Why Does My Dressing Sense Make Me Prone To Judgement?

Last updated 27 Oct 2017 . 7 min read

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I had recently moved to Pune owing to a job switch. Though the city was not entirely new to me, having lived here in my teens, I was coming back after almost 15 years.

I was going to live in a locality which consisted largely of software professionals. And hence, I expected the crowd to be liberal and easy going, living the typical metropolitan life.

While settling down in the apartment, I came across a friendly neighbour. She seemed to be in her mid-30s, feisty, a fitness freak, had a smile on her face 24*7 and worked in a software firm as a senior HR. She was the one who knocked on our door and introduced herself, offered us a cup of tea and some sandwiches. She even gave us access to her kitchen till we settled in the new house, understanding the needs of our small daughter.

Tanishka belonged to West Bengal and had been living away from her family for a long time now. A kind and helpful soul, she loved her job and independence. I was really glad to have met such a wonderful person and for our growing friendship.

A few days later I got acquainted with the mothers in the society, when I took my daughter to play. As we were busy chatting, Tanishka jumped out of her car looking chic in her cold shoulder top and a printed skirt. I adored this girl for her attitude and the way she dressed up. It was nice to know someone who had a flair for dressing up, just like me!

I heard a few sniggers and hushed whispers. Tanishka was accompanied by Karan, her good friend, whom she had introduced me to in the past. As they waved me goodbye and walked into the building, the whispers and mocking laughs grew louder! I feigned ignorance and enquired the reason behind their behaviour. I couldn’t believe the judgemental remarks I heard next, "Oh that girl? She's not a good one. She must be 35, still single and she keeps inviting boys at home. Look at the short skirts and dresses she wears to attract men. No shame at all. I have seen her drinking at a pub with her friends. Such people bring shame to the society.”

I was infuriated! How easily they labelled her as a bad influence, based on the choices she made - her clothes, what she drinks, her status, her friends. It was absolutely ridiculous!

The worst part was that these were young and educated mothers, making tall claims about being liberal and modern on the outside.

There was no point arguing with these narrow-minded women. But I gave them a piece of my mind, making it clear that what Tanishka does in her personal life and her choices are a part of her privacy. With that, I walked away resolving to maintain a distance from these “liberal” women.

It made me ponder though - how skewed our mentality is when it comes to women. A woman who chooses to defy the norms set by a society, is bound to be subject to labels. The good or bad is defined by factors like your marital status, your dress, the company you keep, whether you drink or smoke. While men tend to go scott free, women have to face the penalty - of living their life on their own terms.

This incident was followed by my own dilemma of ‘fitting in’ and how I chose to be rebellious.

I was about to join my new office. I love dressing up and I usually define my style with one piece dresses and skirt-tops. As I was enthusiastically buying more dresses in the excitement of joining the new workplace, my mother cautioned me about the environment in the new office. I was moving to another international bank in a big city but given the nature of work, which involves daily interaction with 3rd party vendors, my place of work was going to be a 3rd party office and not my own organisation. This would be a software firm and the culture, dress code, etc. could be different as compared to an international bank.

I felt a bit uncomfortable at the thought of being the only one dressed differently, as compared to everyone else. Finally, the day of joining arrived. I dressed up in my usual style and being the first day, I had taken extra care to look professional. When I walked into the office and looked around, I was the only one dressed like that! Almost everyone wore casuals and some of the women wore kurtis

I could feel people staring at me but I chose to ignore them and walked by, though it did make me a bit uncomfortable. By the end of the day, a few more stares followed, but they didn’t matter.

I had made up my mind. I wasn't going to alter my entire wardrobe and give up on things I like, just to "fit in" and be a part of the herd. I have a distinct identity and I have strong preferences when it comes to dressing up. People may stare at me, they may talk behind my back but should that mean I change my identity just to silence them?


Social Norms Akshata


It’s been a year now and I continue dressing up the way I like, professionally so. Nothing much has changed on the campus but rather than looking elsewhere, I stare right back at the people who stare at me. A young girl recently told me that she likes the way I carry myself and she wishes she could dress up like me, but she’s not comfortable with the crowd around. I told her it’s her choice - what she chooses to wear is up to her, it shouldn't be influenced by people’s thoughts or opinions.
This may sound like a small incident, but I believe that by exercising my choice, I feel more liberated, happy and confident. The invisibles shackles of society which bind us and coerce us to confirm to a rigid and illogical "code of conduct" have been broken by me.

Though a tiny step, it symbolizes freedom - of choice. Just like Tanishka, who chooses to live her life her way, oblivious to what others think.

Women standing up for themselves make me hopeful of a better world for the future generation - a world where my daughter can live her life on her terms and is not labelled as good or bad because she chooses not to follow the crowd.

What a beautiful world that would be!"

This is a personal narrative by Akshata Ram, a chartered accountant working for one of the top investment banks. Passionate about her career in the corporate world where she dabbles with finance and is also vocal about diversity at the workplace, she aspires to shatter the glass ceiling. A mother to a toddler she strongly believes that women should stop being apologetic and giving up on their dreams.

An avid blogger, she writes on topics ranging from women at the workplace, career related blog posts, parenting, short stories, relationships and self improvement. She blogs at Akswrites and at mycity4kidsWomen's Web and Bonobology. She was recently chosen among the ‘top 10 Indian women bloggers one must follow’ by Women's Web, and has won accolades and awards by the various websites she blogs at.


SHEROES - lives and stories of women we are and we want to be. Connecting the dots. Moving the needle. Also world's largest community of women, based out of India. Meet us at www.sheroes.in @SHEROESIndia facebook.com/SHEROESIndia

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