In The Name Of Fashion By Ubani Ikedichi Emenike

There is a trend in our society today. When you look around, you see young people strutting our streets, churches, workplaces, and public places in skimpy attires that leave nothing to the imagination. It is more pervasive in our tertiary institutions. Clothes are used to cover sensitive parts of our bodies and which for women are breasts, buttocks, thighs, and hips so it therefore becomes an abnormality if those areas are deliberately and provocatively exposed to public view. We now see boys and girls showing off dirty boxers, pants and most times bare buttocks in public places in the name of sagging.

In the name of fashion, our girls put on filthy materials. We see them clothed in various stages of nudity, sometimes it seems there is a price for the most outlandishly dressed. Funny enough, these weird attires are copied from the western world. With access to the internet and a remote, we see various things and copy what appeals to us. However, in the usual Nigerian pattern, we end up overdoing things. We forget that some of the clothes worn in movies (even our own movies have followed the trend) are used to pass a message across or portray a role. Same with the hip hop artists who dress outrageously for video shoots and stage performances. Besides, there is no scruple in the entertainment world, which is also a make-believe sector.

Some people argue that the way a person dresses is an indication of the sort of upbringing the person has. In order words, that they were not properly brought up. After all, they say charity begins at home. However, I do not subscribe completely to that notion because I have actually seen people from very good Christian homes where moral values have been instilled in them from infancy. They are well versed in the act of deception that they pretend to be angels at home but are devilish outside the view of their parents. Some of the people who engage in cultism, armed robbery, and prostitution and other social vices come from good homes. And their parents do not discover until something grave happens to expose them.

I once read an article where the author strenuously struggled to justify indecent dressing and the central thrust of her argument was that in the western world people’s attitude to dressing is very liberal than in Nigeria. She stressed that over there, people dress as they wish and nobody cares. She further opined that Nigerians should adopt the stance of see no evil and speak none on the issue her.

However, she made a mistake because indecent dressing/exposure is subject to factors such as religion and culture. There is what is called cultural relativism. What constitutes indecent dressing varies according to the value system or standards of decency (cultural standards) of the country or society where it takes place. Thus, what is acceptable in societies like Scandinavia, Barcelona and Canada where public nudity is allowed cannot be accepted in Nigeria which frowns against such obscenity. It also cannot be accepted in countries like Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia that have stringent laws against indecent dressing (as they see it). Furthermore, our young ladies cannot emulate the Piraha tribe in Brasil, and Harma tribe in Ethiopia where nakedness is part of life or more especially the Zulu tribe in South Africa where young ladies go about their daily duties with  bare chest until their engagement to a man when they now cover their breasts with a piece of clothing which signifies respect for the intended husband and family. This in essence means that what is right (tolerated) in one society can be wrong (frowned) in another society.

Some proponents of the dress as you wish also say that they feel more comfortable in such attires and they argue that have the freedom to choice of dressing. However, when viewed in our context, your mode of dressing does not mean you should become a nuisance to the society. For instance, one does not have to wear swim suits, beach wears, club wears, bum shorts, half tops, and other materials which should be worn indoors to churches, schools, work places and other formal gathering because you want to feel comfortable. No matter how you rationalize it, it will certainly be out of place in such setting. Here are some examples of indecent dressing in our setting.

Recently,I went to my alma mater, a state owned higher institution where the authorities are doing their bit to curb indecent dressing. My visit coincided with the just concluded aptitude test (UTME) for prospective students. A young girl about 18 years or thereabouts who came for the entrance exam was stopped at the entrance to the school by the security department. Her offence was obvious; she was dressed in a transparent top, which barely covered her navel. Nothing was hidden; you could see her bra, which was not in sync with what it was supposed to cover. And to complement the outfit was a tight fitting jean trouser which of course was worn without putting the butt in consideration. Such was the provocative dressing for someone seeking placement into the university. The security department stopped her and told her to go back to change her outfit. Typical of people of her ilk, she saw nothing wrong in her outfit and was determined to create a scene but some senior school officials came by and ensured she was sent back.

