How much does your happiness depend on what your family and friends wear?

How much does your happiness and peace of mind depend on the way your family members dress?

Would you expect your spouse (or hen family members, like hen* parents etc.) to change from Indian to Western wear, or from cotton to nylon, or from sports wear to more formal clothing because it is more to your taste?

How would you react if they have similar expectations from you? Are these expectations generally mutual, if not, why not?

Why does other people’s clothing make us happy, offended, sad or outraged?

What are the chances that we know what would make them more comfortable, better than they do?

Do we have a right to tell family and friends what not to wear?

If it’s not about their comfort, or if they are sure they know what they want to wear, then why do some of us feel good if some family members change the way they dress, or choose their clothing keeping our feelings in mind?

Do we see clothing control as a sign that we are respected and cared for?

Whose clothing is most likely to be controlled?

Is it about hierarchy and control? Which means those who are able to choose what they wear (or don’t wear) are seen as more in control of their lives (and choices)?

And also, aren’t those who can dictate how other family members dress seen as powerful… For example ladke-wale?

Isn’t this why married women who are able to wear Western clothes (generally disapproved by Indian in-laws), are seen as more in control of their lives? Hence more modern, more Westernised, more a threat to Indian culture, and more likely to provoke sexual assaults?

Note: ‘Hen’ is a gender neutral term meaning him, her, his, hers etc.

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86 thoughts on “How much does your happiness depend on what your family and friends wear?

  1. I have faced this similar issue so many times when in relatives house. In fact, my father was not in the favor of letting me wear jeans till I was 12 or 13 at which time, I am guessing, he capitulated because of the place we were living in. And, whenever there is a match, a girl is discouraged from wearing a decent jeans and a kurti which she can normally wear. Many people say to me that I can’t continue wearing jeans after marriage and skirts and dresses are unthinkable entirely!!! I am discouraged form wearing 3/4ths at my relatives place or stay in a night dress when I am at home which is pretty uncomfortable. I am supposed to keep on a suit, in fact. Its all in conditioning.

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  2. Yep… Controlling what a girl wears is definitely seen as being caring. “Oh My God! He’s so SWEET! awwww :)”
    He tells me not to go out after dusk.
    “awww🙂 he’s so protective! You’re sooo lucky!”

    Ughh
    Makes me wanna puke.

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    • @archsmita

      I have seen the other extreme also
      ” She wont let me eat outside food….
      She wont allow me to open laptop at home….” all said with the smug expression on one’s face.

      I have never understood why telling someone what to do is considered “love”

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  3. I face a similar issue. My husband says “Its just clothes! Is it so difficult for you make such a small change in your life for me? Dont you love me enough to consider my happiness above yours? Also my parents visit us or we visit them once or twice in a year for few days… Is it so difficult for you to adjust with them just for my sake? And my parents don’t even object…had it not been our neighbors/relatives/ aunts / uncles and other sundry people who will talk bad about you…my mother just wants a good name for you in her society…..she is actually thinking for your good…why do you object then? ”
    I have no answer because the basic point highlighted is1.) Its only for few days and 2.) They are actually my wellwishers.😦 which i fail to see.

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    • Oh God. This is emotional attack esp the bit with “my sake” . Ask him to do something – leave the car behind( when you want to take your folks/friends out) /have dinner outside ( obviously, few days only yaar – you are shopping with mom/friends). Few days only na..adjust kar. Gah!

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    • That’s an awful argument: “It’s just a detail, therefore you should do precisely as *I* wish, even though the detail in question is -your- clothing.”

      If he’s truly of the opinion that “it’s just some clothes” and thus of no importance – why then, is it of importance to him that you wear his prefered clothing ?

      “It’s a UNIMPORTANT detail, therefore it’s IMPORTANT that you do as I wish.”

      That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

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  4. I have a fit if my husband wears ugly clothes that don’t flatter him. They make me feel less attracted to him, so I tell him to sometimes change out of particularly grubby, paunch-enhancing clothes. Does that make me a control freak? However, I think it’s unacceptable to tell anyone other than a spouse how to dress. I have on occasion yelled at my mother -in -law for forcing me to wear nasty glittery saris. I did end up wearing the damn thing though since HER draconian mother is absolutely fixated on this stuff.

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    • Yes. I think it does. It’s fine for you to voice your opinions, even those would be better expressed positively, but “telling him to change” sounds like giving him instructions for what to wear, and that’s wrong. I’m an adult. I decide what I wear. Yes, it’s fine for you, or anyone, to say what they prefer, provided you’re polite about it, but “telling me to change” will just annoy me.

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    • Ask your partner to stay appealing for your eyes is perfectly okay the problem arises when one partner tries to change the other for the sake of his/her parents, neighbors, relatives and relative’s dog… and so on…

      Wonder how people love to grow fat together and stay attracted to each other.
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

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  5. Apologies. My rather non-conservative upbringing clearly does not show a history of anything like this in the family circles. I totally cannot relate to it🙂 However, I have heard/had friends, say.

    “My husband does not like sleeveless” or “I wont buy black/blue/whatever..he does not like it – comes with blush, “oh-he-loves-me-so-much look” – I want to whack you.

    Oh and then this happens. Me in knee length skirts to work. Some one says – ” you are not dressing like someone who is of marriageable age”.

