August 7, 2014

Dress Me Modest One Day




{wearing Alex & Ani bracelets, Snoozer Loser & Marc by Marc Jacobs necklace, Forever 21 dress, Ray Bans}

I'm planning to go to India later this year. After doing some research on attire to wear in India I have realized that the majority of my closet is too scandalous. It reminded me of the arguments I had with my parents when I was in middle school when they would not let me wear tank tops. Sure, like most teenage girls in the 90's I wanted to dress like I'm from 90210, but my parents also didn't understand that while other females glow like a lady, I sweat like a mofo and sleeves just add to the stickiness and the size of the pit stains.

"Seriously. You need to go shopping if you were to go to India." My East Indian friend AJ said. He has been around me long enough to know what type of clothes I wear. "You have to cover your shoulders and your legs. And loose pants and sleeve tops- don't show off your figure at all." AJ then continued to emphasize the importance of covering everything so I would reduce my chances of being stared at and groped, or worse, raped, even if I was traveling with others.

Within 5 minutes of our conversation, AJ eliminated my entire shorts and skirts collection and the majority of my tops and bottoms. For the next few weeks I tried shopping for "Muslim/Hindu approved" clothing but it just wasn't working out. I have concluded that traveling in 25C to 30C with sleeves and pants will not work for me. And as shallow as it sounds, being groped, having upset stomach amongst other potential issues that I would possibly encounter, my biggest concern is that I don't want a t-shirt tan or giant pit stains in my photos.

"Seriously, they are going to stare at me anyway because I look like a foreigner, and according to various articles I've read they will try to grope me anyway because I am a woman."
"Well, it will reduce your chances."
"If I am going to get stared and groped anyway I'm at least going to wear what I want." That was my final answer.

"Fine Julie. If you get raped don't come crying to me."

Still, I tried. For the last few weeks I have been wearing "conservative wear" to work and asking for my Egyptian college's approval. I figured who better to ask than someone who has lived in a Muslim dominated country. I'd wear stuff I'd consider appropriate to visit a boyfriend's grandparents' house. Every time I thought I'd get a gold star, Mira dampened my enthusiasm and said things such as "The skirt is too short. Your kneecap is showing." or "Those pants are too tight". I have concluded that in a parallel universe with a Muslim me, I would probably have already died of either heat exhaustion or being stoned to death for dressing too scandalous.

Then, out of nowhere, I decided to drop by Forever 21 for the first time in months and I came across this dress. Sure, the slits on the side might be a bit high and the back is... backless. But it could be fixed with a scarf.

"That's modest? Your whole back is showing!!" Mira said.
"Well, stick a fork in me and call me a hoe cuz I'm done." I replied.
"..."
"This is as modest as Julie will ever be! I don't care anymore!"

Perhaps I'll get some disapproved stares, but I decided that I'd rather have my kids look at my Taj Mahal pictures and say "Wow mom! You looked pretty back then!" than "Wow mom! Look at the size of your pit stains!"


In times like this, I am grateful to be born and living somewhere where women has the rights to choose what they wear and what they want to be. As much as we complain about the lack of female equality still in our society, we actually have it good compare to others.

It's astonishing the amount of time some culture and religion devote to how women, or people in general, ought to live. They can't imagine any system outside their own, and seem obsessed with silly little things such as showing off your arm and leg is not modest, eating certain meat is a sin, drinking coffee is forbidden (for Mormons), and consuming alcohol is bad (or not, depending on your religion), rather than God's teachings on how you ought to treat others and your own spiritual growth. I guess these religious groups think that everything is that cut and dried, though of course it's not. How is bombing innocent civilian acceptable and meanwhile same sex marriage forbidden? How does wearing something sleeveless make me a whore? Why am I dirty if I eat bacon? If I'm cursing at you in utter religious profanity yet my face and body is covered, does that still make me a modest woman?

I considered these things as I looked at my closet of sleeves shirts and way too short for any religion shorts. I put on a sleeveless blouse, a pair of shorts and grabbed my dog to go for a walk. My arms and legs are showing and I've never appreciated the freedom of dressing however I want so much until now. Maybe I'll stop for a bacon cheeseburger and an ice coffee at McDonalds on my way back too. "Wow, that's at least 3 religions I'm pissing off right now and 3 times I'm going to hell?" I thought, finding it comical and smiling a little on the inside.

