Designer and all round aesthete Wendell Rodricks was trolled aggressively for commenting on Priyanka Chopra’s Grammy Awards 2020 outfit: a risqué, ivory-coloured gown with a neckline that plunged way below her navel. Rodricks wondered, a tad sneeringly on Instagram, whether the décolletage on display represented the distance between LA and Cuba, to be ticked off by Suchitra Krishnamoorthi who said, “Women have been so enslaved by mens’ opinions on how they should look. This photograph of Priyanka (pictured) at one of the world’s most publicised events is the height of liberation.” One could argue this equating of flashy exhibitionism with ‘liberation’ is deeply problematic in itself, more so than what Rodricks meant, explained in his next post: “There is an age to wear some clothes. Men with huge bellies should not wear tight T-shirts. Same with women who wear minis past a certain age.” It ended with the crushing, “If you don’t have it, don’t flaunt it.”
No one can deny the simple logic of Rodricks’ words which has been the basis of all fashion guides and dressing do’s and don’ts since time immemorial: highlight your best features and downplay your worst. Or, to paraphrase Coco Chanel, ‘The best colour in the world is the one that looks good on you’. Perhaps Rodricks could have framed his opinion more carefully. Something like men with huge bellies look better in loose garments (since the scourge of political correctness is upon us). Undoubtedly though, Chopra’s gown was an ill fitting disaster without even getting into that inexplicable neckline. No one is denying it is a free world. If a dress that looked exactly like an embroidered bedcover complete with tassels is her thing, Chopra is well within her rights to don it. And Rodricks’ well within his, to diss it.
These days one must live in perpetual terror of being accused of body shaming and sexism — or not being sensitive enough to the myriad injustices women have yet to overcome — while expressing an opinion, even about a dress. It’s not fashionable to say this but thin people are soon going to be an oppressed minority. There’s so much subversive pressure to glorify obesity, especially online. You’re not ‘woke’ if you’re not vehemently holding out a flag for every body type’s right to fashion relevance. Should an outfit be celebrated just because unlike most of her Indian counterparts, Chopra was daring enough to bare an unattractive amount of flesh? It seems society in India has gone overnight from an unhealthy obsession with tearing women down for sartorial choices that shock, to celebrating an alleged ‘brave’ show of skin — irrespective of whether it was flattering or not.
Who are we kidding? Fat people want to be thin. Thin people want to not be fat. This is never going to change. Having said that people should wear what they want (and like Chopra, not care about Rodricks’ opinion). In the Instagram era, experienced stylists know that actors who want to leave a lingering red-carpet impression need clothes to be buzzworthy rather than pretty. It takes a real star like Chopra to reject the princess gown, risk the E! Worst Dressed List, in favour of creating a look that guarantees a steady stream of attention.
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