Star Speak, By Mini Mathur: Why I Don’t Feel Naked Without A Birkin

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Star Speak is an ongoing series of columns, penned by celebrities we are used to seeing on these pages. This is their space to write about their take on fashion, the fraternity and whatever else catches their fancy.

Mini Mathur, one of Indian television’s most popular faces takes on fashion policing and follies of stereotyping “looks”. You can follow the model, presenter and actor on Twitter here and Instagram here. But first, read on.

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Mini Mathur


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Why I Don’t Feel Naked Without A Birkin

Writing about fashion on the very blog that makes me run for cover and adjust my sari pleats when I spot cameras. Brave. Rather brave.

As someone who wears many hats and has run the gamut of being a Dilliwaali from advertising (read: management student, handloom lover) to an MTV VJ ( read: lets paaaahrty in fun, shiny corsets & thigh high boots) to a reality TV host ( Ummm.. its called ‘general’ entertainment for a reason) to the wife of a film director (Read: glam bhabhiji), I pretty much can’t figure out what my “look” is supposed to be. Or if I should even HAVE one. Because as much as folks love slotting folks into neat little fashion stereotypes, some of us are tripolar. And whichever person residing inside wins the argument on the given day, decides the on-duty look. Besides, isn’t a “look” only what you create for a character in a soap or a film? Surely real life doesn’t work like that! Why should one be happy trying to project just one fashion persona? For me, there’s so much perverse fun & madness in dressing a Barbie in a combat fatigues with her hair all oiled and tied back and black streaks on her cheeks.

When I joined MTV, I remember angst-ly leaving my khadi wardrobe back in Delhi as it was just not cool for a hip VJ to be seen in a cotton sari. Girls in Bombay only wore saris at a wedding, or a festival.. complete with the ‘costume-y’ big bindi, bangles & jhumkas.. like they were dressing for some ‘part’. For me saris have never been about the great Indian overkill. I grew up watching the super cool women in my family wearing it with such ease & spunk that saris did not seem out of place even at an all night rager. Neither did it feel aunty-like or particularly ‘decent’. In fact I felt rather sexy wearing colorful mulmul over lycra, linen over lace and tussar over net. I still do. That said, I also love my ripped denims and on-duty draped gowns.

Yet every time I depart from my beloved sari, the readers of this blog feel “I should stick to my look” or “I am trying too hard”. If I ever felt like changing up my sari with brogues or a belt, well, “I should not mess with how a sari is worn”. Bruh… I know how a sari is worn traditionally, but there are 84 styles in which a sari is draped and not each one is bullseye all the time!! I find it so much fun to experiment occasionally. I get so happy when my niece also tends to think of it as a red carpet worthy garment, without always having to look like the blazingly beautiful but traditional Rekha in a kanjeevaram.

When the gorgeous Vidya Balan does western wear, the fashion police thinks she has committed hara-kiri but when she sticks to her signature saris, she is called ‘boring’ by the same lot! There is just no pleasing everyone. Or looking for approval & gratification through flattery. And now that I am wiser, I wear exactly what I like. Whatever puts a spring in my step. Like no one is watching.

Like Chaka Khan sang, “I’m every woman… its all in meeeeee”.

Unfortunately, fashion policing has always been about judging a book by its cover. I feel almost embarrassed when I spot a really well turned out woman (who may have impacted the world through her art or writing or medicine), walk on ignored while photographers are in a frenzy over girls who enter wearing feathered gowns, never mind if they cant place their names. They just “look” like they belong.

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Mini Mathur

A few months ago I read Sonam Kapoor’s piece on how much effort it takes to get her red carpet ready. Not many fashion icons would have the gumption to admit it. It was honest and made readers feel good about themselves and not bust their brows to get the right smoky eye or the right hair with the right gown. Because lets be honest, perfection is a goddamned myth. The fun & fashion forward lot on this blog often snigger at the slightest sign of a frizz, a wrinkle or wrong nail varnish. We must keep in mind that not every celebrity who walks on the red carpet has two stylists walking in with them. Maybe some actually have fun with their fashion! Some are there because the only body they possess is their work. I say that’s good enough. Please know that most of us go back exactly like the fairytale and change into our Anokhi nighties and wake up to shout at our kids at 6 am. Me, certainly! Don’t get me wrong, but fashion belongs to everyone. You, as much as the actress on that red carpet. And it must be viewed without an absolute scale of measurement. It cannot merely be the domain of the vain but also the glorious. Let that frizz or crease pass if you see someone make a laudable effort. Be Nice.