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    • Exactly my case too! I was never discouraged from wearing jeans or shorts or short skirts or whatever is considered ‘evil’ (lol!!), so I had no idea about these things. I am a mother of two but I still wear jeans and dresses, because I am comfortable wearing them. I am also equally comfortable wearing salwar kameezes and saris and wear them when I want to for social/religious occasions because *I* feel it is more appropriate to do so (not because my husband tells me to!!)!
      But, on the other hand, I will not allow my kids to wear clothes that leave half their bodies exposed; for instance I will not allow my sons to wear their jeans so loose that half their underwear is shown, as I see a lot of kids do nowadays. I know I only have this control as long as they are children, but hopefully, by the time they are adults, they will have enough sense not to wear such clothes!😀

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  6. It is very true, IHM. I was not permitted to learn swimming as a child as there was no segregation of boys and girls at the pool. “how can our girl wear such clothes in full public view?” I first wore denims when in college, much to my father’s displeasure. When my marriage was fixed, I had strict instructions NOT to wear western wear, no matter what, when I visited my prospective in-laws’ place. I was told it was OK to wear denims while going out with my fiancé, if HE didn’t mind, but never to go to their place if I was, indeed wearing them. HE, of course, didn’t MIND it, but I was told that when /if we go to his grandparents’ place, I was to don a sari.
    Suffice to say that now I am always in denims, which I find to be much more comfortable than Indian dress, and my father, of course, has changed so much that he has no qualms with my sis-in-law, who is a TT player, wearing denims in the house, and going swimming with others in the family. More power to her!

    Yes, clothing control is an insidious form of control over a woman’s sexuality. Why else, would we not worry about strappy tops on a 7 year old, but look get uneasy when the same daughter wears them at 10?

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    • Oh the same story with swimming! I wasnt allowed while my friends were due ‘swim suits’ when small (and I was much too thin/small for my age). Then I saved my pocket money for months and learnt it in secret. I used to hide my swim suit at a friend’s place. I wasnt allowed to learn karate though I very much wanted to. The reason was something like ‘your uterus wl drop down and hole will get bigger’ (sorry if this sounds obscene) by my mumm, aunts and lots of others I didnt care about… But now learning it for the last 7 months… Much too late and only reached orange belt, but stilll….😀

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      • Point! I get raised eyebrows when I say, I know to swim🙂 People have naughtily glared and asked, so you dont mind wearing swim suits before men? I usually reply back with – No, I dont. I cant possibly swim in a kurta.

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        • @Arch,
          Come to DG’s Y and see desi women in Ts and cycling shorts in the pool and muslim women with head covering where as pudgy pot bellied preteen boys flaunting their fat and same aged girls are covered head to toe in the pool.
          Peace,
          Desi Girl

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  7. I still can’t get accustomed to the usage of the third person pronoun ‘hen’…Did you know that in Swedish, ‘hen’ means ‘whetstone’?

    Now the post…Obviously, the modesty culture wreaks havoc in the lives of women but it also wreaks havoc in the minds of men…How? Well, it teaches men to be paranoid about sexual attraction thus making them afraid of their own bodies…It also teaches them to criticize and control women in order to protect themselves…

    Men should realize that everything in the world is not about them…Women are more than seductive bodies, they are humans too…Don’t you think men who are raised in the modesty culture are taught to despise women? I mean, if they think “immorally” dressed women are lower than dogs (cats, elephants, whatever), then it means they hate women…

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  8. it doesn’t it wont.! I do make sure that I am modestly dressed for the sunday mass but then otherwise it is no one’s business to tell me what I am supposed to do.! My ex had tried to control my clothing when we were together an in those days I complied.! Now when i think of it I am strangulated a million times as to why I did.? I detest my parents ever trying to tell me what I am supposed to wear. Not a big fan of jewellery or too much of colors in my clothes, so my mom pesters me to dress young.! But on the run I wear what I see first in the wardrobe and run many times do not even wear earrings or trinkets.! It doesn’t matter what others think but I think I am fine the way I am.! And if I ever get married I won’t comply to my mother in law’s saree-ism fantasies.!

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  9. ‘Mumm.. I dont tell you what to wear. Why would you tell me what to wear… I am an adult for god’s sake!’
    ‘You’re not my mother, I am yours… Look at your cousins n other friends, they dont talk like this to their mother… We gave you too much freedom’
    This was a frequent scene in my house wen I used to live with my parents!
    And yea, being a muslim I was constantly berated to cover my head. Never relented… And most of the time we go out together it will end up in us sitting in the car in huffy silence. Reason- Choice of clothes.
    “At least wear a shawl so that it looks as if it slipped off your head and not becs of ur rebellious attitude”

    Another thing my mumm used to do is tell me to wear shawl or hand it to me when guests are present. She knw I wouldnt humiliate her by disobeying in front of them… How I used to scowl😀

    But now my mumm doesnt say much, either becz shes finally accepted tht im an adult or she gave up…
    The funniest thing is I cover my head here in Blore due to pollution. But in Kerala I dont.
    I mean it takes at least 10 days for my comb to turn black in Kerala, whereas in Blore or Delhi or Chennai, you need to wash comb everyday. But my mumm thinks I just enjoy defying her😦

    One of my sisters wear parda, which everyone was against. (My fam is somwhr in the middle not-too-modern & not too conservative). I supported her as its her choice! I wish she’d support me in my choice of dressing too… But same story!!!

    Ghoshhh, if I get a repeat episode after marriage too, I will surely go mad!