23 comments:

  1. The whole idea of the fact that you might be groped (or sadly raped) regardless of what you are wearing b/c you are female makes me outrageously mad. Esp. after seeing of Jeezbel this "editorial" shoot this Indian fashion photographer did glorifying the rape culture in India. We are very blessed to be able to wear what we want although the harassment and cat calls here need to stop as well.

    Anyway speaking of lose clothing have you tried like the silk "PJ pants" trend? Those are loose but not to loose where you feel like you feel like you lose your shape. Also they are pretty light weight and breath pretty well.

    <3
    heather
    fashionistanygirl.com

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  2. what what whattttt....so strange! I feel sad for those women who are made to cover up. I know some of them choose that for themselves, but I hate hate HATE it when religion is used for oppression. It always seems like women are the first to lose their rights.

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  3. I totally agree with your in depth rant. I personally am truly saddened by the rapes and abuse against ladies in India. It's insane how things like what you wear and what you eat can cause so much judgement and then social problems. I'm totally putting off India until I can be certain it's a more safe place to visit. I'd say you can rock anything though! Layer maybe with tanks and thin long sleeves? Funky capris and skinny jeans or cargos? I'm sure you'll be looking great on holiday anyway!

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  4. As someone who travelled to India ~10 years ago with my wife, I can assure you that your concerns about wardrobe and dress are spot on. My wife, who generally has similar fashion sensibilities as yourself, was completely dumbfounded at what to wear. Even though she is South Asian, she never grew up in India. Granted, things have changed drastically in the last 10 years...but by and large, the majority of the population will NOT look nor dress like you in any way at all.

    Oddly enough, if you do go into these gated glitzy malls and restaurants/hotels that are popping up everywhere, you'll be fine. But if you're going to tour the "real" India (i.e. smaller towns/villages, countryside, anywhere outside of some pretentious gated community/resort), you'll need to dress very conservatively. Nobody is really going to come out and grope you unless you happen to be in a large crowd and trying to force your way onto a train/bus...then it will likely happen. But, EVERYONE will stare at you relentlessly. When I was walking around with my wife...whether it was a 5 star hotel or some small street in a village, people literally stopped what they were doing and stared at us (I'm white BTW). Nothing malicious or anything...but just be prepared to be treated like a celebrity or a freak of nature.

    Another annoyance is the fact that unless you have a news-anchor worthy accent/tone of voice, nobody will understand a thing you are saying. People seemed to be able to understand what I was telling them...but my wife couldn't communicate with anyone...not in English, Tamil, or Hindi....it was hilarious!

    Anyways, don't get too down about India. It is a wonderful country that will leave you with a lifetime of memories...mostly really awesome ones. You may want to head down to Toronto (try the Little India Bazaar on Gerrard St.) and pick up a few South Asian outfits...don't do any Saris as they are very difficult to walk in and put on without help (per my wife's feedback as she never really wore them and never really felt comfortable wearing one). However, the 2-piece outfits are usually very nice and will make you blend in with everyone a bit better.

    One thing to keep in mind, don't buy too much outside of India as things are much cheaper there. But a handful of outfits to get you going when you arrive should be fine.

    BTW, check the weather the time of year you're heading. If you're going during Dec/Jan/Feb and are visiting the usual tourist attractions up north, then it can get quite chilly (think 5-10 degrees)...but down south, it is more subtropical and in the 20's/30's.

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  5. The dress is beautiful and as a European I would never even have considered it informal until I've read your thoughts about visiting India. Other cultural ideas are often hard to grasp but I'm sure that you'll manage somehow!
    Elina | Miss Blue Eyes

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  6. I know in some cultures and religions women just have to dress very modestly, close up their hands, legs and sometimes even face. I'm really happy of the fact that in m country there is no such thing. At the same time it's worse when a girl wears such outfits which leave little to the imagination. I just think that sense of proportion should be in everything)
    By the way, you look just wonderful in that maxi dress, such a feminine, chic outfit turned out! Besides, those snapshots are so lovely!
    Have a fabulous time!