In fact, sometimes I feel lesser known peeps feel more pressured to please the fashion press, to ‘change it up’ event after event, to keep up at the fashion stakes even if they would rather wear denims. What else would explain ostrich skirts and gargantuan gowns that cannot be accommodated in one chair. Or worse, “airport looks”. Who really wants to walk through T3/T2 all coordinated and stared at, in impossibly high designer stilettos? I for one barely manage to pack and make the flight. Whenever I’ve been asked whether I’d like to wear a designer outfit while travelling, I have refused; I’am petrified of dropping ketchup or airline coffee on it. I stick to my own All Saints black jacket, thank you. EACH time. Im a repeat offender. I could be the top seller in the AGAIN category. So arrest me.

At the risk of sounding preachy (never mind since that seems to be ‘in’), Fashion needn’t be vacuous. It has to be personal, fun and ideally shouldn’t be judged by the brand you wear. Or on how far across the seven oceans the designer resides. Or which top stylist has dressed you. The film fraternity, models, fashionistas certainly up the fashion stakes, but a good look can come from anywhere, at any price point. And we need to use our judgement to applaud that. I have them status bags too but sometimes I feel better carrying an unbranded silk potli over a designer clutch. And I don’t want to be judged. Because I for one, don’t feel naked without a Birkin.

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Mini Mathur

60 COMMENTS

  1. Such a lovely and honest write up. Loved each and every part starting from the chic and sexy appeal of a sari to going back to bed wearing anokhi nighties ? And she is so damn right that every women has more than one style type and they will wear whatever the mood decides for that day! Thanks so much for the article girls and to Mini Mathur. :)




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  2. Yes please, to being kinder!

    Blogs like GFY have built a strong community of readers and commenters where it is safe space. Their criticism is constructive and not of the “Vidya Balan folds her arms” variety. Btw, Vidya Balan can fold her arms all she likes… And she shoudl not be criticized.




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  3. Love love the ‘Don’t feel naked without a Berkin’ blog by Ms Mathur. I totally agree and I find Airport fashion hilarious. Going all coordinated, stilettos, boots, figure hugging clothes and those handbags on a flight completely boggles me. And the fact that theses celebrities want so much to please the people that they let the people holding the cameras dictate to them how to travel or how to go to a coffee shop or shopping is really really sad ,almost pathetic. If they travelled and went around like they really wanted to, not caring about being judged ,they might be able to connect with the real people, people who really matter . Would be nice to see the real person after the director calls out ‘Cut’.




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  4. Great write up. A lot of factors come into play when one decides what to wear for an event or even on a usual day. But then we need to keep an open mind to fashion, when it comes to other’s as well as one’s own looks.




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  5. Well said! Never understood spending thousands of dollars on a bag, especially when you know you are not paying for the durability or creativity but for the little (or massive) logo.




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  6. Total disconnect all over.I just don’t get what are the main points she trying to get across.
    U don’t feel naked without a Birkin yet you mention the jacket you carry is All Saints…not so subtle.




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  7. Man…she’s still crying over the criticism over that belted saree. They like dressing up, they like the attention and adulation, but will not take criticism in the chin. There is no grace in this article- just a whole lot of whingeing and moaning. I know I was critical about that particular look of hers because it was ridiculous and not because I’m a purist or that I have a an axe to grind. I have never stinted in praising her either since 9 out of 10 times Mini does get it right. You don’t like something said, don’t read it. According to you this blogs readers are unforgiving and get after you like its personal, so ask not to be featured. I’m sure P&P will be accomodating of it.




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    • True that, she seems to be still smarting from the lack of appreciation of that sumo wrester saree look. You can wear anything you want if you feel confident in it but people are also allowed to state their opinion on a fashion blog. The fact is you can’t pull off non-saree looks, the pictures above are proof.




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    • Wow Hansini i like what you wrote, i like your rejoinder to her. And perhaps i like the way you articulate the most. That first line, “man she still crying over the criticism…”made me cry my eyes out amused…love




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    • Exactly! She is still whining about that, unbelievable. She does look lovely and dresses very well most of the time but that belted saree was a miss. She just needs to move on..




