Star Speak, By Tisca Chopra : An Open Letter To Women’s Wear Designers


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.

Tisca, a theatre and film actor (who also happens to have a book to her credit) is no stranger to the red carpet and the attention that comes with it. This week, she has a beef with women’s wear designers and let’s it be known in an open letter to them. Read on, and after that, take a look at her short film here.



(On behalf of women who actually wear clothes and not just pose in them)

We must accept that when it comes to attire, as females of the species, we have not created the best reputation as possessors of wisdom. We will buy, wear and do almost anything, so long as the word fashionable is prefixed. Fashion victims, they call us. And with good reason. Think Armadillo shoes, hobble skirts, stirrup pants and conical bras.

We may have, inadvertently, led manufacturers/designers into believing that we are ok with just about anything, so long as we see a person half our width and double our height look amazing in it. What we don’t know is that there is great lighting, expert makeup and hair, and of course Photoshop involved in their seduction of us. So, on behalf of the average woman I felt, it might be time to address some truly grave concerns that affect us deeply, day to day. The ginormous popularity of this blog made me think it best to list these key concerns here:

Clothes. Bags. Shoes.

Some may say that we are being superficial and talking about trivialities. But dressing up is serious business. 3 trillion dollars serious. It accounts for 2% of the world’s GDP. So, it’s shocking really, that there is no conversation between those who think up women’s clothes and those that wear them. Don’t corporates have conclaves, conferences and conventions in deluxe hotels at exotic locations, for lesser reasons?

Grouse #1

What would be the point of making a wash and care label from a material that could survive a nuclear holocaust? In the event of a tragedy, I have visions of billions of wash and care labels littering the Earth, while the clothes that once bore them have turned into radioactive ash.

I do wonder if manufacturers realize that most will use a simple domestic scissor to cut the label and not an industrial laser. And why are small books printed on labels? If besides manufacturing garments they have a deep secret desire to turn author, they must. They should try self-publishing. Just not on my skirt.

Why can’t a label simply read?

Dry Clean (at a good laundry)

The label should be attached to my garment in a way that after I have finished reading the wash and care instructions, I should not have to carry those instructions around everywhere I go. After all, what are the chances that I will take the garment off during a pee break from a meeting, quickly find a washing machine, set it to forty five degrees and wait semi naked for forty minutes, while its on spin cycle?

It stands to reason that the woman who afforded herself that garment would also have the brains to remember basic care instructions. They should just have a sticker with a small picture of the garment, which we can stick on the inside of our cupboard and just like that, we are done.


Grouse #2

The old adage ‘no pain, no gain’ is quite literal when it comes to heels.

Any fashionista knows that the taller one is, the better any outfit looks. Many a girl will add a liberal two inches to her height, if asked. Long legs will take you far. And that’s not just simple physics, it’s simply fashion.

Ergo, heels become a necessary evil. Footwear manufacturers are all too aware of the star performers in their shoe line-up, so design elements are always focused on the impractical, teetering stilettoes. Stilettos have wings, bows, chains and spirals. Someone even did a mock lipstick for a heel. I think it was Alberto Guardiani. But for some reason the designers won’t focus on putting a cushion near the ball of the foot. And that’s the part that makes women leave parties.

Don’t believe me?

The wise girl at FitFlop, Marcia Kilgore, sold 4.8 million pairs of FitFlops in less than two years. The real moolah is in the mommy heel. Walking on sunshine is the feeling we want, not walking on pins. So, if someone can put kid leather inside a stiletto and a cushion under the ball of the foot, this will be the making of the next Fortune 500 Company.

Grouse #3

While RTI (right to information) is the flavor of the season, is privacy a thing of the past? I think we should draw the line when it comes to our undergarments. When one pays top dollar to buy an exquisite silk shirt that turns out to have the integrity of tracing paper, it’s just not right.

Life on the red carpet with popping flashbulbs is a fantasy for many, but it turns into a nightmare for actresses who don’t have stylists with 20/20 + X-ray vision. After many a public debacle under flashlights and having been pulled up on this very blog for it, I have developed the foolproof coin test. While sorely tempted to buy another delicate, delicious white shirt, I always place a coin under it near a strong light source. If I can still tell its country of origin then that garment does not make it home with me.