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  7. Do any of the Disney parks have a replica of the Taj Mahal?? Go there instead! :)
    A former friend traveled alone (but with a local guide) through India about 5 years ago. She came back more in love with the country than she was before she actually saw it. The pcitures were awesome. I undestand why you want to go. But the dad in me says don't go. If you're not welcome to be yourself there, then they don't deserve to have you visit them (that's about as good as my dad logic gets :).

    PS - I can't help but think real religion doesn't victimize people. That has to be a twisted perversion of faith that makes people think/act that way.

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  8. Also, despite sleeves or stains or anything else, your kids will say you looked pretty--and in this case they'll be right. But almost all kids think that about their moms. So many times I've had to bite my tongue when a friend has a picture of their mom in the house and they ask "wasn't she pretty?"

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  9. So sad and sick that they connect what you wear to God forbid rape,,considering the freedom we get to choose what we want to wear in other parts of the world. Safe trip and keep us posted while there if you can.

    Anne
    http://www.liebeladies.com

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  10. You are funny... I don't like wearing any amount of clothing, I wear tank tops with little short cover ups/sweaters... I am in the hot flash stage and I need to be able to remove any layers fast to cool off.

    The trip to India sounds exciting, I wouldn't make it over there... I like to dress in ways they would not find appropriate. I look forward to all your pictures when you do go on the trip :)

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  11. Every day I'm thankful to be in a country that doesn't tell me I'm worth less than a man.
    And yes, wear what you want, eat what you want, and swear like a sailor! I'm totally on board with you. But, for the sake of not disrupting a culture and possibly getting yourself stoned to death, I hope you find a bit of luck with your wardrobe to India. A friend of mine trekked up and down India a few years ago with her boyfriend, and she did fine considering she's the most vocal and in-your-face Liberal I've ever met in my life. Just be safe, and maybe take some stomach medicine with you?

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  12. It's amazing how easy it is to forget about this freedom to wear whatever and wherever... I think I first experiences a glimpse of diversity in Turkey, when I wasn't allowed to walk into certain places because I wore a sleeveless top...
    Love this dress - it's so beautiful and would be such a shame not to enjoy it... x

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  13. Wow you're so gorgeous....you're indeed rocking that maxi! Thanks for leading me to your blog via your sweet comment in mine. More power to you & your travel plans.....hope to see you again here & at my blog!

    Rebecca
    www.redtagchiclosangeles.com

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  14. great dress! and i really like the waterfront background

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  15. Such a thought provoking post! I would most definitely get kicked out of India because everything I wear-especially in the summer- would be pegged as inappropriate. Love the see-through tops or cutouts or short hemlines or crop tops. Wearing losing things would probably make me feel super icky so I'm not sure how I would deal if I went to India.
    But I hope you are looking forward to your trip! I love your fuck it attitude towards the clothing situation but I would just make sure that wearing those kinds of clothes wouldn't mean that you were offending someone. I think that it is important to be respectful of people's beliefs, even if you do not agree with them yourself. Especially if you're foreign and in their country. And I guess I wouldn't want to be the odd one out. While it is great to look different here and show off your fashion, your style might stand out in a not so great way in India. But hey-I am not familiar with India's traditions and cultures too much so I may be wrong! And don't let your different style keep you from enjoying your experience there. It will be a trip of a life time!:)
    xo Olivia

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  16. This dress is so pretty on you and the pictures are fantastic. wow, that is an eye opener of how to dress in India and keep it mind. So all my clothes are in appropriate too, but it is so hot out there and funny how some bloggers that frequents my site show arms and legs too.

    xo
    Sam
    http://fabulouspetite.blogspot.com

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  17. Wow you look so amazing, the dress is gorgeous. I totally understand your difficulties in finding 'modest' clothes... If people are going to stare at you anyway, it will feel even more uncomfortable when wearing clothes that don't suit your style / personality. I would go for whites to keep it a bit cooler! And maybe baggy pants?

    My Makeup Mémoire

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  18. great photos, and your dress is so pretty!!

    http://ladyparisienne.blogspot.fr/

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  19. Perfect style !
    Your dress is very pretty and I want your hat ! You are beautiful :)

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  20. I've never considered so much about my clothes before. Thanks for the food for thought!
    Your post is really inspiring and honest!

    Hope you are well and happy!
    Lots of kisses
    Angelina - http://www.just-angelina.com/

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