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    • @N,

      This is a common scene across the nation in middle class families. DG fought for her freedom all through her teens and when she got married the same thing started all over. She lost it when MIL said how liberal she was that she allowed me to wear salwar kamiz and not make me wear a sari. Her modernity ended when guests were home, cover your head so that they can see how sanskari bahu you are rather how much control I have over you and that God forsaken now ex was all party to it coz’ it was not his body.
      DG cooking in the kitchen in sweltering 45C with not lights and he wanted her to wear duppata coz’ his father was visiting us. Son of a Dog.

      So please don’t go into that drama of meet the parents in salwar kamiz if you wear denim in your everyday living.
      http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/desi-dating-read-between-the-lines/
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

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  10. My case is perhaps an exception to all this. My father infact used to encourage me to wear western outfits when I was in school. I preferred long loose salwar kameez as I was too thin. After getting married, my husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law all encouraged me to wear clothes of my choice preferably western as they thought it looked good on me. Our tastes though are as different as chalk and cheese and I have never really liked what they used to gift me. I use to smile and accept it and then push it at the remotest corner of my wardrobe. But after an open talk with my in laws about my choices in clothes, they have never “surprised” me with a gift.
    I have on occasion though threatened my husband to not wear certain clothes as I found them unflattering on him. So perhaps I am the control freak here🙂

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  11. ” dress code”, it is just not in school and college, but continues throughout the life..

    >>start: it starts when you are young, ” why do u dress up like girl/boy”. yes, if you are a girl and wear pants, people exclaim, but nothing to worry,
    >>teenage: any thing you find trendy, stylish, it is considered offensive and you are asked to wear traditional respectable cloths. ( dont ask me what they are)
    >>college: they impose a rule, have a control on your hair style also. boys cant grow their hair beyond a length, girl cant wear jeans, sleeveless, skirts etc etc.
    >> workplace: you are expected to be formal or else you are tagged as immature, weird.
    >>marriage proposal: how can you be not in saree. i dont know what is the fun, may be it is done now days as, the in-laws might not get chance to the bride in saree again ..
    >>parents: as a parent, again you need to look responsible, and professional. you can be freak .
    >>grandparents: by this time, you loose interest, at the old age, you dont want to strain yourself by wearing a slim fit jeans or anything of that sort..

    yes, i did face this problem.. when i was 14 i wanted to wear skirt, but my mother objected. later when i went to college, my dean object me for wearing sleeveless, at work, HR objected me for wearing half saree, as it was not professional, after marrying, in-laws objected me wearing saree( yes, it is surprising, as they dont want me to go to construction site with saree) but here, i want to wear saree, after having a kid, my neighbors are objecting me for wearing skirts. ( they think i have lost my sense). so.. i dont know what is in store for me when i get old..

    but i feel, what i wear should not bother others.. i wear what is comfortable for me.. at earl age, i had no say, as my parents bought me dresses, but now i dont want anyone to dictate me.. and yes, i dont like few outfit what my hubby wears, but i just leave it as his choice and never force him to wear what i like.. in fact one day, my daughter fell sick, we just rushed to hospital. my hubby came in shorts. and he was not allowed inside the casualty room, as he was not dressed in formal way. m ost of the incidents i was ok, but this one irritated me..

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  12. I can understand happiness being related to what my wife wears but peace of mind?
    I am happy when she buys clothes and vice versa as both of us are shopping freaks. I like her more in western and she finds it more comfortable.
    And why should I insist she wears a certain kind of clothes? Imagine her asking me to wear dhoti kurta!
    Have we ever encountered a woman asking a man to wear “appropriate” clothes?

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  13. “Have we ever encountered a woman asking a man to wear “appropriate” clothes?”
    Strangely enough, I did. In college circles in Delhi for example, women try to rework a man’s wardrobe the moment they are in a relationship. It is a kind of clothing fascism perhaps, a way of asserting control over the partner in a relationship for both genders.

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    • Well, it depends how much you are ready to experiment and change. I have changed my wardrobe after I got married. My wife thought certain kind of shirts (which I never wore) would look good on me and they did. But I do know where to draw the line. She sometimes pick weird colours which I politely refuse to even look at.🙂
      And the same goes for her too. I think what she wears has changed after marriage because my opinion is somehow mixed in her choices. But if she thinks I am being stupid/funny, she tells me.
      I won’t call it asserting control but I think I know what you mean. Some couples do get over possessive about everything.
      //“Have we ever encountered a woman asking a man to wear “appropriate” clothes?”//
      What I actually meant by this line was that – we terrify women into accepting that their clothes lead to uncomfortable situations but men are never judged by that paramenter.

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  14. First thing first. This “Hen” word sounds absolutely ridiculous. I thought the standard practice in English is to use the plural, even when referring to a single person, when you want to be gender neutral. That’s what I use.

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  15. Well, my wife wearing certain clothes does make me happy. But I expect her to wear them once in a while, just to make me happy, not all the time ( who has the time to relish your wife’s clothing all the time anyway). However, she often refuses to do so on the pretext that I do not know what she has to go through, in terms of men’s stares and women’s catty comments. I have kind of come to terms with it since after all its her who knows what she goes through and it was me who insisted that we come back to live in the desi land.

    I do want to inquire about people’s opinion on this though. Do you think it is fair for a husband to expect/demand from her wife to dress in a sexier manner, occasionally but in public?

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    • Nope! It’s her call and not yours no matter which way you’re pushing her. But requesting her to wear certain outfits in private while ‘role playing’ is a different ball game.

