The ISIS Short Essay Competition: ‘Is it possible to dress rationally?’
by Mina Ebtehadj-Marquis | March 6, 2015
If I were to dress rationally, I might wear beige. But beige is an ugly word and an uglier colour. If I were to dress rationally, I might do so in the wartime way. But I am as happy to ration my fashion as I am to don beige – that is, not at all.
Abandoned on a side-table, my dictionary gripingly declares that a rational dresser is logical, reasonable, and sensible, and that the rational number, when expressed as a decimal, has a finite or recurring expansion. “Fine,” I say. “I can appreciate the recurring expansion of my wardrobe (though, sadly, not my closet space), and I understand the finished finite finality of the right pair of shoes. Whether these are rational things (I confess, I do not study Maths) remains uncertain.”
The rational dresser would never wear white to a funeral. The rational dresser would never wear white to a wedding. But the rational dresser in India would wear white to a funeral. So the rational dresser dresses not simply for the context but also for the continent.
If I were to dress rationally, I would never wear miniskirts in winter. If I were to dress rationally, I might never wear miniskirts at all. Because my body, when dressed irrationally, invites irrational threats. Because my body, when dressed irrationally, is irrationally threatening.
If I were to dress irrationally I might wear my shirts low and my skirts high. If I were to dress irrationally I might offend people.
The rational dresser is sensible – “sensitive”. Were I to dress irrationally, I would not only be illogical and unreasonable, but also insensitive. I ought to button up my shirt and pull down my skirt, lest I disturb any sensitive person who might see me.
Men think they know what they want. Men, I think, want me to dress rationally. I think men want me when I dress irrationally. Too bad for them that I do not dress for them. I cannot definitively say whether or not it is possible to dress rationally. But I can say this: “It is not possible for me to dress rationally. I cannot but be irrational, so long as anyone would have me be otherwise.”
Shortlisted in The ISIS Essay Competition, Hilary 2015
“This is a strange, brief, eccentric essay on an off-beat topic, contrary, provocative, and fun. Some entertaining word play.” – Dame Margaret Drabble
“A short and sweet and pleasingly infuriated vamp on rational dress. Funny and convincing.” – Stephen Fry
“For elegance, brevity and humour, [for me] Mina Ebteadj-Marquis beats a fine field.” – Sir Peter Stothard
Image by Morgan