Sunday, 30 October 2016

Hey, It's Okay to Switch Up Your Aesthetic: Things My Mother Taught Me About Fashion...

So I've been thinking long and hard about this- I've been stuck in a quandary about how I'd like to integrate my late mother into my blog and in what context to write about her in.

The fact of the matter is that my mother not only raised me but taught me a lot about the perception of myself, the world and God. Not having her around has been numbingly painful and some days I just breakdown... the pain is such a circumscribed experience that it's impossible to explain.


A chunk of me is definitely missing, that's how I'll put it. In that missing chunk I feel like a lot of my motivation has gotten lost because there's no active driving force around anymore. Having said that, I will always remember my mother as a cheerleader because she always supported me and never forced any career paths on me at all. She let me explore the world of fashion and never told me it was worthless or would amount to nothing... she was proud of what I achieved on my own and always had positive things to say about what I was doing. Often the one holding the camera or helping me decide what to wear for an event, my mother was undoubtedly the biggest supporter of mine and wherever life takes me, I will always attribute any success I have to her.

The crux of what I'm getting at is that I want to include my mother more in my articles. I think it would feel wrong if I didn't. I want to remember her positively, and I want to share some of the love & light she brought to my world...

1) Who Cares!

The version of my mother, Anita that I got the pleasure of knowing was never really into fashion. For her, fashion became more about comfort over style. She was on the larger side and underwent a mastectomy in 2007 so I guess she liked to wear what she felt was natural to her- cotton t-shirts and long flowy maxi skirts. I have a vivid memory of her returning home post-surgery; I was 12 at that the time, and although I was scared of the lack of hair on her head I was incredibly happy to see her alive and well. She unpacked this bra that many women wear after having a mastectomy, and as you all are aware, most women choose to have a breast reconstruction afterwards. My mother did not. I never understood it at the time and I couldn't grapple with the idea of her going through the rest of her life without the most 'feminine' of parts back and not feeling attractive again. How wrong I was because for her, happiness came from within and primarily through her dedication to the Lord.


I was such a little bitch growing up though. Forever on her case telling her that things looked bad or that she should let me pick out some things for her to wear instead but it never seemed to bother her. From her nonchalance I've learnt that it's really not that serious. Some people are more into style than others and if someone doesn't care so much about what they wear, let them not care!

At the end of the day, is it really worth having a coronary over a piece of material?

It's safe to say that my mother shook up my idea of the 'ideal body'. What is a body? What does it mean to clothe the body? Why should a woman feel pressured to artificially recreate a 'perfect' body back after a traumatic experience? I now feel so incredibly moved by her bravery and although I feel torn about writing this content without being able to ask her permission, I feel that she would be happy knowing that I am using her legacy to make a difference in the world and in particular, the promotion of women's liberation and freedom over their bodies, minds and souls.

2) Confidence Comes From Within

Every time I would have an event to go to the panic began the night before. My mother soon got used to the stress and chaos that came with the flabbergasting question that we all know so well... 'what should I wear?' Without a doubt, my room would look like a tornado hit it by the time I was done trying things on. I'd always show my mum 5-6 options and she would tell me her honest thoughts...

A lot of the time, especially when I reached a size 14, I would go off in a huff like a little brat exclaiming how fat I was and how I couldn't sit down without rolls showing etc. My mother was probably screaming inside because it became such a common occurrence and Lord knows why she put up with it but she did and for that, I will always treasure her. She'd always come and comfort me and tell me that I wasn't 'fat' and that I had curves and I shouldn't feel down about myself.

You know when you have a crippling headache and you breathe a sigh of relief as the paracetamol kicks in? Well my mother was my paracetamol.


I always felt that little bit better when she re-assured me that I was being too extreme. After all, if you don't feel confident from within then whatever you put on is just a layer on top of a fragile internal, right? How will you ever feel comfortable in what you wear if you don't feel comfortable with your own body?

Today, in fact, I had a lovely message from someone on Snapchat that said that I had a lovely figure and that I shouldn't put myself down about the way I look because people appreciate it and actually prefer my look to the Eurocentric skinny blonde model look. It was something that I needed to hear today and it came at a time when I was feeling low about myself but it just goes to show that there are kind-hearted people out there and no matter what you look like, you will always attract someone. Part of the reason why I've been doing more swimwear looks etc. recently is because I want to be a part of the body-pos movement that almost forces people to understand what a natural body looks like because that is SO important in this superficial generation that we are living in nowadays. I've realised that you can either spend your life in doubt about yourself or you can embrace yourself and accept God's creation for all that it is. Don't get me wrong, I'm still in a journey towards full body confidence but I definitely sense that I am progressing and getting more acquainted with the once scary notion of 'self-love'.