During the course of my postgraduate study, I went to the office of a lecturer with some of my classmates to seek further explanations on an academic issue. We were discussing when a student strutted in skimpily dressed. From the look on her face, it was obvious she was not expecting to see another person in the office. Her skirt was just some inches longer than her pants while her shirt was clearly not her fit, and it exposed all the contours of her body. We were all taken aback momentarily. When we regained composure, the lecturer tongue lashed her for coming to his office dressed in that manner and promptly walked her out of his office. The man told me “Ubani, these girls come into our offices half naked trying to seduce us but they will also be the first to accuse us of sexual harassment”.

Sometime in August, I travelled from the east to one of the southwestern states. A young lady was seated in the front row of the bus while I sat at the last row with some elderly women. In the course of the journey, we had to stop over several times to allow people ease themselves and take refreshments. But, there was one striking and constant factor. Every time we stopped, the girl because of her position was always the first to get off the bus and we were forced to watch her stretch marked buttocks (because she wore no pant) against our wish. When one of the women could not stand it any longer, she reprimanded her and told her to look for something to wrap around her waist and save us the embarrassment. The girl retorted back to a woman that was old enough to be her mother that it was no business of hers whose sensibilities were offended.

Some also say, if you have it then you have to flaunt it. And I ask do you have to dress like a lunatic to show your moveable assets? This becomes more irritating when we see disgusting parts of the bodies that ought to be hidden from public glare. Now comes the pertinent questions: Why wear a cloth when it is evident that it is ill fitting and undersized for you? The result being that you continue to tug at the undersized top to cover your bare butt, which is jutting out from the undersized trouser. More still, why the effort to cover up when it is certain that you are bent on exhibitionism? Why not go the whole hog and bare it all. Why do you struggle to expand that short skirt when you climb a bike? In addition, you have to struggle to sit down or pick something from the ground in public because your short skirt or trouser does not cover your butt. What kind of fashion sense is that? Why should you be ashamed of what you are at the same time trying to show the whole world? Is that not a contradiction? That surely is an indication that you know what is right and wrong.

Be it as it may, our institutions of higher learning should step up the campaign against indecent dressing. I have seen some who place banners and billboards on campuses preaching against such. I also support the idea of turning back students who blatantly refuse to adhere to certain codes of conducts regarding dressing in our higher institutions. In my undergraduate days, we had a lecturer who always turned back such students and there was a conscious effort by such students to come to school decently dressed in order not to miss his lectures. It is rather absurd to see a young woman or man in an academic environment dress like sluts and pimps (these are supposed leaders of tomorrow).

I however do not agree that perceived offenders should be physically assaulted or manhandled. That is going too extreme and would seem to encroach on the fundamental human rights of the individual involved. It is not a crime but remains a moral issue which can also be blamed on moral bankruptcy of the society at large

Furthermore, the homes being the first place of socialization of an individual should ensure that moral values are inculcated in a child early enough. And it should be an ongoing process because at a certain stage in life, people tend to be influenced by their peers to do certain things which they know is not good. Parents should therefore not be found lacking in their duties.

The religious institutions also play a very important factor here, although there are some new generation churches where morals are no longer being emphasized but only the gospel of prosperity. The gospel of prosperity should be de-emphasized while adherents of such churches should be encouraged to live within the ambits of the values of our society.

Be it as it may, we may have different perspective on the subject matter, which is largely dependent on our leanings. There will certainly be divergent opinions on this issue, which is natural. The truth however is that image matters a lot in our setting. It is an incontrovertible

fact that in our society, people are judged according to the mode of dressing, at least in the part of Igbo land where I come from. People should be made to realize that there is more dignity when their sacred parts are covered. By so doing, you earn respect from the society. There is actually a thin line between indecent dressing/exposure and madness because a rational being knows that certain things ought not to be done.