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Palempore, India, 1750

Your explanation deserves a more elaborate response, Indira. Here is my careful attempt:

1. You wrote: First, throughout the world and throughout history, there have been restrictions on who can wear what type of clothing. Maybe that is not true right now in the Western world, but here, in India, it still holds true.

It is still a bit true in the Western European world. For one there are job related clothing rules. Every raise in temperature above 25º C evokes discussions about appropriate clothes at work. In the corporate world suits (male and female) are the norm. In the ever-growing non-western ethnic communities (Muslim, Hindu, Orthodox Jew) women often have to cope with the rules based on their ethnic roots. Women as often tend to apply those strict rules to their daughters. (Not only clothing rules. Female circumcision is often defended and maintained by mothers of some ethnic groups. In Islamic quarters of our cities you can sometimes see shielded rooms/balconies for women.) In Christian churches, especially those of orthodox congregations, women have to wear covered clothing. The more orthodox, the more covered (compare Amish and Presbyterians in North America.) Although Western Europeans are much less prude than North Americans in public, nudity is regulated and mostly confined to limited zones on the beach.

2. You wrote: Many women do not have the luxury of choosing what type of clothes they wear. And no, this is not about education. This is a bout a society that defines what you can wear. (Paraphrasing:) families tend to ‘protect’ the women against loss of reputation by strict clothing rules. Rules based on local culture and religion require women to be veiled, wear covered clothes, stay out of view of non-family male.

In most of emancipated Western Europe this is no longer the rule. The same goes for sex before marriage. The idea of the requirement of ‘unscathed virginity’ for nubility still exists in part of the before mentioned parts of the population. People take their local culture and religion with them and often tend to be extra conservative in open societies.

3. You wrote: So, a woman who dresses in traditional attire may just turn out to be someone who, although liberal in her outlook, bows to family pressure.

Applies to the previously mentioned population of Western Europe too. The veil often is a way of escape from the scrutiny of the family. (And from the male gaze. White European women sometimes convert to Islam for that reason.)

4. You wrote: Second point — Your mode of dress shouldn’t really define you. I wear both traditional and western clothes, so, do my identity or my ideals change just because of my clothes? I’m the same in a sari, a churidhar, a skirt or pants. I’m privileged to have this choice.

I agree mode of dress shouldn’t define you. I understand your identity encompasses free choice of clothes. I also understand you are privileged, compared to women who do not have that freedom.

5. And I’m proud of my traditional clothes — they’re gorgeous and I wouldn’t give them up :-)

Already confirmed this. Based on what I know of Indian clothes and women, gorgeous is an understatement.

Friend of life and beauty and foe of spoilers of life and beauty. Golden marriage. Grandfather. Pianist and micro poet. Dutch, European.

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