3) Don't Force Yourself

Shifting focus now to cultural clothing, I was never one to truly embrace Indian clothing on myself. To this day, I rarely wear it unless it's a special occasion and when I do, I prefer to wear kurti tops with leggings as this is a lot more in line with my aesthetic.


Living in an open-minded city like London is a plus because there's no real pressure to dress up in traditional clothing when visiting a temple- some people do, some people don't. As long as you're modest that's all that matters. I've heard a lot of comments being made from certain individuals particularly in relation to Gurdwara etiquette (for those who aren't aware, my Sindhi roots meant that I spent a lot of time in the Gurdwara when I was younger). I saw this one guy on Facebook a while back demeaning women who choose to wear leggings to a Gurdwara instead of say, a salwaar kameez or sari etc. etc. Now, here's where I have a real issue...

Yes, it is important to be modestly clothed in a place of worship but do I think it's okay to judge a woman for what she willingly chooses to wear on her body whilst praying? Absolutely not. It actually infuriated me that this individual felt the need to do the equivalent of 'slut-shame' on a public forum. Is it not tragically ironic that religion promotes peace and non-judgement yet there are people who will go and bow down to Guru Nanak and go home the same day bashing a girl for wearing some freaking leggings. If the girl is clean-hearted and genuinely wants to express her worship for the Lord then who are we to dictate her body? It would be another thing if we were talking about some chick wearing a Celeb Boutique bodycon dress at langar here but we're not, it's just some damn leggings that actually cover the body really well if you ask me.

Woman’s crime of being other - of embodying all that man fears and despises yet desires - finds fitting ‘punishment’ in clothing that draws erotic attention to the body by simultaneously constraining and ‘correcting’ it. According to de Beauvoir: “In woman dressed and adorned, nature is present but under restraint, by human will moulded nearer to man’s desire”. (Angela King, 2004)

Anyway, the point I am getting to (rant over, soz), is that my mother never ever forced me to wear Indian clothing to places of worship. She encouraged me sometimes, sure, but she knew deep down that I wasn't feeling it half the time and instead of pushing me away from my spirituality by enforcing  dictatorship over my body, she logically made sure that I knew it wasn't about what I wore but the fact that I kneeled down in front of the Lord and prayed whole-heartedly.

4) Treat Yourself Well 

In retrospect, I acknowledge that my mother spoiled me and always tried to make my desires possible but this should be understood in the context of my childhood which I won't go into detail about here. To summarise, my mother tried to compensate for my fucked up childhood by showering me with clothes/makeup etc. which was nice, sure, but it just put a bandaid on things.

As she got older I think she recognised that I was picking up on her habits from the past in my shopping sprees and retail therapy so she would try and snap me out of it because it's just not the way to fix anything. The temporary high you get is exactly that: temporary.

We all deserve to treat and reward ourselves but she taught me that this should not be in excess.

5) Hey, It's Okay to Switch Up Your Aesthetic

It was only after my mother passed that I had access to a whole archive of photo albums spanning way back to the 80s. I found photos of my mother with her short bouncy hair, graphic tees and leather bomber jackets that I never even thought existed!


I had so much fun going back and uncovering the mother that lived before my time- wild and carefree. Honestly, I wish I could have had more conversations with her about how she used to be in her student days and beyond because I think I'd want to be her friend! Her laidback, avant-garde, pseudo-hipster, 'I read Freud in my lunchbreaks' look is so often forced by the basics in my uni that I commend her for being so beyond our time.

Looking at photos like these makes me realise that it's okay to switch up my aesthetic. Recently I've been so into blurring the gender lines between masculine and feminine... I love bomber jackets, oversized sweatshirts, minimal accessories. Trapstar, Nike, Supply & Demand are some of my faves right now. It's quite a big leap as I was so feminine this Summer in my chiffon dresses and floor-length gowns but I'm really feeling this sports-luxe vibe and I think I'm becoming more open to change.


Change is good. Experimenting is good. Never feel stuck or one-dimensional. Fashion allows ourselves the ability to change and enables fluidity on our rigid bodies...

I will now end on a very essay-ish quote (I think the English degree academia has absorbed into my blood... oops):

'Dress constantly poses the possibility of distance between body and clothing, between 'true' self, the fixed gender of ideology, and assumed persona'. (Annette Kuhn, 2013).

P.S. I cried a lot during writing this but I hope this was an enjoyable/gripping/funny/heartbreaking read for some of you (any one of those adjectives works for me).