Crimes of fashion

The fashion police’s thumbs-down to Venus Williams’s outfit has nothing to do with fashion.

Written by Shefalee Vasudev | New Delhi | Published:January 30, 2011 12:52 pm

The fashion police’s thumbs-down to Venus Williams’s outfit has nothing to do with fashion.

So it happened that Venus of the tennis-playing sisters wore a canary-yellow criss-cross dress at the Australian Open in Melbourne last week. As she played,her skirt rose,exposing her nude underwear and giving us a reason to rave and rant.

Look at the criss-cross concerns in this brouhaha. There is Venus’s tennis dress itself,a Swiss cheese-like creation inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Then,there is nude underwear. There is also the fashion police. And the last is the question of appropriate dressing for a tennis star. Each can reduce this silly global tabloid debate into kitty party gossip.

For starters,Venus’s tennis dress was bad,not because it was Alice-y,but because it was simply not stuff that could be considered a winner for Fashion 2011. Yet,as long as she wasn’t violating a clothing code set by her game or the country she plays for,she is welcome to a bad clothes day like any other girl.

This was not the first time that Venus has attracted the attention of the facile fashion police. She wore a lacy,black corset dress at the French Open last year,defending it as a dress with form that was functional. Both the Williams sisters are fond of fashion’s woozy delights. Serena,who has been fond of designing ever since she was a child and has also worked with Nike on sports clothing,has a line of intimate wear called Aneres (her name spelled backwards). When she launched it in 2004 and showed it on a Miami beach,the model was her sister Venus,a passionate clothes horse herself. When the two visited India,they wore south Indian silk saris,not giving a damn about the drape’s feminine demands. Taste in dressing is another story,but that’s not what we are debating now.

So what is it then? Nude underwear? Skin-coloured lingerie is not only a sensuous delight but a saving grace,given fashion’s fastidious needs,as any girl will tell you. It has been unnecessarily turned into a rogue here. A story written by Glamour magazine’s Tracey Lomrantz in October last year quoted a survey which found that sales of nude underwear in UK had reportedly gone up by 38 per cent in 2010. Hollywood girl Eva Mendes had gone on record to reveal that she felt most sexy in “either nude or very basic underwear” and pop star Katy Perry wore a nude bra and knickers with sexy lace for the cover of Rolling Stone in August last year.

According to the study cited by Glamour,72 per cent of women opted for nude over basic black or white. The UK retail chain Debenhams,which also retails in India,quoted a bra expert,saying that “a nude or flesh-coloured bra denoted a wearer’s personality that was natural,easy-going,down-to-earth and transparent. This woman is relaxed,with nothing to hide.”

That brings us to the fashion police. No one knows who the fashion police really is,where it lives,what it wears or what it does besides pronouncing judgement on fashion malfunctions. If it must be defined,it is an “imaginary” body that comments on fashion crimes. For the curious,www.fashionpolice.org might be a hilarious aside. You can report a fashion crime to the vigilantes there and those found guilty will be sent to a “Fashion Hell”.

Which leaves us with appropriate dressing for a tennis star. Make that “female tennis star” and we can view the game for what it really is. Except Wimbledon,where everyone is mandated to wear white,players can wear what they like. Andre Agassi got away with murder when it came to bad clothes but no one sent him to Fashion Hell. For the girls though,it is another ball game entirely. They want to look like girls but are judged for it by a global audience. Sharda Ugra,senior editor of http://www.cricinfo.com,says,“Women tennis players are the most high-profile female athletes in the world. Along with the professional demands of their sport,they face the same pressures that young girls all over the world do over image,appearance and body type. They deal with the pulls and pushes of conforming to a particular type of femininity.”

That argument scores over Venus Williams’s cheesy-cheeky dressing. That’s also why we must boo Lara Dutta who called female tennis players “Ashok Leyland trucks” in a recent episode of Koffee With Karan.

So,when defending US Open champion Kim Clijsters chided player-turned-TV commentator Todd Woodbridge earlier this week on a TV show,she did well. “I saw a text you sent to a player. You said you thought I was pregnant,” she said,as he went red in the face. Clijsters was not pregnant yet Woodbridge had commented on her being “really grumpy and with bigger boobs”. Now we know that the fuss over Venus’s dress has nothing to do with fashion.

shefalee.vasudev@expressindia.com

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