone's sleeve (hi KJo) in a series of unfortunate outfits.

But, who can blame the celebs? Today everyone presents themselves as a celeb.

A range of people I follow on Instagram, put out stories of their cool lives. We see very little of the other person or event, be it meeting a famous artist or eating a home-cooked meal. All of it is expressed through a picture-series of the person to whom it happened in cool clothes and glamorous poses (not necessarily selfies, so a personal photographer must be the new accessory I guess). It's a version of scribbling "X was here" on ancient monuments, except we are photo-scribbling on time, on experience. This requires a lot of clothes—I rarely see people repeat their outfits.

But when everyone's a Kardashian, yaniki khud ke favourite, how are celebrities supposed to compete? Of course, things are getting either more desperately bizarre or more desperately blah, yaniki give up ho gaya. Once clothes were about fun and celebrities were about love for no reason. Loving yourself is hard work—that's never been as literal a statement as it is now.

Even those of us not creating a self-promotional narrative worry about what to wear because we know there'll be a picture somehow somewhere, if only on our own feed, or as the writer Helen Rosner tweeted the other day: "Oh sh**, what am I gonna wear to see Lizzo. Someone I met recently said to me: oh you are so pretty in real life, much more than on Instagram. For a filmmaker to be such a. social media backbencher—you can understand my crushing sense of failure."

Still, there is consolation in knowing that Ranveer and I are both lying awake at night, on our differently priced mattresses, worrying about the same things.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

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