“Make up should be sober and unobtrusive. Translucent dresses are forbidden…”

I am always amazed – Where do ‘the authorities’ get so much confidence? What makes them so sure that they always know better than the students? (specially in matters that are not related to their fields of expertise)

Mumbai law college imposes draconian dress code on students 


Make up should be sober and unobtrusive. Translucent dresses are forbidden…


Lady students should wear tops with sleeves which should be minimum 4 inches and the top should be at least 7 inches below the waist.

(Ladies may please insure (sic) that the shoes/sandals cover the foot completely). Please note that flipons (sic)/slippers/floaters are strictly prohibited.”

And the aim? 

Asked about the new dress code, Singhal immediately said that the rules were all on paper. “The rules were introduced to bring about discipline in the college. This is a professional course and all colleges have dress codes for their students as to bring about uniformity in the college,” he said. [link]

This raises some questions.

1. What does the college aim to achieve by creating ‘rules on paper’? To use them when convenient perhaps?

2. The 4 inches, 7 inches and translucent dresses –  How is all this related to the reason given – “discipline”? How do sleeveless tops affect discipline?

Do we sense concerns like these here: Girls in AMU library will ‘attract’ boys: VC ?

What happens when the students step out of the college? Does the college suggest imposing of 4″ sleeves on any woman who steps out into the street?

3. Educational institutions are service providers – do they believe that they have the right to control the personal lives of the consumers they provide services to?

4. If the idea is to prepare the students for the real world – then why don’t our institutions teach young adults (and little children) about deciding/thinking/choosing for themselves? About their right to their bodies,minds, dreams and futures? And about freedom and human rights and gender equality?

How does this kind of infantilising influence the confidence of those it controls?

Who do you think is the best judge, when it comes to taking personal decisions, for each one of us?

I read and loved these lines, shared by Women’s Web on facebook.

 The Voice.

There is a voice inside of you

That whispers all day long,

“I feel that this is right for me,

I know that this is wrong.”

No teacher, preacher, parent, friend

Or wise man can decide What’s right for you – just listen to

The voice that speaks inside.

Maybe such colleges have the parents’ support when they make such rules. They are aware that many Indian parents are made uncomfortable by any attempts by the youth (or anybody else we can control) to think for themselves.

Many of us don’t agree with the idea of letting ‘children’ (of all ages) think for themselves.


39 thoughts on ““Make up should be sober and unobtrusive. Translucent dresses are forbidden…”

  1. They went overboard with the length of sleeves and no skirts, etc! There is indeed a patriarchal undertone to the whole notice, which could have been avoided. Having said that, skirts can be professional. So can be sandals that don’t cover your feet completely.

    Instead of going with this charade, they could have mentioned that students shall be dressed formally. It automatically rules out floaters and slippers, denims and shorts, etc. both for males and females. I like the idea of formal clothing for college.


    • You are talking about a college here. Well go to Infosys – the third biggest IT services provider in the world. Infosys has a dress policy for women where women cannot wear without sleeves suits or tops. Your arms should be covered.


      • Ex/Current employee?
        left that place sometime back, women wear just about whatever they liked, jeans, sleeveless, cut out tops, lace tops, on formal wear days! 😛 Its usually the poor blokes who have to suffer in shirts and ties, though it seems the top buttons are optional 😛 May be people like these do need a guide to formal wear.

        Having said that, I can’t put up with ‘institutions’ that dictate how I dress, not that I am tempted to run around in tinsy-wincys, but I don’t have a problem with those who do want to do it, sure I may not like it or find it tasteful, but then I can always look else where. Some how, the dress code thing makes me feel like back to school and not in any good way. If I am an adult, I can choose what to wear and if you are an adult and you don’t like it, close your eyes or look else where.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Fem, I’ve seen women in the US wear translucent tops and sport a bright colored bra inside on purpose. It’s no one’s business but their own. Of course this is not something you see in India. But in India, some light cotton fabrics can be a little see-through. Most women don’t realize it or are unaware of it when they wear such fabric.


      • This is not an American college, though. My point is that they are really talking shit in the first place. I have never seen anyone dress in a translucent dress in India. The oppression behind these rules is definitely there, but they are also talking nonsense.

