Dress code: Obscene

My first job as a trainee reporter in one of the largest media organizations in the country saw me walking into the posh newsroom wearing denim capris and a fringed cotton top. A backpack, canvas shoes and metal bracelets and charms on my wrist completed my look. I was on the risk of facing the wrath of my senior Levis-and-polo tee-clad colleagues.

As I moved up the ladder of social and financial relevance, my sartorial sense meticulously sharpened by the wind blowing from the East and West Fashion Weeks, I settled into my skin and second and third skins. As a journalist, I stapled wide, roomy zouaves with simple tees, ripped denims and often a cotton kurta with churidaar. As a PR professional, I bent the all-black-blazer-trouser rule and donned up floral/solid coloured shirts. Blazers were never my thing. I did away with them altogether drawing the ire of the MD of the organization on more than one occasion. In the ad world, thankfully, dress codes are much relaxed. As long as your outfit ain’t ‘vulgar’ you can wear anything – from shorts and tee to khaki cargoes, baggies, beanies, bandanas, go boho one day and BDSM chic the other.

Party life would be a motley collection of dresses, pants, skirts and the occasional saree. I remember I had even bought a dress from a boutique-owner friend on credit because the party was pre-poned and I was near-broke at the end of the month.

However, a recent party edition of a popular lifestyle and entertainment tabloid has set, what I would call, a new low in fashion and sensibilities. More stress on the latter. (I am still in two minds about taking names here. But it’s too easy to guess so I’ll skip that!) The theme of the party was all (fifty in total) colours of red. The cover page bore pictures of popular female celebrities one of whom looked as if she’d taken a crash course in CRASS. Her head adorned with a tacky headband of red roses, her flimsy bangs looked as if they’d been dyed by the roadside barber in cheap henna. Garish red eyeshadow and a cheap red rexine belt that tried its best to ‘cinch’ her ‘waist’, she posed arms wide open and the zipper of her black strapless jumpsuit that was clearly visible on the side was the other accessory apart from a red feather boa she brandished with abandon.

This same actress is seen picking up another actress friend (Sorry, I know her quite well too, so if she is reading this, I would like to say this: I had to bring it to your notice, lady, intention never meant to be harmful). The second one had a chic dress on in white and black but went horrendously wrong with the jewelled headpiece. But that wasn’t the only faux pas. Remember Anne Hathaway’s satiny pink gown she wore at the 2013 Oscars? Her perky nipples became a rage on the World Wide Web. This lady in question came a close second. Only no one seemed to notice or felt too blah to even care. Hers was right out ‘there’ in your face and not even garish shades of red splashed around in every page could make me overlook her teeny tiny moment of fashion fail.

I would have expected her to be the sober one but this other elderly lady, well known in the social circle as a painter and a writer, clearly had me gaping at her picture for a good fifteen minutes to believe what I was seeing. She didn’t cut that one pretty at all. Instead, she just cut up a few yellow and red striped socks and had them sewn all over her red salwar suit. What was she thinking? Next Christmas, I hope Santa gives her a nice dress to wear for the next year’s party.

There was more blood in varying amounts. Those who thought of introducing the colour in its subtlest manner via red heels, nails and/or a red pout ended up looking deliberately match-y match-y. There were those who OD’d. Some turned up looking handsome (women included) and a few who defied the rule had even fewer winners. One particular actor (a top grosser in his act always, every time) was the male counterpart of CRASS. At least he believed in what he wore. It was evident from the expression on his face as he posed in uniformly and symmetrically ripped denims, red belt, red glossy shoes, red watch, red wristband and a body-hugging black shirt with red patches from which his squeaky clean man cleavage played peekaboo.

I believe bad fashion is bad fashion because apathy from critics mean encouraging people to stoop to new lows. In Kolkata especially, we can get away with anything. From matching our top to our earrings to our lipstick to our shoes to our bangles to our phone cover to wearing dated lingerie with pointed cups under jersey material tops.

Take a bow.

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