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      • So some explanation for the use of word sexy. I did not mean role playing sexy. I meant anything which makes you look good, may be by bringing out your natural figure. For example, when I shop, I do not look for a jacket which will make my shoulder look less broad. However, this is one of the first things in her mind, does it enhance her chest? Is her butt too prominent in it? But as I said, I do understand that it is because of total asymmetry in society’s attitude’s towards men and women that she has to think this way. And BTW, she does request me to put on certain clothes which she thinks look good on my body. Of course, I don’t have to have a second thought on any such suggestion.

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        • I understand your point, applaud it even. But the fact still remains that she is at liberty to wear what she feels comfortable in. So even if an outfit does justice to her ‘assets’, she might not be okay with the attention that it begets. May be a discussion is all that is needed, but definitely do not pressurize her!

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      • BTW, personally, this concealing of women’s contours is very repulsive to me as I find it misogynistic. Why should we hate to hide women’s figure if we don’t do it for men?

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    • She seems to have the freedom to refuse. Given that freedom, I don’t think its unfair of you to have suggestions.

      But frankly, I wouldn’t be too happy in the situation myself. I always tell my husband I might end up doing something you want but not just because you want it, but because
      1. I can tolerate it (his choice) even if i don’t love it
      and
      2. I have the freedom to choose otherwise.

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      • Agreed. But I still think it’s good to *tell* eachothers what we like. I would not dream of “instructing” my wife on what to wear, but for sure I tell her when I think she looks gorgeous in something, and of course that may mean that I hope she will wear it more often too.

        Perhaps she even sometimes wears something because she knows I like it, and she wants to make me happy. Even so, it’s always gonna be 100% her choice.

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        • I agree. I dress the way he likes he dresses the way i like. I find pleasure in looking at him. He finds pleasure in looking at me. Sometimes he may not like what i want him to wear and he does not and vice versa.Sometimes we comply to each others wishes even though we may not be 100 % into it. i e we try once before vetoing something. If we are still uncomfortable it is not repeated.

          No forcing of course but coaxing a bit lovingly is ok i guess. is it not? There are so many dresses which i hated but now i am so comfortable in them i wonder why i never wore them before. Similarly I am guilty of changing some of his styles but he seemed to appreciate it once he tried them.

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  16. Ahh. its always the Indian DIL who has the most restrictions. 10 days after the wedding my MIL banned all western clothes for me. And how she fumed when she knew I swim and that I wear a swim suit! what the hell, did she expect me to swim in salwar kameez? Apparently in their family they dress “decently” or some crap like that. But my hubby jumped right in and told her she will not have a say in that area. I went on to wear what I wanted. I still get those angry stares and sarcastic comments from my MIL and they do hurt me but I will not change the way I dress.

    Lot of people had opinions about my clothes but the only restrictive one was my MIL’s.
    My mom and sis always had comments of what suits me, what color is good and what makes me look fat etc. And I returned their favor too. My dad never had comments on what we wore but like any middle class dad lectured us incessantly on spending wisely. Does even today.
    My hubby never comments on what kind of clothes I wear, but he tends to compliment me more when I wear certain kind of clothes like solid colors and western formals.
    I sometimes get irritated that my hubby tends to pick similar stuff all the time.I bug him often to consider colors beyond blue/black/white/grey. But he just doesn’t care and buys the same stuff anyway.

    I guess all of us have opinions and likes dislike about our family members clothes.. and its totally harmless as long as we don’t impose it or the one we suggest to doesn’t feel obliged to take our suggestion.

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  17. The same old story. What a person wears is such a personal choice and I don’t think anyone should have any control on what you want to wear.No, not even the spouse can decide it for you.Opinions are okay, as long as they are not forced.

    Has anyone wondered why this problem is specific to India? Where else in the world can in-laws force the DIL to wear a certain clothing? Where else can in laws object to DIL wearing a jeans? It happens only in India!

    I personally cannot tolerate anyone bullying me to wear something.My folks and relatives certainly tried to enforce a certain dress code, but I never really followed it.And they stopped, knowing that I won’t listen.Thankfully, I never had to fight for it.Got the right to wear what I want, a bit too easily than many girls. I am going not going to give a damn to what the future in laws have to offer about the way I dress.It is only my choice, and final decision on it could never be anyone else’s.

    Another thought, why aren’t the son in laws or even the sons asked to follow a dress code as well.This is really sexist approach and it must never be encouraged. What DIL wears, becomes your top area of interest, and your son might just go roaming around in those out-dated shorts which a beggar might reject. What double standards I must say.

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    • I agree for adults. I think it’s acceptable for parents to instruct their children, who don’t know the social rules, about apropriate clothing.

      “It’s snowing outside, if you want to come with me to the shop, you’ll have to put on something warmer.” Or “We’re going to a nice restaurant, I don’t think they’d even let you in with that dirty old t-shirt, please put on something a bit nicer.”

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  18. I feel that everyone should dress the way they like. Times are changing, but there are always some people who want to keep the ” indian culture ” alive and thus resort to telling women what to wear. It’s all about comfort and wearing something you feel good about. If you wear something you feel happy about, while others have a problem with it, then they can just go to HELL !!! Yes, advice can always be given , but forcing is just not done.

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  19. 1. How much does your happiness and peace of mind depend on the way your family members dress?
    >> Negligible percentage. Dresses on others is almost like a don’t care for me.

