Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
In many cultures in the Eastern hemisphere, lifestyle devices are structured with the intention of security and protection. Clothes and costumes are designed to deflect the viewer’s eyes rather than to attract them. Veils are an example of such a device.
They act as a view-firewall so that only those with the password have access 😄.
But other costumes / adornments seem to be doing the exact opposite. They appear to have to enticement and seduction as the purpose.
The backless blouse of the Kutch region is so so stunning and appealing that in my college days all us city girls coveted it but none of us had the guts / the permissions to wear these as they were considered to be revealing by our elders.
But what we in the city perceived as ‘sexy’ might not imply that to the original wearers.
For, every culture has its own rules of what counts as seduction and readings of outsiders do not count at all.
For example through the book ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ I learned that for the Japanese, it is the view of the nape of the neck that is most alluring! Naturally as a complete outsider, I was surprised!
So maybe this view of the back in the Kutch culture might be equivalent to the view of the waist in the case of a sari-clad woman. ‘What’s the big deal’ is the question that would be asked by native wearers.
But surely outsiders might be raising eyebrows at these – depending on the vantage point. Consider the reaction of a woman from Saudi to both the sari & the backless blouse. She would definitely be alarmed. Actually I don’t even need to travel that far for a different vantage point: I remember when my daughter was in her tweens and was being coached in “modest dressing“, she, having grown up in a mixed culture that was not full of sari-clad women, turned around and questioned me for showing ‘skin’ in a sari!!
Paradigms make ALL the difference and they should never be ignored!
So maybe this style was not meant as an allurement device (for the husband) after all.
On the other hand, just as the purpose of the tinkling of the bells of payals and clinking of glass bangles (as well as all the elements of the “solah singaar”) is to distract and entice the husband, maybe this too had that as the purpose.
Will need to investigate with those who might have the sensitivity to such subtle traditional issues and have not been blinded by common homogeneous mass logic.
Well here is the blouse that triggered all this thinking:
And the backless back that leaves the back mostly bare.
This style is the daily-wear style although the fabulous embroidery indicates that this is a wedding costume.
The ludhi veil that hangs from the head all the way to the ankle sort-of covers the back …
The combination of this blouse, the veil, the physical personalities of the women, their tattoos, their jewelry and the self-confidence is truly majestic!
Here is the blockbuster Bollywood song by A.R. Rahman that brought out the ravishing character of this costume: (yes – they did shoot this song atop a moving train!)
Some of these textiles may be seen here.