Grouse #4

Here’s a strange story I heard. The bag manufacturing mafia called the less powerful pocket manufacturing mafia to their office. There was a real problem, a direct conflict of interest. If women get decent pockets on their clothes, it seems, they won’t buy that many bags. Women love pockets and besides, a pocket is way cheaper than a bag. The bag guys wanted to nip the problem in the bud before the pocket guys got too rich, too arrogant.

This is how that meeting went.

Bag maker’s rep: “Look here you pocket makers, no more pockets on women’s clothes. Is that clear?”
Pocket makers rep: “But kind sir, we have a families… we need the money, the work.’
Bag maker rep (leaning back to consult with the others): “Mmm… ok. So make pockets. But make sure nothing fits in them. Make them shallow. Put them in odd places. Or simply make them fake!” (laughs at his own brilliance)
Pocket maker rep: “Sir, but the women will have no place to put their things in, they will be handicapped. How will they cope?”
Bag Makers Rep. “They are women. They always cope. Look at us! We have made bags the size of small suitcases and they have carried them. We have put heavy horse bits on their bags and they have carried them. We have made them in shapes like Fish, Poodles and Shells- with no straps. So you don’t worry yourself. Run along now. And remember – fake pockets!”
(Pocket guy stumbles out, braving the lusty winds, mumbling “No pockets he says, no pockets.”)

Grouse #5

It is clear the fashion frat does not like boobs. In their heads, their ideal woman has a slight convexity on the upper chest, the kind that can be held up by silicon pads. This leads to the gaping button issue. The buttons on shirts are placed in such a manner that the most convex area of the chest creates a large gape in the shirt, giving a clear side view of the nipple area. Is this deliberate, I wonder?

The millions of women constantly tugging at their shirt, pulling them down and trying to make the gape go away has not pinched the designers’ conscience. Lose weight, wear a minimizer or a cami and grow up, seems to be their message. Fashion is not for your convenience. You are wearing our art. Be flat and uncomplaining, as any canvas ought to be.

This list of complaints is by no means conclusive, so feel free to add your own grouses. Think, the tight white jean, the Perspex bootie, the backless top that needs stick on silicon pads and the pant made in parachute material, for wear in India.

So while designers/manufacturers acknowledge some of the issues stated above, they should respect that we are gymming, starving, waxing and devouring the latest offerings from multiple fashion weeks in a bid to wear what they serve up each season. But our very real battles continue. We fight every single day with armpit cleavage, the FUPA, backfat and bye bye arms. And as always gravity.

Don’t add to our woes, have a heart!




  1. nice thought Ms Chopra, from someone who does follow ‘fashion’, its good observation.

    Strangely fashion is no more an adjective its is a common noun. Thank all them ‘designers’.


  2. Tiny pockets in jeans! Why have the jean pockets become inversely proportional to the size of phones? And what is the point of fake pockets anyway? I agree five hundred percent with the grouse against transparent clothes. Its not even restricted to whites. More and more clothes have become painfully transparent, even prints, making shopping less and less fun.


  3. WOW! Best thing I have read for the year I guess. Thank you Tisca for absolutely nailing it! Some of the issues, I thought only I had. Also, Payal & Priyanka. Thank you for using your much popular space to share this marvelous article!


  4. A fantastic read & kudos for penning such an apt article … this article oozed more sexiness in attitude than the plethora of actresses and celebrities in milking fame … and love this wise foreword “We may have, inadvertently, led manufacturers/designers into believing that we are ok with just about anything, so long as we see a person half our width and double our height look amazing in it.”


  5. Awesome write-up Tisca !! You have written most of our thoughts and concerns but for women like me grouse number 4(regarding boobs) will be the first one .