    Would you expect your spouse (or hen (her?) family members, like hen*(her?) parents etc.) to change from Indian to Western wear, or from cotton to nylon, or from sports wear to more formal clothing because it is more to your taste?
    >> NO. NEVER. I never expect/dictate dresses.

    How would you react if they have similar expectations from you? Are these expectations generally mutual, if not, why not?
    >> Depending on my mood, it would not be a very pleasant reaction OR there would be no reaction at all. I dress as I feel like; as per climate, comfort, fit and personal taste. Knowing my reaction, most of my family members tend to keep their expectations to themselves🙂

    Why does other people’s clothing make us happy, offended, sad or outraged?
    >> I cannot speak for myself since clothes do not have any significant effect on my mood. I really don’t care about what others are wearing until and unless it can cause a health/safety hazard for them or me. (e.g. wearing nylon during Diwali, long dupattas on cycles or motorcycles which can get caught in the wheel and choke you to death)
    For others, probably because people feel that they are judged by their clothes, and the desperate EMOTIONAL need for APPROVAL and APPRECIATION, for themselves and their near and dear.

    What are the chances that we know what would make them more comfortable, better than they do?
    >> Very little. Unless “them” involves little children, who want to run around in -10 degrees Centigrade in a banyan and shorts!

    Do we have a right to tell family and friends what not to wear?
    >> Again, I presume you mean young adults or fully mature adults. Then, right to politely request maybe ONCE yes; “TELL”, NO!

    If it’s not about their comfort, or if they are sure they know what they want to wear, then why do some of us feel good if some family members change the way they dress, or choose their clothing keeping our feelings in mind?
    >> Again, not applicable for me. Because precisely they choose to KEEP OUR oh-so-delicate FEELINGS in mind!🙂 People have been brainwashed with traditional expectations and cultural dictates so much that they attach great importance and mental well being to the fact that others around them follow such dictates. I call these
    “shallow emotional triggers”. If a strapless blouse on someone else causes you consternation or discomfort, then your threshold is way too low, and you pay too much importance to trivial things. IDLE MIND!!!

    Do we see clothing control as a sign that we are respected and cared for?
    >> I DON’T. Whoever does, then their barometers of personal “respect” and “care” are badly shallow.

    Whose clothing is most likely to be controlled?
    >> Young girls, women, old women too!. Men are more or less exempt from clothing control.

    Is it about hierarchy and control? Which means those who are able to choose what they wear (or don’t wear) are seen as more in control of their lives (and choices)?
    >> Yes, to a certain extent. It is a pathetic way of assertion of power and control. (See! She wears exactly what I say! She Dare not go against me!! Muhuhuhahahaha.. She’s my b**ch!”)
    Those who have nothing to be proud about or have little say in other spheres of life, and suffer from an inflated sense of ego may indulge in this kind of “dress control” to feel good in a sadistic way.

    And also, aren’t those who can dictate how other family members dress seen as powerful… For example ladke-wale?
    >> Please see response above. Replace “she” by “ladki-waale”

    Isn’t this why married women who are able to wear Western clothes (generally disapproved by Indian in-laws), are seen as more in control of their lives? Hence more modern, more Westernised, more a threat to Indian culture, and more likely to provoke sexual assaults?
    >> I encourage my wife to wear whatever SHE likes, be it shorts/tank-tops, be it mini-dresses, or be it long chiffon sarees. The choice is HERS COMPLETELY. I occasionally add (only) positive superlatives if I feel she really looks great in that.
    It’s really sad that married women are not able to wear the clothes of THEIR choice (western/Indian too). A self-aware, self-reliant, independent woman is a serious threat to patriarchal society. Hence, the need to snuff out that independence and self-reliance in any possible way, even if it is rape. Truly pathetic state of affairs.

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  20. When I got married, I got the usual advice weirdly enough from people my age (and my friends too! )to dress Indian and conservative. Like with other things, I listened politely. And proceeded to wear what I felt like. Of course there was little bits of drama about wearing a bindi or dressing Indian, but I kept smiling- and did just as I pleased, pretending not to understand nor hear. The one time I “obeyed” and wore a salwar kurta,I felt so humiliated. It was not the clothes, just the fact that a person who did not like me (and whom I certainly have no love for) was trying to control my apparel and I was fool enough to comply. Here I was in my late twenties, working on a PhD being “told” what to wear like I was 7. In retrospect I should have followed my listen but do as you please – the whole evening would not have been a complete disaster! Yes, it was just one evening, but the cumulative effects of the hostility and weird judgmental attitude wore me out. and I figured that if folk like controlling clothing, they don’t care about the person underneath, but about what they think the person should be. No one is “good enough” for that kind of people.

    But of course this extends both ways.Men get less of it, but they do too. How many times have heard from women I know, how they pick out their significant other’s clothes. Isn’t he a big boy, I want to ask- really pick out his socks and shirts, and these are people with degrees and jobs. I give my opinion on clothing if it is asked for – regardless of how close we are- unless it is something nice ” that looks good ” etc. I find the exercise of giving clothing advice or picking out clothing for an adult very infantalizing apart form the control issues. It does not spell “care” in my book either. Also , I think it has a way of stressing out the picker/ arbiter of clothes and increases work for them. So this is something I do not do in my relationship, this and the ensuring he has breakfast before he goes to work- if I am fixing it for myself, I bother, otherwise, I trust him to be adult enough to take care of himself. Maybe I lack some sort of love the other person so treat them like a kid gene. But I am happy for that!

