I am always amazed that foreign women of my age group dare walk around in India wearing strappy tops or shorts. I usually go by the rule that I will avoid wearing anything that an Indian women of my age and “status” would not wear – in terms of “sexiness”.
The most revealing dress that young Indian women in the city will commonly wear are a pair of tight jeans and a fitting t-shirt or blouse. I daresay strappy tops and naked legs are out of bounds – and so they are for me too, even if I am happy to wear such clothing at home.
I think it is important to follow this line of conduct for two main reasons. Firstly, I don’t want to shock people. How would we feel if people who are used to living naked came and walked our streets with no clothes on? This is what I call “intercultural awareness”.
The second reason has to do with the image that a lot of Indian men (sadly) have of western women: sexual objects. I would rather avoid clothing (or attitudes, for that matter) which would seem to encourage this way of thinking: things are bad enough as they are.
There is also a third reason for being careful about one’s clothing: foreigners who neglect the “dress code” tend to be either “freshly arrived”, hence full of illusions, gullible, and with no sense of what things are worth, or “hippies” – people who come to India because it is “cool”, has “real spirituality”, or is a great place for drugs.
These rough categories are of course just what they are—a tool for thought—but they are close enough to the representations many Indians (especially those dealing with “tourists”) have of foreigners. And personally, I try to avoid classification in either of these categories as much as possible.
I would rather be stared at because I am wearing a pretty sari or salwaar kameez suit than because I am showing too much of my body. In my experience, wearing a sari can only have a positive influence on my interaction with people: I am bothered less, complimented more (by women), and it opens the door to genuine interest about my position as a (“non-standard”) foreigner in India.
Last but not least, saris and salwaar kameez are pretty and feminine. During my first months in India, I wore exclusively the pants & t-shirt uniform, and got really sick of it. It was nice to be able to feel like a woman again. All that in a dress considered modest and respectable by everyone – in a country where this is important.
- Glossary of Weird Indian Terms [en] (2000)
- A Quick Survival Guide to India [en] (2011)
- A Tourist in India [en] (2004)
- Did Tara Go to Katmandu? [en] (2000)
- Invisibilia: A Podcast About the Hidden Forces That Shape our Behaviour [en] (2015)
- Danielle Visiting Me in India [en] (2000)
- What's Up? [en] (2011)
- India, Women, Men [en] (2013)
- When Do You Wear or Remove Your Hearing Aids? [en] (2015)
- India, Pakistan, and History [en] (2002)
8 thoughts on “Dress Code [en]”
You’re right on the ball with your views, and I’m thankful for your views.
This is exactly what I advised my American colleague, a woman, who was
travelling alone through India to see Rajasthan, Bombay (where she stayed
with my family), and Agra. She didn’t have any problems due to her long
skirts (ankle-length) and unrevealing clothes. Thank God for that! -KS.
It’s all due to the Indian obsession with ‘white skin’ and the perception
that all foreigners are ‘available’ anytime
Clothing for both men and women offers legitimacy to social distinctions. For men, clothes were mainly indicative of social status. While for women, fashion is regulated not only along lines of social distinction but also along lines of sexuality.
Styles which expose too much of the feminine body are condemned for their enticement. Such fashions are considered inappropriate for a ‘virtuous’ woman. Whether it is men stare at a woman’s plunging neckline, or women snidely suggesting that the reason a colleague ropes in men are because of her tight skirt, any act of sexual harassment or violence is first attributed to the woman’s clothing, never to the man’s lack of conduct.
Immodest clothing of women is tempting men to commit crimes like rape, sexual harassment, murders etc. Teen girls should possess the wisdom that certain attires that they wear may not be acceptable to others. Some female workers in companies wear tight attires or tomboyish attires to which male workers are provoked. Therefore women should be careful while choosing their attires. Hence the implementation of dress code in companies, schools, colleges and in temples preserves tradition and culture. It also ensures the protection and respect for women in the Indian society.
Goddess Lakshmi is honoured and adored as long as she is in traditional saree. But she loses respect and raped by any buck when she wears tight pants. This is what going on in India. Tight pants gives the idea of nude structure of a female body in the mind of men. In india women are respected outmost, since the past. But, with the advent of western culture, young women are wearing extremely seducing attires and men begin to treat women as sexual objects. The immodest attires worn by today’s indian women are provoking men to commit crimes like rape. Acceptance of western attires is one of the reasons for the increase of crime rate on women nowdays. It is not good for a woman to be dressed like a tomboy. Women can receive respect and adored when they preserve tradition and wear their gender attires. They should also preserve their purity and nobility as the woman birth is noblest one than Man’s.
Er… Rameshraju: are you saying men are nothing more than animals who cannot help themselves? That’s really what it sounds like.
Er… Rameshraju: are you saying men are nothing more than animals who cannot help themselves? That's really what it sounds like.
Dear Stephanie, read again. It tells not about good guys like you. It stresses more on about the dress code of women. But the fact is women are basic builders of nation. With out them, there is no human race. So they need to be under the protection of Men. When Men assure protection, Women does not go out of limits. However wearing non-gender attires or western attires, will be like a saying “A Fox which applies striped burns on its own skin, after looking at the stripes of a Tiger”. Any girl in traditional attires appears as a Goddess, and in explicit attires like low hip jeans, appear as a babe or tomboy.