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  8. So apt writing ! Now That is i keep saying on this pages.
    And I guess P&P has chosen you to do this piece says a lot … Any ‘Birkin tugging-drench in gucci+chloe+lanvin-Sobo ‘ lady wouldnt made sense here if she were to do star speak.

    But hey lets see who all more are going to helm this column further?
    Wishlist – Kiran rao , Alia al ruffai , Tisca, Alia bhatt, Amla akkinenni, Diya Mirza, Cecilia Parikh




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  9. Great write up by Mini. As is with her appearances, here too, her individuality comes through. I agree with her that a woman does not have just one fashion personality and can don many kinds of outifts and otherwise the whole fashion thing just becomes too dull. I do agree though, that fashion and clothes does inherently mean judging the book by its cover. It is superficial and the celebration of vanity. That is the nature of the business. We cannot assess fashion or clothes based on merit of character. What we can do is be kinder in our criticisms especially in the words that we use. Criticism is not bad, but definitely the words we use do make a big difference. Ultimately the celebrity, who we are criticizing, is most times a person like us who goes back home at the end of the day to change into their Anokhi nighties or slip into their comfy pjs :)




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  10. Absolutely loved it. Mini, if you are reading this, I really feel someday you should write a book too. You have it in you! I liked this article even better than Tisca Chopra’s. Convincing and totally on point. You go girl! P.s. never again will I comment on your sari drape!




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    • Thanks so much felicity and everyone else who have appreciated this piece. I am happy most of you are in agreement;)
      Hansini, this is not a rant. Yes that belted look WAS ridiculous, it didn’t turn out so well. But the negativity & personal below the belt criticism that followed made me feel like crap, like i was perennial cartoon.. there was NO benefit of doubt. Sure we can be disapproving.. but the mean ness needs to be filtered.

      Anyway, Im wiser now. Sticks & stones may break my bones but names shall never hurt me;)

      Thanks everyone! Much love.




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      • I just went and looked up all the comments on the belted saree look Mini, there was nothing personal in there whatsover. At any rate P&P are stricter than my chemistry teacher at school, so absolutely nothing personal ever goes through. It was just a bit of fun. Sometimes on this blog we wonder if people dont have mirrors or besties reviewing looks before celebs step out…so it is in that vein that those comments were made. But you know it is really gutsy of you to put yourself out here, in the den of the lion. Best.




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      • Great write-up, Mini! I completely agree with you- the meanness has to go! A good rule of thumb is this: if you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it online!




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      • Great piece Mini, I for one loved it! Quoting Bill Bullard here since these words have deeply resonated with me – “Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge… is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.”
        However I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion but it just cannot change your outlook & your personal style. The world would be so boring if we all walked around looking like perfect mannequins, diversity is beautiful!! Keep shinning Mini!




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  11. What an article..! well said Mini Mathur.. Admire ur looks , your views and your writing.. certainly your courage to own up to the unseen world.. or anokhi nighties ! Just kidding my dear.. keep these posts coming HHC.. One more reason to come back to this blog each day.. Fashion n outfits can get drab sometimes.. mix it up like this ! :) Thumbs up !




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  12. Candid, honest and brutally true! I have always looked up to this woman not just because of her fashion sense but for the way she carries herself and for her own sense of perspective on things. This is a wonderful way of building a community where women support other women, instead of bringing them down on the basis of something as superficial as fashion. I truly believe fashion is something that’s not to be taken too seriously. If you like it, wear it! It does not have to be about impressing anyone else but only you. Also, brownie points for mentioning those “Airport Looks”, they are truly hilarious!




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  13. A beautiful woman with a neat take that didn’t make for a shallow reading on the shallow …”Unfortunately, fashion policing has always been about judging a book by its cover. I feel almost embarrassed when I spot a really well turned out woman (who may have impacted the world through her art or writing or medicine), walk on ignored while photographers are in a frenzy over girls who enter wearing feathered gowns, never mind if they cant place their names. They just “look” like they belong.”