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  21. No one can impose their opinion on anybody and certainly not regarding what you wear. Wearing what appeals to your heart is important. It really bugs me that a woman is often judged by her attire. My husband does not have any problems in me sporting a capri or a snug sleeveless top. I knew from the beginning that he loved dressing elegantly and looking dignified- so jazzy colors and loud styling are a big NO. Thankfully I am not a fan of them either. Yes, my sense of dressing after marriage has gone through some minimal change and so is the case with my better-half. There are suggestions from him but there is never forcing of ideas. It\’s my heart that runs the roost.

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  22. I’ve always wondered why anyone should be telling another person what they should be wearing. It’s a personal choice. It’s always the husband and his people who are doing this. The truth is they use any stick they come across to beat the new entrant and show her who is boss. It’s basically about keeping the other person in control. And what better way than telling them how to dress. The ubiquitous ‘bindi’ is the cause of war in many so called ‘modern homes’. The bride wants to do away with the ‘bindi’ but in laws, extended in laws and colleagues of in laws…everyone has the right to tell the ‘bahu’ that ‘bindi’ and ‘sindoor’ is a must. Where is the husband when all this is happening? Does he have no spine to tell them to back off and stop their bullying? Similarly the man should not allow his wife to bully his folks too. Same rules should apply to both

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    • Where is the husband when all this is happening?

      That God forsaken now ex had the gall to pout throw tantrum and break things when DG forgot to wear Bindi. So glad that blight is out of scene at least can be a human again or else DG looked like a jangles the clown in a baggy T, rather his T choti, bindi and mang sindhoor. Oh hated those day growing fat and clownish. She almost started looking like is mother and sister, mayawati + choti.
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

      Like

  23. The big lecture I got after marriage was not from my MIL, FIL or husband but from my SIL who was in her late 20s then. She told me that to be a proper bahu, and for the prosperity of the house I need to have 5 things on my body… Mangalsutra, Kumkum, toe ring, bangles and flowers in my hair. I only smiled and continued to be the way I was before marriage.
    I am not against any of what she mentioned, I am only against doing something because others expect you to.

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  24. Yes, it is an indicator that those who can choose the clothes they wear and make other choices for themselves are more in control over their lives. It is also an indicator of the husband and his family and their attitude towards women.

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  25. Reading all the comments has been extremely interesting. i usually read through and rarely comment, but this one makes me want to. I wore what I liked as a child. the only rule was that when we went to a temple, i would avoid wearing very short skirts or jeans…. except when we went on the scooter, when jeans or trousers were ok. while travelling, i practically lived in jeans.. and only my grandfather used to scowl.. the rest of my family bought me more jeans and tops😀 even when i put on a lot of weight, due to lots of reasons, i used to wear whatever i was comfortable with… and no one ever dictated to me what to wear. post marriage, hubby likes to dress well… while i am the one most comfortable in a simple salwar kameez or again, a pair of jeans… but thankfully, neither he nor my in laws have ever ‘forbidden’ me from wearing western clothes… and probably if they had done so, i would have worn them all the time! so, as it turns out, i wear anything i like…. my figure is not suited to short dresses any more, but i love wearing skirts, when i am travelling i am almost entirely wear jeans…. usually at home i am in simple salwar kameez that i find most comfortable… weddings see me taking out my sarees.. yes, even the heavy ones, just so that they will get some air…and i even wear the nine yards saree for some festivals at home… and all this simply because i have the choice of wearing what i want….anything else would simply bring out the rebel in me…

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  26. Growing up I too endured the restrictions on how to dress and behave and hated it. My husband has never placed any restrictions on how I dress, but my in-laws are a whole another story. I tried pleasing them for half a decade, then realized that I was the biggest idiot on the planet for trying to be polite and nice and respect the elderly. Now I give a shit and they know that by being controlling and manipulative resulted in me pushing them away rather than becoming submissive.

    On another note, my husband used to dress horribly when we were married. His mom used to shop for all his clothes. This was a man who had two college degrees from two premier institutions in the country and had lived in 4 countries. He did not shop for himself partly out of laziness, partly because he did not care what he wore and partly to not displease his mom. Because adult children shopping for clothes is considered a sign of independence. My MIL used to throw snide remarks around for the first few times when I shopped for my husband and he got compliments from people. It was I who introduced the concept of “cut” and “fit”and “color” and “co-ordination” to my husband.

    Its been almost a decade now and he’s much better at it, but there are times when he still asks me if the outfit he’s wearing is appropriate for the occasion. So yes I do tell my husband how to wear things,but not what to wear cause I want his inside to match the outside.

    As for my kids the rules are
    No sunscreen, no shorts.
    Grab a coat when its cold.
    No ripped and stained clothing allowed outside.
    No crazy wording on clothes. I hate the pants that have the words ” juicy” written across the bottoms of girls’ pants.

    So I guess guiding someone towards being appropriately dressed is one thing, and controlling how another person dresses is totally another thing.

    Like

    • Next time you are with him and anyone stares you do like this teen did to his father, desi 50, pot bellied, in polo shirt and baseball hat “he is not with me.”

      Yet to see this man next time if he makes any changes or still thinks he looks cool.
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

      Like

  27. Hmm… How about control in another form? Controlling what you do with your hair? I remember in my graduation days, one of my classmates always, always left her hair open. I didn’t bother much about it – her hair, her wish. But, one of my friends told me that she left her hair open because her boyfriend wanted her to leave it open. That really amused me.

