Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:
Thank you for the A2A.
Kerala, being a largely educated society, does accommodate fashion liberties to a certain extent. This can be seen the most in Kochi which is a metropolitan city with all kinds of people from all over the country. It is a business and fashion hub and seeing women sporting the latest fashion is pretty commonplace. Nobody even bats an eye if you walk around in a pair of jeans.
Cities like Kottayam, Kannur and Thrissur are still, however, a little more traditional in their outlook. There is a large influx of NRIs in these cities now and there is a marked change in the fashion scene. But it’s not as advanced as Kochi is. Women are still expected to wear modest salwars or kurtis and wear little or no make-up. A woman who wears no make-up is thought very highly of. So you get the drift of the mentality of the people.
In the average non-metropolitan city dwelling Malayali’s mind, a pair of jeans translates to modernization. A woman in jeans is automatically a ‘modern woman’ with modern values. This is quite a desirable thought process…except that the word ‘modern’ has a very different meaning in Kerala.
In Kerala, when somebody describes a woman as being ‘modern’, they are surreptitiously describing her as a woman who has relaxed morals (stuff set down by the self-appointed moral police) and who (probably) leads a ‘free’ life. So they think it’s okay to cross their boundaries with her. They think it’s okay to make a pass at her or even attempt to touch her. It has come to be that a woman being described as ‘modern’ is a bad thing, per se. In metro cities like Kochi, where wearing jeans is totally normal, the girls are more fiery and if someone tried to act smart, they just might get slapped in broad daylight. Fearing this, most of the lechers keep their snide comments to themselves. I know this is all unfair, but I’m just telling how things are.
In more traditional and close-knit societies like Thrissur and Kannur and most other cities and town of Kerala, the intensity of this thought process is much higher. There are lesser girls in modern outfits and more of them in traditional wear, mainly because of the conservative nature of the societies themselves in these places. Most girls, even if they wish to wear modern dresses, largely avoid doing so just to stay out of trouble from the ‘moral police’. Nobody likes to get judged wrongly. If they stand the risk of being judged just by the clothes they wear, why would they do it?
What a person wishes to wear (ideally) ought to be their own choice, whether that principle is ‘much more easily said than done’ or not. That said, I strongly believe that the average Malayali girl’s body structure and facial features are best suited for traditional wear more than any other attire. They look their best in a saree or in a mundu & randaam mundu.