  6. Beware of one more grouse below!
    I beg to differ. For people who actually care for comfort and are ready to spend money for it, there are plenty of designers (aka darzis) and shoe stores that sell comfort. It is actually these “victim” women who in fact choose to spend their money on these “fashion” and “designer” wears that actually enable and keep these businesses going. If you don’t like what they’re selling, just don’t buy it. Who’s twisting your arm to do it? You want to “look” and be considered fashion forward / fashionista, yet complain that you don’t like wearing high heels or tiny / skinny shirts. First decide what is your priority. Is it comfort or the look? Once you decide that, you can make your decisions accordingly. You don’t NEED to wear 5-in heels if they aren’t comfortable; but if you do choose to wear 5-in heel, then don’t complain saying it sucks. This is one of the reasons I like people like Vidya Balan who don’t give rat’s a** about what rest of the world thinks and people like Ekta Kapoor / Anushka Sharma / Juhi Chawla / Raveena Tandon who often choose to wear only certain types of shoes (for whatever their reasons might be) instead of sky-high heels. If I were Ms. Chopra, I’d actually share this type of feedback to the designers I meet and interact with (and I really hope she’s already done that). Any business that looks to grow or sustain their business would have a marketing team that seeks constructive criticism and valuable customer feedback. This is what she has here. She should share this to the audience that actually cares about these things. It is the people designing and manufacturing these garments/items who could actually take a suggestion or two from all of this. And until the so-called fashion victims stop buying these things, they will never change. The change needs to be brought from the customers. Boycott stuff you don’t like and encourage others do to the same. But I seriously doubt that will happen. When people don’t wear 5-in heels, they get bad-mouthed so bad, I can only imagine what it must be like to be a celebrity who doesn’t follow these “fashion” trends. Maybe Narendra Modi of fashion world comes forward and changes things for better, some day!
    *grouse over*


    • So, if I like wearing a nice floral dress by a specific designer, but the only problem is that it is not available in Petite size, I should not voice my opinion about how I preferred that they had a Petite size available. Instead, I should ask my Darzi to copy the design or forgo my desire and pick something that works my size! hmm..

      I love Vidya for being confident in her picks.. I also love listening to someone when they are venting about a problem that is so common.


      • You missed the whole point. I’m not suggesting to go to a darzi, rather you’d directly contact the designer and request them to make your size. Why rant about it to public by writing an article on how that specific designer doesn’t carry that size?


        • this is not possible: directly contact the designer and request them to make your size

          not so easily as you say. We have to settle for whats available in markets and thats where this article finds respect and common relevance. Good part is even this stars have to face it.


  7. Well, written thoughts Tisca. I like the point that Fashion Designers and wearers never had any interaction of reality check on the possible improvement their clothes might need.

    Even for non-Designer stuff but Branded ones Like Zara, Mango etc. I am not able to guess why does it cost so much or if it costs that much then where is the quality. Especially Shirts and their never ending gaps in between.

    At least the letter is worth creating a thought in Designer’s mind.


  8. Discomfort is always an indication of status. So if you wear stilettos, flimsy silk shirts, possess a status bag priced at the GDP of a small country, have a punishing gym schedule etc they tell the world that you are a woman of means and leisure who doesn’t have to worry about comfort or the daily grind. That sets a template for lesser mortals, copying milady’s ridiculous skirts is an old old thing. Its why HHC features celebs for eyeballs. OMG the things we women do for fashion and manufacturers and media is responsible is imo a tired take on fashion.

    “We fight every single day with armpit cleavage, the FUPA, backfat and bye bye arms. And as always gravity.”

    Here’s the thing. None of these matter very much. Pick a better fight.


    • Well yes, I agree with the substance of your pithy comment, but I do like to cheat a little bit with ‘uncomfortable’ looking/high maintenance items. Cole Haan makes lovely heels with Nike Air technology, for example. Some things are harder to achieve, like pockets, because they often spoil the look of a tightly fitted garment.

      However, this was a refreshing read, the article and some of the comments. I don’t think Tisca Chopra has made accessible fashion her holy grail. The term ‘accessible fashion’ is an oxymoron, as you pointed out.

      Style, though, is intrinsic and can be had at any price point.


      • “Style, though, is intrinsic and can be had at any price point.”

        Absolutely agree.

        The visual matters – as you say pockets can ruin a certain kind of dress. In a way it is an effort by a team to produce a certain kind of look or silhouette for presentation to the viewer. And of course as you say with Nike Air you try and incorporate stuff so its not entirely impossible to wear.

        The article was certainly different and generated thoughts. Just thought there is little point in complaining about “we are gymming, starving, waxing and devouring” etc.. The high end look has always required high maintenance. And a small army of helpers:)




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