    My fiance wants me to grow my hair. He is very, very clever. He says “Of course, it’s your decision. I like you anyway… but, I think you would look even more beautiful with long hair, not that you are not beautiful now”.

    🙂 Me, being the rebel I am, have instantly decided to chop my hair off. Just waiting for the wedding to get over with..

    I grilled him for almost an hour on what he would do if I got a boy cut. It took the one hour because he kept avoiding answering the question. He first asked me “What is a boy cut?” He kept telling me “you know the answer” or something else, anything but answering my question. I persisted and persisted and finally he admitted “Yes, it is your wish what you do with your hair”.

    Woohoo!! Victory!!🙂 I hate people telling me what I can or cannot do…

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  28. A few years ago my cousin sister and I were visiting our maternal grandmother and staying over for the weekend. We were around 15 at the time. My aunt was living with my grandmother – aunt is the DIL, she was about 25 at the time. We were going through her clothes, being the bratty teenagers and we saw a beautiful salwar kameez and said wow, this is gorgeous..we’ve never seen you wear it. My aunt replied, I used to wear that before marriage but now I cant because I am married. My cousin and I had a total WTF moment. We egged her into telling us why she couldnt wear it, and in the end she said that my grandma disapproves.

    So, we asked grandma about it and she said “shes a mother now. you have to dress appropriately, and not bare your arms, or wear jeans, when youre a mother”.

    I told my grandma that her own daughter (my mom) is a mother of 2 kids, is in her 40s and wears sleeveless tops and shorts whenever she pleases. Grandma said..”well that is her husband’s and IL’s problem, not mine”. So, I told my mom about it.

    The next day mom comes over, gifts a sleeveless top to my aunt, and has a long conversation with my grandma. Aunt can now wear whatever she pleases🙂

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  29. My wife and now even my daughter do try to ‘improve’ my way of dressing and hair style but I usually resist -:) I do not bother about what they wear.
    It is true that Women’s dressing is much more controlled by our Patriarchal society so that to make sure theiy know their place.

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  30. Interesting topic. I don’t think anyone should have the right to tell anyone else what to wear (or not wear). For me, clothing is about comfort – you wear what you feel most comfortable in. And as such, how can someone else ever judge what you would be comfortable in?

    However, I will admit that I am guilty of often commenting on the clothes my mom or dad wear, simply because I don’t like the style; nothing to do with whether its Indian or Western or ‘revealing’ or not. Of course, they rarely care, and will wear what they want, regardless of what I feel. Which I guess in a way empowers me to do the same, though they’ve never had a problem with anything I choose in terms of clothing.

    In fact, when I was younger, my mom was the one who used to encourage me to buy skirts that were shorter than I was used to, or sleeveless tees, etc. I rarely ever did, because I was not comfortable wearing them, but it was finally always MY choice.

    It hasn’t been the same with other females in my family though. My grandmother, for instance, was not allowed to wear anything but sarees, and so when she first visited us in North America (with -35 degree winters), it was impossible to to g out wearing a saree, and my mom and I encouraged her to wear salwar suits. It took a lot of persuasion, but we managed to get her to agree. Of course, it wasn’t about controlling her, but just that it was much more practical and warmer.

    On the other hand, a friend of mine, who comes from a very conservative family, was forced to wear full sleeve shirts and loose jeans, even in 40 degree summers – a form of control by her father and brothers that left me flabbergasted. She wasn’t even allowed to wear open-toed shoes or sandals, because they exposed the skin on her feet. What surprised us most was that she didn’t think anything was wrong with this. Over the years, through our discussions, we managed to get her to question these rules, and she ended up raising her voice against her family. Now, she’s finally able to wear weather-appropriate clothing and shoes, and seems so much more comfortable going out.

    It just saddens me that there are people out there, people who are supposed to love you and allow you to grow and express yourself who impose their own screwed up sense of morality and decency on you. Its completely about controlling the recipient, and in my mind, completely unacceptable.

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  31. Mine and my husbands tastes in clothes are widely different. While I go for the colorful chaos, he tends towards the classic. Of course we sometimes want the other person to wear what we think is nice and it does provide some amusement and ego stroking for a day. But happiness? That’s too big a deal to depend on clothes.

    Also, say my husband obliges me for a day and wears what I want him to. The key word is oblige. It is his prerogative, and vice versa.

    The constant berating and controlling of ones clothes that passes off as Indian culture definitely does not bring happiness to anyone. It is more a sense of power.

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    • That is interesting DG never asked the God forsaken now ex to oblige her any special adornments, she thought he was grown up to dress occasion appropriate. Yes she did ask him to get a white kurta pajama but he killed it with poor selection of fabric and stitching and that was the end of it.
      wish she had said your grwoing fat is not working for her…
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

      Like

  32. Whilst we dont have a problem with western clothes at our house… infact my wife got my mom to finally wear a punjabi …. she was stuck to sarees… however I must confess that certain dresses do evoke arguments…

    but isnt that a matter of point of view of individuals… like I hate if she wears the recent rage tights to all sorts of places… I would always tell her that is a gym ka dress… you cant wear it to a party types… and she has a problem with the fact that I wear t-shirts to work and that it dont look formal at all types…

    so I guess its unending really !

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  33. This is a topic of debate and I feel that no one can force you to wear what you want and what you don’t want to wear.