        Such restrictions are all too common. It only probably even made to the media because it was a Mumbai college. All those horrible engineering colleges in Chennai pretty much make women second class citizens.


      • And on that note, lots of saree blouses are of really thin material – you can see the outline of the inner wear pretty clearly. Are those out of bounds too, or are such saree blouses “traditional”?


    • Even if they did, the people around would either praise the fashion sense or term it as fashion faux pax and look in different direction. Why bother what somebody is wearing ? Better be engrossed in ownself..


  2. Why don’t they stick to a uniform that covers girls from head to toe, Duh!

    This is seriously mad. Instead of enlightening the students about gender equality; instead of making them stand up for themselves, they are doing the exact opposite.

    Indian parents (or elders) don’t allow to their kids to think or act for themselves, yet they want their children to be brilliant and stand out of the crowd.

    I have heard in many cases where raped victims are blamed. People say that it provokes a man to assault a girl if she wears “provoking clothes”. So why take risk? Completely abandon jeans, skirts and shorts, stick to salwars instead! Totally sad..!


  3. ‘Issued on October 10 – in a move it said was in furtherance of the college’s ‘penchant for disciplinarian education’ – the circular states that all students have to wear white shirts and black trousers, with boys wearing different coloured ties based on the year they are in.” ………
    “When Singhal was told that no other college has such strict dress codes in place, he repeated that the rules were only on paper as of now. “For the past few years, there has been no discipline in this college and I’m only doing what is legally right as the principal of this college.
    Otherwise, these students wear t-shirts and jeans to a law college and look like taporis.”

    Well, OK.
    I get the ‘idea’ that the ‘university powers that be’ are trying to teach the students how to dress in a ‘professional manner’ to prepare them for their future in the workplace.
    But I’m not sure what the sleeve & top length requirement has to do with looking like a ‘tapori’?
    So I guess if the female students wish to wear white shirts & black trousers their shirts must be 7″ below the waist?
    It just seems a bit arbitrary?
    We had a fairly basic ‘dress code’ when I went to medical school in California (way back in the 80’s) –
    Official rules included-
    ‘Closed toe shoes’ were required of male & female students for safety reasons.
    ‘Free flowing” hairstyles on males & females had to be ‘restrained’ for sanitary reasons (as in tied in a ponytail or up in a bun).
    Unofficial rules-
    “Dangling” earrings & ‘excessive’ makeup’ were frowned upon as being ‘unprofessional’.


    • My first workplace had elaborated dress code in similar way with details like sleeve length,…. Otherwise people misinterpreted ! It was so funny during induction and dress code policy was on website too ! They talked about sarees -drape and blouse style too !
      They talked about hygiene and how tos with elaborate e.g !


    • I forgot the gem: the HR openly said ‘if you have put on weight its either time for new clothes or alter your clothes ! Don’t wear tight clothes to office where you have to literally stuff yourself in and end up looking bursting at seams !
      I routinely saw ‘people bursting at seams’ clothes !


  4. black pants and white shirts tucked in , with belt , black shoes and socks for all .should solve mr. Singhals issues 🙂 both boys and girls.
    bring on the uniform , now that he can do without idiotic dress rules.


  5. By imposing the 4t o 7 inches rule the authorities are practically distributing the passport to harass girls. Now a girl could be harassed if she wears 3.5 inches sleeve and the fault will once again come down upon the girl for not wearing 0.5 more inches. Isn’t that ridiculous?
    This forces me to think again where on earth we are living!!!


  6. To promote “discipline”, the college can ensure the following (instead of fixating on women’s wardrobes) –
    – classes always start on time and exams stay on schedule (something that doesn’t always happen in Indian colleges)
    – every instructor is required to complete the entire syllabus by showing up to class on a consistent basis (again this is questionable)
    – no ragging or ‘eve teasing’ and appropriate consequences for such behavior
    – no rioting or destruction of property during student protests
    – set high standards for learning and quality of students’ work

    Liked by 3 people

    • Brilliant. I would also like to add this:

      – a cell (made up of a rotating body of students+management) to investigate sexual harrasment by instructors ( shockingly common in India)

      – Strict policing of instructors to prevent racist/sexist/casteist/classist comments during classes.

