I saw Sushma Swaraj’s speech at the UN in last evening’s news coverage. While the news channels played her key messages on loop, I noticed that backing her fierce words was a stern face. A speech of that kind needed a stern face to go with it and an accomplished orator that Sushma Swaraj is, she was well aware of the fact. A lot has been said and written about what she said and how fitting were her replies to the neighbouring state chief so am not going to comment on that. What I want to talk about instead are her sartorial choices and what they mean.
Dressed is her trademark starched saree, jacket, big round Bindi and a thick line of Sindoor, the Minister of External Affairs spoke in Hindi, despite being fluent in English. Her choice of colours added to the message. While Red denotes power and purity, Orange is the holy colour of Hindus. In addition, both colours denote passion and… anger and hostility! Talk about reiterating the message! Ms. Swaraj is often seen is pastels and creams but this time she had none of that. It was bold and powerful colours all the way.
My earliest memory of this extra ordinary lady is a news item decades ago where she was seen celebrating KarvaChauth decked in Pink silk, a rani haar and lots of bangles. Since then I have always observed with interest that Sushma Swaraj does not shy away from jewellery. For her UN speech though, her trademark string of white pearls that often adorns her neck when she appears in events of this scale was absent. Even the omnipresent Mangalsutra was hidden in the folds of her blouse. Her wrists sported a thin bangle and nothing else. Deliberately, jewellery was kept to a minimum. A sense of jewellery is a sign of poverty or mourning and hence we had the unobtrusive pieces that would not distract from her messaging.
Her golden spectacles were not only aiding her eyesight but also hiding the bags under her eyes to an extent. The slightly puffy eyes were visible though. Maybe it was jet lag, maybe it was because of the long hours she puts in.
As a makeup-holic, I couldn’t help notice that her makeup was very well done. The dewy skin had just the right amount of highlights under the arc lights, her lip colour matched her outfit giving her a subtle colour but not bold enough to make a statement and her eyebrows were on fleek! It was perfect for an Indian political leader. Our society may be a lot more accepting of young women sporting statement looks but only a privileged few older women like Rekha can carry that off without being commented upon. While a western leader would have sported a red power lip if she wanted to make a statement, the Indians go for something that makes them look put together without being in your face.