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.
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.
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.