Hargun Gujral‘s essay: The A(c)rt of dressing up

Its 9:58 PM on a Sunday evening. Dinner is all wrapped up and after a long gap and a terrifying time of having seen family, friends and people we may know suffer in the second wave, we finally are “ready” to go back to physical school, the next day.

The pressing concerns plague one’s mind- is it safe yet? What about the meals, the innumerable in person meetings, the insufferable long hours of wearing a mask or the use public restrooms… But one must be brave right? Staying home for this long isn’t normal either. But I don’t know if I have it in me to travel this far for work, manage both home and work and what about the energy levels that are at an all-time low? No… No it sure isn’t safe yet, to be out!

(One knows that this could have been the tipping point, if I had any longer stayed with it and if God forbid anyone around had tried to “rationalise” these “feelings”, then!)

Choosing not to meet anyone’s eye, one instead brews some chamomile tea and slips into the bedroom and chooses to open the closet instead. Placing the freshly folded laundry on one side and the crisped ironed ones onto the other, one starts to go over each garment one by one.

A thought passes and then another. So, is it going to be a saree tomorrow but that’s too much work for the first day! How about a pair of pants and a formal shirt? But I absolutely love this kurta and goes well with the new pair of silver earrings that I had gifted myself, the other day.

The mood sure sees a shift and a conscious effort is made to remove the few odd creases from the “chosen” kurta by ironing it and teaming it up with a matching dupatta.

One then makes a move to the next stop- the pair of earrings are taken out of the red velvet pouch they were safely placed in and a minute is spent in admiration of the craftsmanship!

In the head, a decision is already made with respect to the pair of chappals that will go best with it!

AND with this all done, one is suddenly somewhere secretly hoping to go back to work tomorrow but surely being cautious that admitting it out loud might just be too premature a decision to make right now!

While I happen to write about the above, I wonder how many a times I have jokingly said “whenever stressed, look well dressed!” in response to a compliment I may have received in passing from a colleague at work!

So, is there a correlation? While for some, this may sound as a vain attempt at camouflaging your “real” feelings or a desperate attempt to only work on the “outside” of a person, I have a different take on the same.

As for me, this mindful practice as I may now see it, allows oneself to make conscious decisions of who I AM and becoming. These reflective moments, in which one is “present” somehow gives an opportunity to explore dimensions of one’s self and how best one wishes to express them.

As women, I wonder how many of us have the luxury to exercise self-love even till today. I wonder if we realise, it also stems from the many insecurities that we have lived with, that which are passed on from generations and time to time.

The insecurity of being a certain skin colour, a particular body type, an appropriate attire for our gender, our safety defined in relation to it, the body language, the work profile we choose, the “demeanour” with which we carry ourselves, the many gendered roles we are expected to live, the careers we tirelessly strive to build for ourselves, of being self-reliant financially, in the constant face of worrying about not losing it, someday?

I wonder, I only wonder then, if this very small art- this art of dressing up is an act of courage, of regaining power and finding an extension to oneself. An art of smashing some of these boxes that we from time to time are expected to fit in and yet at the same time not to look at it, just as a rebellious move but a celebration of who we are, consciously acknowledging and owning the insecurities that will creep in from time to time and yet fearlessly wearing it as a safe space – A HOME THAT WE EMBODY.


Hargun is a professional Counselling Psychologist and Expressive Arts Based Therapist , who mostly works with school students. Between her sessions with the different thoughts and expressions of those young minds, she loves to keep a book to gather her thoughts and express them through a story made with images.

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