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    • Please don’t feel sorry for those of us “who have impacted the world through our art, writing or medicine”… I would much rather be judged for my work, than my appearance, and am confident enough about my contributions to society not to need anybody’s vote on my looks or fashion. I was once told to dress for the job I want, not the job I have – I have never heeded that advice because I wouldn’t want a job where my appearance counted for more than my intellect. On another note, where does Mini get off telling everybody not to be judgemental while making a dig at Rekha?




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  14. Love 2,3,4 and 6. The rest.. meh. I have to say i never liked the way she dressed for her MTV shows. May be that was not for her to choose. Anyway, now that khadi/antique design sarees are trending more than ever, everyone is showing their long lost love for it. She ain’t no special.




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  15. which Sonam Kapoor piece is she talking about where Sonam talks about the effort that goes into dressing for the red carpet?
    Can someone point to this piece – is it a column or a video?




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  16. Very nicely written, and fashionably perfect !
    Mini is some one who’s fashion sense I really really love, and aside from a few missteps which she herself admits were missteps that everyone should still atleast attempt if they thought it was a good idea! Being such a natural and comfy in her fashion choices are the best part about her
    A poignant point she makes is that we should all be kinder with the comments because it’s a public forum that does tend to get a lot of readership it looks like, and sometimes causes unintentionally hurt. A point very well taken since most of us assume it’s just a small group gupshup and sometimes say things in jest.




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  17. Mini…like you said we don’t always hit the bull’s eye each time we dress up. Sometimes it is a hit and other times a miss. This being a fashion blog people analyse and give opinions. Sometimes they like what they see, sometimes they don’t. And most of the times, if ninety percent like an outfit, there will still be a ten percent who disagree. So you see, it’s all about random personal opinions. The blog and the comments are not a final verdict on your fashion sense. Infact, majority of the people who read the blog don’t even comment. So what about their opinion? Please understand this all should be taken in a lighter vein. Not just this, in life as a whole, nobody’s opinion should matter to you except yours. Because opinions are influenced by many factors. They seldom reflect actual truth. They depend on the givers’ places and environment they live in, exposure, people they mingle with, their personal prefixed notions about certain things and so on. We start living when we stop caring what they say. Take in things which help u improve, ignore negatives and keep being yourself.




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  18. And imagine if the comments on this blog are like, ” Oh that’s just a…umm..a great dress but doesn’t suit my fashion sensibilities..I understand that the star took great effort to dress up for this event so it’s not kind to say I don’t like her outfit..”




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  19. I am not so sure what Mini is going for with this piece. The tone is just off. What’s the point of a fashion blog for the general public if the celebrities are going to school us on how to critique? I get it, the comments can get little OTT but that’s where PnP step in. Also which site doesn’t get OTT comments, that’s how the internet works. All of us on different sites/forums we access and comment, get into these spaces with remarks that are unwarranted but it comes with the territory.




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  20. Mini isn’t the first and certainly not the last to ask that she not be judged by what she wears and how she looks. Fair enough. This however is a fashion blog. Devoted to being judged on what a person wears and how they look.

    I agree with the being kinder part. Yes it would be nice to be judged less harshly. But let’s be realistic. If you are putting yourself in a public domain, where your career depends on being recognized and you are reaping the benefits of that recognition, you are going to be judged by factors you may consider extraneous. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    It takes all kinds to make a world, and some of those kinds are not going to like how you look. And they are going to be vocal about it You just need to be thick skinned and focus on the positive things people say about you.

    I liked the general tone of Mini’s write up, just not the whining about the big bad commenters. Especially since it wasn’t also followed by an acknowledgement of the many commenters that do say positive things about her. Ironic that she is judging the commenters when she does not want to be judged herself.




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  21. Methinks she has always tried to copy Maria Goretti in dressing ,cooking ,keeping pets….damn even her insta posts are eerily similar to hers.For me.nobody rocks boho chic and sari like Maria…..just my opinion




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  22. If we are to like and applaud everything we see everyone in and we have to consider the effort and the intent and not really the final result…if we are to be saints and not judge…why is this a fashion forum? We are supposed to dissent, analyse, comment…like and not like…is it not Mini Mathur?




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  23. Being real is audacious in this plasticit glamour world, but we have lost our definition of sensuous and beautiful. Sarees are snubbed and couture wear from overpriced designers is hip. Fashion sense is each individual’ s own style, it’s not runway everywhere so why so much effort. Really applaud this article.. Mini Mathur for Keeping it real in words and style.




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