When moms dress sexy and other urban stories…

Should moms be expected to dress like, well, moms? Meaning, they shouldn’t look like attractive women, avoid “sexy” clothing, and only wear shapeless outfits and er, those dreaded “mom” jeans. On the other hand, if a mom is comfortable with herself and, her body, shouldn’t she wear exactly what she wants? Even if it is to pick up her child from school.

Actually, the answer is not so simple. Because sometimes, a mom in sexy, figure-hugging clothing, is considered “inappropriately-dressed” and her parenting skills, called into question. Because sometimes a mom in a sphagetti top and shorts can be considered a “bad” mom. By people who know nothing about her. And quite often, by people who do know her (family members, for instance). There’s a different yardstick for dads so I’m not going there at all.

In fact, sometimes such judgemental or prejudicial thinking is often of a collective sort, with nothing said and everything implied. It can be downright traumatic–I know single moms who never wear make-up and always sport dowdy clothing, for fear society will judge them harshly for wearing lipstick or a pretty dress; for fear they will be considered “easy” or worse, for fear they will be propositioned. 

The same thinking often applies to single women though single men are exempt. Single women of a certain age are increasingly judged (by other residents in their apartment complex, by society at large, by family members) on how they dress and how they behave. And let’s not even talk about women who drink.

The happy news is that I know many super successful women who dress exactly as they like and don’t give a damn about what others think. I applaud them for their spunk.

To my mind, women should dress exactly as they like, especially moms. Suppose you are a mom and you have a son. And he sees you wearing clothes that make you look and feel good. Then, growing up, he will find it perfectly natural to see young women in sexy clothes. Instead of catcalling them, or groping them (or worse), he will respect their right to wear what they want. And that can only be a good thing, don’t you think?

We are like this only

Of course, judging women on the basis of their appearance is a global phenomenon, but nowhere is it more instinctive or as pervasive, than in Indian society. And it happens whereever Indians live.

A good friend of mine, a Malayalee in her early 30s, migrated to Canada from Bengaluru a year and a half ago. She left India nursing a broken heart. Her boyfriend’s mom had rejected her saying she was too dark-complexioned to be acceptable (to the boy’s family). The boyfriend toed his mother’s line. And my friend left Bengaluru deeply unhappy.
Fast forward to the present and this young woman now has a stellar career in Canada–she has just purchased a home of her own, travels regularly to the US on work and drives an SUV. She is dating again (white men who find her skin colour very attractive!) and quite happy to live life on her own terms. Ironically enough, within her community back home in Kerala, she is now  top marriage material. Apparently, a Canadian visa, a home and an SUV, makes up for her dark skin.

Notwithstanding all this change in her life, my friend says the most liberating thing about living in Canada is the freedom to wear what she wants. “Earlier I would feel awkward in a short dress, or if I wore a swimming costume at the beach. I soon realised that here, no one leers or looks at you accusingly if you dress the way you want. It is an amazing feeling,” she laughs.

She also prefers not to mix too much with other Indians in Canada. Not that she is being racist. “Indians who come here are so closed in their thinking, they mix only among themselves, they socialise within their circle and they hardly interact with native Canadians (apart from work purposes). I find that attitude very limiting,” she explains.

The Indian mentality or rather, judgemental thinking, holds true when it comes to clothing, she has found. “If I go to the regular Church, I can dress up to the nines–I wear my smartest and sexiest clothes. But if I go to the Indian-run Church, I have to wear a salwar-kameez. It is expected of me,” she says wryly.

No prizes for guessing which Church she prefers.


  1. Mangala says:

    It seems to be the zeitgeist nowadays to generate hoopla about how women should have the freedom to dress how they want. What is overlooked is the fact that we do not live in a vacuum. We live in an interconnected environment where what we do, say, think, and dress makes a substantial impact on the people around us. It behooves us to think about that impact, whether it is for good or ill, before we proceed to dress or behave as suits our whims and fancies.
    Do read this article written by a woman from a catholic culture in America where she zeroes in on the heart of the matter that dressing modestly is an act of love, and an act of sensitivity: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jennifer-fulwiler/modesty-is-an-opportunity-to-love
    Modesty is an act of love not only for the other, but also for the self, since one is preserving one’s dignity, and not objectifying oneself in a misguided effort to assert one’s freedom.

  2. Divya Sreedharan says:

    Thank you for your feedback, Mangala. Here, I’m referring to how we judge a person based on their attire. And that has nothing to do with modest dressing or modern dressing, even. Rather, it has, everything to do with our mindsets and the (religious/cultural/social/familial) conditioning we grow up with/and continue to live with.

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