      – regular evaluation of instructors by students to determine quality of teaching.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I graduated from a very well known college in Bangalore. This college used to be boys only but about a decade or so before I sought admission in this college, the college became co-ed. The dress code was fairly strict but as always the code was more for the girls than the boys. Also, a female lecturer openly declared- “the standards of the college have gone down since girls were allowed admission because now the boys are busy staring at the girls”.

    I really like the suggestion that one of the commenters here had- advocate business style clothes for both men and women.


  8. Before imposing such rules, Mr.Sehgal first you walk in the college without shirt n see how many girls harrass you. The problem is with the mindsets not with the clothes.


    • Control girls because they are afraid of taking risk by punishing boys. People like Sehgal assume women as a weaker sex n they will not voice up (like boys had done if they were controlled like this (usually beat the principals or strike). I am not advocating such acts but yes these college authorities are afraid of such things. And some parents are so attracted by these rules that they admit their daughters in such colleges cz they believe they hv safer environment.

      The univrersity where i studied it has a rule for girls to be in hostel by 6 pm but no rule for boys. They can wander as much as they like. So if a girl can be raped or harrassed, thats why they shd b locked by 6. Cant these boys harrass n rape a girl? Then why shdn’t these boys be locked up too?

      But the difference is that if they trying locking the boy, they gona break the professers faces. But girls they dont voice up so lets use our powers.

      “Its not the clothes that make difference, its the mindset.” Stop controlling girls, Start teaching boys.


  9. And one more thing, if length of sleeves causes harrassment cases, then there should not be any harrassment n rape case in winters. . But still things like 16 december (Delhi) happens.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We have a dress code at work and recently have had a number of freshers join the company. It’s IT by the way. So the freshers’ dressing sense is quite different from the older women and raised quite a few eyebrows, male and female. Just because people are not used to seeing such clothes here. So the dress code is being quoted left and right so as to ensure employees adhere to it. A couple of days earlier, I was wearing a kurti, three fourth length sleeve, butt-covering length with jeans. The unfortunate kurti’s neckline had a couple of buttons and one of the buttons came undone during a meeting that i participated in. This was entirely unintentional and I was not even aware of it. The buttons were not revealing anything – my mangal sutra chain was filling the gap the button should have closed and i was also wearing my company tag. There really was no cleavage exposed but after the meeting ended, my manager (male) requested me to stay back and told me that he wanted to tell me that I should watch my dress code. He said my top was not in line with company prescribed code and that it made him very uncomfortable during the meeting. He also added that I should not be offended because he thinks of me as a friend and only wants to tell me ‘as a friend’. My immediate reaction was one of shock and i did not know how to respond. I merely nodded and said thanks in a numb sort of manner, walked right out of the meeting into the restroom to check my top. I found the undone button, pinned it and then added another safety pin on top. But the whole episode has given me a bitter taste in my mouth and I feel really yucky. I also sort of feel this is another kind of harassment. My clothing was well within the dress code. The fact that I had a loose button on a single day that I was unaware of does not make me a violater of the code, does it? Thinking of it still makes me feel so awful. I feel uncomfortable when men with bellies wear jeans with their stomachs hanging all over them.. but does anyone talk to these men and ask them to wear loose t shirts? Why is it only women who have to watch it? I would like to understand what people here think of the whole sordid episode.


  11. I agree with you about women’s rights and freedom of choice. Imposing a dress code does not violate those values. The restrictions are hardly draconian. I hope they are mutually imposed upon men too – no short shorts, no tight t-shirts, no collars or sleeves which fail to serve their function.

    Work and school are professional domains. These are not places where one needs freedom of dress. One needs sensible, functional dress that doesn’t catch attention. It is wrong, IHM, to link this to feminism. I remember wearing a flashy tie once (I’m male), and I was told off for it because it distracted the client. That’s totally OK. It’s part of managing the client relationships.


    • “Lady students should wear tops with sleeves which should be minimum 4 inches and the top should be at least 7 inches below the waist. ”

      Notice that there is no length prescribed for men’s shirts.

      Definitely a feminist issue,

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Going to the terrace | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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