For Gen Y’s previous issue, I wrote an article on the common style & fashion mistakes that Pakistani men make. The article was a big hit among my friends and colleagues and the magazine’s female readers, all of who thought I’d done a great job pinpointing the obvious (You know how women have this tendency to say I Told You So!). I got a lot of feedback from the men too; emails from guys telling me how a certain funny line or insinuation had convinced them that I was indeed right (aren’t I always!?), and how oblivious they’d been to certain fashion snafus until I’d rubbed it in their grubby little unpolished noses. Good for them.
Since I’ve already taken care of the men for the time being, I’m going to turn my eye on the style challenged women in our country.
I know, I know, you think you’ve got it all right, but the truth is you haven’t a clue! On the outside you’re chic as they come, but inside, you secretly wish you were one of those women who look put-together all the time when in fact it is a lot of work just to get by. You wear boy underpants under the lehnga at your cousin’s wedding and spend a good hour in front of the looking glass every day trying to make sense of the contents of your wardrobe…but that’s only when you’re not busy being mortified by the memory of the hideous monotone ensemble you hit last year’s Event of the Year in! More than half your energy is spent calculating just how much cloth you’ll need for your shalwars this season to avoid looking like a clueless cow and it’s usually after the function that you realize you could’ve sparkled in your grandma’s old sari instead of spending a fortune on a designer outfit that just wasn’t you in the first place!
But worry not, child, for you are young and foolish. Everybody has their youthful fashion shame, the badly dressed skeletons in their closets that haunt them for years at end. But sooner or later you’ve got to wake up and realize that your time in the fashion wilderness can only last so long, and give yourself a little pinch; a nudge to rekindle the super stylish you that’s been buried under a heap of badly sewn, ill-fitted, ugly clothes that defy your commonsense, body shape and age.
As a first step to style enlightenment and consequently a glossier life, go through the following six most basic style slip-ups that women of all shapes and ages are inclined to make, and learn…
- Make-up like Madam. As in Noor Jehan. It’s a well known fact that people you meet for the first time form an opinion about you on a subliminal basis in less time than it took you to read this sentence. So if you’re walking around with hot pink blotches of blush-on and enough eye make-up to go around a family of ten pubescent sisters for a year, chances are you’re going to come off as a bit coo-coo. The only reason it worked on Madam was because she was an extraordinary woman who led an extremely public life and had a strapping individual style sense. And also because the diamonds she was always plastered in sort of stunned people into overlooking her eccentric make-up habits, but that’s not the point. A girl wearing too much makeup is a turn off for most guys, and we’d much rather see the real you, if you don’t mind. I’m not saying throw away the bold stuff, because it too can be very sexy if worn subtly on the right occasion. Generally though, just go for the natural, understated look, and I assure you the results will be pleasantly magical.
- Dress your age, without the rage. OK, now, that doesn’t mean starting to dress like Grandma Khatoon Bano Ara the morning after your 40th birthday bash. But it also doesn’t mean dressing like a teenybopper who’s just realized she’s been blessed with curves! Don’t make yourself look like the train wreck that is Paula Abdul. Or one of those Rishta Aunties if you want a more relevant example. You can’t complain about the media’s fascination with youth and tiny clothing and then go around trying to look like an ageing Barbie yourself. I’m all for flirty and feminine, and rejoice that there are women in our society who aren’t afraid to take chances with their looks and ensembles, but if you’re a decent grown-up, wear decent grown-up clothes. Don’t be a slave to “current” fads by wearing harsh, bright colors or young-girlie cuts, as this will highlight you age more. Also, avoid showing too much skin because there’s nothing sadder than unsolicited flesh blatantly on display. Which brings us to your faux pas number 3.
- Aggressive cleavage. Oh the horror! Don’t get me wrong, I have a fixation with cleavages as much as any other guy. It’s just when ladies who qualify for Senior Citizens tax rebates hit family gatherings wearing dresses with impossibly large necklines that I (and most of my guy friends) start to get a bit uneasy! A woman’s décolletage is a thing of beauty, sure, but only as long as there is a little mystery to it and we don’t end up feeling sexually harassed just by being in the same vicinity. And although it pains me to say so, the same law applies to the younger lot. Just because you have firmer, perkier members doesn’t mean you have the right to look like a hooker at large. If you’re still intent on showing a bit of your goodies, do so only if you’re sure you can do it in a classy way where a lot is left to the imagination. Otherwise we’ll just assume you’re trying to make up for a weakness or craving attention, which is just sad.
- Dirty blond streaks and colored lenses. Are not your friend! Seriously, if I see one more dark-haired, dark-skinned woman treat herself to dirty blond streaks and/or colored lenses, I’m running off screaming to the hills! Seriously, women, snap out of it! You’re not a gori and you’re never going to be. Your obsession with ocean blue eyes and streaked/highlighted/lowlighted tresses doesn’t make you look anything but ridiculous because they won’t pass as natural in a million years. Even more so if you’re not the proud owner of a fair complexion, which is funny because most women I’ve seen damage their hair with excessive chemical treatments all have naturally darker skin. Is it some sort of a complex I detect? My one and only advice: Grow up!
- Right outfit, wrong shoes. From what I understand, there are two types of women. Type A are crazy about handbags, and Type B are likely to wither away and lose their will to live if they’re not able to buy new pairs of shoes with alarming regularity. If you’re a Type B, you probably realize the importance of wearing the right shoes with a given outfit. However, if you’re a Type A, you need to get the fact that you can not wear flat heels with certain outfits straight! I have to admit I’m not an expert when it comes to the technical details of what to wear with what, but being an avid observer of your kind, I do know that women who wear ballerina flats or low heel pumps with elegant evening dresses look quite awkward and that you can’t look good (to me, at least) in your ankle length capris unless you wear them with high heels. There are probably as many types of women’s shoes out there as there are women (I actually did a little research…there are mules, wedges, ballerina flats, sandals, boots, ankle boots, skimmers, stilettos, peep toes, pumps, slingbacks…the list goes on forever, seriously!), so all you have to do is realize who’s whose friend and who can’t be seen with whom (do a little Googling if you have to) and you’ll be just fine!
- Gold overdose. Remember how they taught us in school that All That Glitters is Not Gold? Well, they were right. So, unless you deliberately want to look like a new-money type Abu Dhabi aunty or Rekha on an awards night, I suggest you tone down on the amount of gold you wear on a daily basis right away. A light chain, a couple of bangles and inconspicuous earrings are OK; but three chains, twelve bangles and jhumka’s that’ll easily put Umrao Jaan to shame aren’t! Gold was more in fashion twenty years ago when you could wear everything you owned and people would envy you for it. Today, too much of it is likely to get you sneered at and looks absolutely tacky too. Besides, who wants to deal with the stress and constant fear of being mugged at gun point? Be a good girl and save the serious stuff for weddings of close relatives only, because at the end of the day, minimalism is what it’s all about these days!