What not to Wear by Helvi Oosterman

November 9, 2009

Just to get you boys here.

You older folk here might remember the times, when anything Indian was all the rage; long cotton caftans for the girls and rough hewn grandpa shirts for the boys. Those were the days when your tie-dyed, floor length wrap-around skirts, not only kept your legs warm but at the same time swept the streets or maybe just the foot paths clean…

The council workers whistled at you, not because they admired your legs, but because you were doing their job for them. I remember wearing a long caftan when six months pregnant, looking rather majestic, almost a cross between Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, Brunnhilde from Wagner’s Ring comes to mind. Hubby too suffered for his latest acquisition, sandals made from old car tyres with some brass buckles tagged on them that gave his feet bad rashes.

Many years later  the tights arrived on the fashion scene; welcomed by all comfort loving females, mums, daughters and grannies. They were taken up by skinny girls, fat sheilas, old and young, tall and short. My slightly underweight girlfriend gave me a backhanded compliment: “Helvi, you look good in them because you got big legs, I look like a starved baby bird in those”. Ah well, who needs enemies when your friends tell the truth about your short  comings. These tights, as you all know, were usually teamed up with oversized t-shirts or large tops  with huge shoulder pads. These pads were not sewn but usually Velcroed to shoulder seams and easily removed. On long train trips they could double up as pillows, after all some were almost bigger than average size Tontine.

Not all that long ago the fashionistas got inspired by India again; the bright colours were in and black was out. Tired of looking like Sicilian widows, we now took to rainbow colours, glitter and sequins like ducks to water. Many of us suburban mums   of course even looked like ducks, waddling in our tiered skirts and heavily sequined tops weighing us down. All those vivid colours that so flatter darker skinned slim Indian girls, made us look like stumpy Christmas trees.

Oops, almost forgot about those hipster jeans, maybe it is because I really want to forget about them; all those tummies and bottoms bared, and in country towns still bravely exposed, even  when the city girls have moved to the” waist highs” a long ago.

This morning I had to go to town early for an appointment. Popping in to buy a newspaper at the mall, I noticed a group of young girls still in their nighties hanging around. I assumed they had had some kind of sleep out or a pyjama party and were on their way home. The polyester swishing could be heard as they walked past. Later on I came to realise they were not nighties,but this season’s new look: floor-length summer dresses that reminded me of those caftans. Only the caftans were cotton and pleasant to wear, these long  poly dresses must be as hot as a visit to a sauna.

I feel like a cooling swim is needed right now!

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