Fashion fiasco in lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties

Fashion fiasco in lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties

Adorning oneself has always been a human craving since time immemorial. And Simla damsels were no exception when it came to following dressing styles in vogue, especially propagated by Filmi world.

But for Simla girls living in small two-room houses in the narrow alleys of Lower Bazaar keeping pace with much hyped femme fatale of the Mall was well nigh impossible. But ingenuity is the name of human mind especially young growing girls’ mind to improvise their looks and Simla was no exception.

Salwar suits were, invariably, a much accepted fashion statements during our preteen years. The only choice left was to improvise designing of the shirts and salwaars. Or the dupatta that completed the outfit. But the flares of the salwaars, the length of the shirts and the side slits or neck designs kept on changing along with the currents of fashion.

Then in the late Sixties fashion market was bombarded with very tight salwaars, so tight that you could not put them on had they not any hooks or touch buttons at the bottom opening. Even the poor calves of the females found it difficult to stretch any further than the available space provided by the lower halves of the salwaars.

We, too, wanted to join the bandwagon but Amma would not hear anything about it as she believed and rightfully so that school going girls had no business wearing tight salwaars. But then senior girls in school wore their salwaars tight and smart.
The first rebellious step, undertaken by my elder sister, was to cut the full flares of her white school uniform salwaar to a very tight leg and stitch it back when Amma was not home and her ever faithful sewing machine Usha, tucked under the Diwaan, with the scissors on it, invited us to cut the salwaar and join the brigade of smart girls. But to cut or not to cut and who would take the first cut was the dilemma which my meek elder sister took at the cost of everything.

We hid everything, especially the leftover pieces cut from the salwaar, before Amma came home. Next morning with trembling and fluttering heart, my elder sister wanted to put on the salwaar before Amma could notice it and run to school with legs covered in a pipeline kind of salwaar….. transformed to long, thin and smart legs!

But the salwaar would not move up her calves as in her over zealous state of mind she had trimmed more than her legs could fit into. I was watching curiously for the new avtaar salwaar but watching this fiasco I ran as fast as I could to school not bothering for the safety of my sister. And that was the end to our love for skin-tight salwaars and also sisterly love for being parters-in-crime!!! Now onwards each was one for herself!!

And then came the chooridaars…the rage of the teen girls. Ah…the heroines on big posters at the hoardings near the tunnel in Lower Bazaar would be enchanting to my teeny weeny imagination…The short tight shirts and chooridaars made one look so smart. Our salwaars were for sure outdated. And Amma would, so generously, stitch chooridaars for us both. We wanted it so badly that she gave in. Perhaps it was, also, because it needed less cloth to stitch a chooridar as compared to a salwaar. Whatever may have been the reason but what a pleasure it would be to watch her make a big bag of the cloth in biased sewing and then cut it to fit two chooridar legs. I would wait for her to stitch a tight chooridar but she would make it a loose one which would slide easily through my slim ankles. Now I, too, waited for her to be away from home for a while when I would sew another stitch line to make my chooridar legs narrower. And if I found them to still a bit loose, another absence of Amma from home and my chooridar would have another sewing line making it still tighter by few more centimetres. Nothing’s comes for free especially a figure hugging dress. My skinny legs so adapted to run freely up and down the lower bazaar stairs would be cramped in those tight chooridars. When running up and down would stretch my knee cap by few centimetres, my chooridars would refuse to budge in and adjust. I learnt to walk ladylike instead of the tomboy that I was in reality. How could I run when the fine little muscles of my legs were squeezed in those tight chooridars where even entry of air was not possible.

To match up with this, I had to transform my shirts as well. I would shorten the length of my shirt by hemming a new hemline. I imagined to look pretty in those skin hugging tight chooridar and a short matching shirt to top it with.

Perhaps my dress designing skills owe a lot to these escapades albeit done surreptitiously. Though I really wanted to buy the nylon slacks, hanging from display windows of so many shops in myriad colours. These slacks were skin tight….so tight that it showed every little muscle or a gram of fat or lack of it you had in your legs. I too wanted it. But Amma would not agree to it and sewing lines on my chooridar would go on increasing making it tighter and tighter to look it like a slacks.
Everything went fine with tight chooridar with a few fiascos in between. But one day when it was raining heavily and I walked in the small little home with my hind body completely drenched in rain…..the day is etched in my memory like no one else about a rainy day in Simla of the Sixties. I struggled and struggled to get the damn chooridaar out of my legs but it would not budge a centimeter from my ankles. Shivering in cold I cried and cried but to no avail. For the less ignorants about the femme fatale and there queer ways of dressing up let me give out the secret. Putting on the chooridar is not a child’s play, it requires special skills. We would put a piece of paper on our ankles, hold it meticulously and pull in the tight chooridar onto our legs…. What a relief it would be to have achieved success in our endeavour. While putting it off we would just hold it with one foot and exerting opposite force would entangle our poor leg out of it. The tighter and skinnier the chooridar, more would be the struggle. And God only knows the struggle I had that fateful rainy day when the dripping wet chooridaar would not budge a millimetre… I wished someone would cut the chooridar with a scissors to entangle my poor legs that were turning blue with cold and persistence pulling of the chooridar. To top it all the small house provided little privacy and here I had occupied one room for hours together. And my sister, to pay for my earlier ditch, came nowhere near me!

Amma would not hear of cutting the chooridar legs as she believed that you cut clothes only on a dead body…. Some Samaritan neighbour brought her angithee with coals still giving warmth, I was asked to keep my legs up in the air above the Angithee till my chooridar dried up. I prayed hard to all gods and struggled one final time to get my legs off the chooridar and the poor thing slipped off without any protest. Perhaps it, too, was as tired as I was and there was no room for any resistance.
That was “The End” to my search for “tighter-the-better”
chooridaars and I would love the plain salwaars a lot and grew up saner and smarter in my
wardrobe…all thanks to fashions in Simla of the Sixties… till chooridaar again became a rage in the late Nineties!!!!!

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