    I had a terrible dressing sense before I got married but it changed and I think I am a better dresser now as I travel a lot, meet people from different social groups etc. The husband has never stopped me from wearing what i want. The only thing he says is if you are not comfortable don’t wear it because it gives an impression that you are not confident. For example : When I moved abroad the first time, I imitated other peoples dressing sense and I would wear short clothes which I couldn’t carry and I would continuously push my skirt down. That’s the only time he told me that I should only wear what I am comfortable in, which was fine by me because what he was saying made sense. Today I can carry a saree and a skirt off because I feel comfortable in my skin.

    However the in laws do not like me wearing western clothes. When I had just got married I had got a lecture from my father in law telling me that I should not wear short kurtas over jeans as it shows off the midriff. I also get a lot of grief for not wearing the Toe rings. bindi and mangalsutra. My mother in law who wears a Nighty/Gown all the time had complained to my aunt when she had come to take me to my mayka the first time after my wedding,,,that I wore nighty in the house and it is not good for a newly wedded woman to wear. Thankfully we don’t live with them, so when they are around as a sign of respect I wear Indian clothes otherwise I wear what I like.

    A relative who just got married and made his wife leave all the clothes her parents brought for her during the wedding at her mayka as he was not happy with their choice. Can you imagibe the second day of the wedding he makes her open her suitcases and goes through all her clothes one by one. She had to leave 2 suitcases of clothes which she and her parents had lovingly chosen because he did not approve and thought she had a very bad or rural dressing sense. The girl still cribs about it but does everything to be an obedient wife. And he boasts about the fact how obedient she is.

    I know a friend whose mother still buys his underwear. He is a 34 year old married man with a child. I find that another example of controlling behavior. I had a discussion with him and told him how it is not healthy and he got offended because I was being disrespectful to his mother and he did not want to hurt his mothers feelings by telling her not to buy his underwear. Shouldn’t mothers stop buying their children’s undergarments after a certain age ?

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    • Forget disrespectful, wasn’t he ashamed that the fact came outside the confines of his people? Haha mom buying underwear for a grown up son. How damn funny. I bet he didn’t have many friends, or he would’ve lost them coz they found this out about him.

      Like

      • @wanderer the circle this guy has grown up in it is ok for this to happen. He is a typical Indian mummy’s boy. He very proudly mentions that his friends are jealous of him because his wife presses his mothers feet every night.

        A few days ago he mentioned how he and his wife were having sexual issues so a few friends suggested that the couple leave the child with the mother for a few days and have a holiday. The reply he gave us was that his mother will not allow them to go.

        Upon further digging I found out that his wife doesn’t have sex because of the fear that the child who sleeps with them would wake up. I think I almost fainted after I heard that.

        This is a educated man who is a millionaire and has a huge house qnd and claims to be very modern but he still cannot make up his own decisions without asking his mom.

        I am all for respecting ur elders but how about standing up for ur wife and doing something for the woman u married.

        Like

    • @Bella,
      That God forsaken now ex’s mother had the guts to not only snatch his worn underpants from DG’s hand while she was sorting dirty laundry and say “idhar de mere bete ka hai.” Just imagine how sick that woman is in her head…
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

      Like

      • @Girlsguidetosurvival – Desi Girl I think at some point parents need to just stop buying undergarments of their kids especially the sons when they are mad. Good to know that she is now ur ex mom in law🙂

        Like

  34. Telling another adult what to wear, as a form of control, is wrong. But we should keep in mind that there are dresscodes to be followed. How appropriate are noodlestraps in a highschool class?
    My mother had this rule of no-makeup for us when we were young. Partly because students should not worry about being fashionable and partly because makeup is not good for young skin. I don’t think we ever resented it.
    My 4-year old daughter, however, has already started asking for lipstick and nail polish.😦 I have explained to her that it is not appropriate for her now, she can wear them when she is older. Now I have stopped even my occasional use of makeup!
    About dresses, while growing up I would strictly be in salwars. After getting married, I started wearing jeans and capris. And after becoming a Mom, skirts.

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  35. Earlier my parents dictated what I wore and how I looked and came across in general. Then I grew brains. Now I wear what I like. Neither my husband or ILs bother telling me otherwise. Infact my MIL wanted to buy shorts for me, whereas I dont wear them on a daily basis.
    On the other hand my parents stil want me to wear mangalsutra and toe rings and bindi when I visit them. They never have and never will understand the meaning of one’s own will/wish. They think it is our culture to force the indian clothing culture down daughter’s throat. I’m glad they don’t have a son or the DIL would’ve gone mad.
    Yes, controlling what one wears or how they dress up in general is definitely asserting authority. But mere suggestions might happen between understanding people.

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  36. @wanderer the circle this guy has grown up in it is ok for this to happen. He is a typical Indian mummy’s boy. He very proudly mentions that his friends are jealous of him because his wife presses his mothers feet every night.

    A few days ago he mentioned how he and his wife were having sexual issues so a few friends suggested that the couple leave the child with the mother for a few days and have a holiday. The reply he gave us was that his mother will not allow them to go.

    Upon further digging I found out that his wife doesn’t have sex because of the fear that the child who sleeps with them would wake up. I think I almost fainted after I heard that.

    This is a educated man who is a millionaire and has a huge house qnd and claims to be very modern but he still cannot make up his own decisions without asking his mom.

    I am all for respecting ur elders but how about standing up for ur wife and doing something for the woman u married.

    Like

  37. Pingback: You’re going to be with your in-laws for only a few days in a year so why can’t you live the way they want and keep every one happy? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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