Why I Wear Short Skirts
And why it’s so important to me
On my first day of secondary school, our head of year told us that our skirts had to be below the knee. During that first week, I remember seeing her stop students whose skirts were an inch above the knee and were therefore deemed to be too short. It was a uniform violation.
These same girls were then either sent to change or asked to purchase longer skirts. And if these girls did not acquire a longer skirt by the end of the week, they were given a detention.
Whilst I agreed with and understood the importance of having a uniform in school, I never agreed with punishing a schoolchild based on whether an inch of their lower thigh was showing.
This was an experience I came across in other parts of my life too. I remember having to change out of my shorter clothes whenever relatives visited. Even if I had just gotten home from school, I had to run upstairs before they saw me in my school skirt and change into something longer.
It baffled me that a child in school uniform could be seen as dressing inappropriately. It enraged me that I had to get changed to appease relatives in my own home.
Between the ages of seven and eighteen, I agonised over others’ opinions about the way I dressed. More specifically, I was worried about how much skin I was showing.
As a child of Pakistani immigrants, there was always a lot of confusion when it came to my identity. I love being a British Pakistani woman and in my adulthood, I have come to appreciate the unique facets of my heritage.
I have fallen in love with Pakistani cuisine and have started to recognise Urdu for the gentle, poetic language that it is.
Being able to combine my Pakistani heritage with my western upbringing is a privilege.
However, as a child and teen, I often felt “too British” for my extended family’s liking. I dressed too western. I consumed too much western media. I didn’t speak Urdu fluently enough.
It was a complex balancing act. I was trying my hardest to represent these two very core parts of my identity.
Growing up in a Muslim family meant that dressing modestly was extremely important. Showing off some skin could be equated to being uneducated and provocative.
My parents weren’t necessarily the ones to tell me this. Most of this came from rumours and whisperings about other daughters that dared to wear a skirt on a sunny day or pair their jeans with a sleeveless top.
Unconsciously, I internalised this message. I too started to look down on women who chose to dress in a more revealing way. I too started to see them in the unjust light that many had decided to cast on them.
In silently shaming other women, I was shaming myself too. I was uncomfortable because I wanted to be like them. I secretly admired these women for dressing however they pleased despite the criticism.
The relentless pressure to cover up also led me to have some unhealthy attitudes about my body image. I became embarrassed by my body. This was reinforced every time I heard a vicious comment suggesting that a woman who dressed in shorter clothes lacked self-respect.
Over some of my most developmental years, I was taking in a very harmful message.
A Welcome Change
Moving to a new city for university was a huge adjustment for so many reasons, but the most significant was the freedom to do whatever I wanted.
In my new city, there was no one to tell me that what I was wearing was too short.
So I opted for a short skirt one day to test the waters. I was on edge the entire day, waiting for someone to tell me that I was showing too much leg. But no one did.
No one cared.
It was liberating. I had spent most of my life up until this point dressing with other people in mind. No matter what I wore, I always had the unkind opinions of others in the back of my head.
For the first time, I had dressed for myself.
People Don’t Care
Unlearning the shameful feeling that came with dressing in shorter clothes took months of reflection. I came to realise that there was nothing embarrassing about my body.
One of the most useful things I learned was that generally, people don’t care how I choose to present myself. It does not affect them. So they don’t think about it.
Some people make a choice to see me negatively and make assumptions about me based on how I dress. They have autonomy, they can do that.
But so do I. So I choose not to care. I know that I can’t control how people feel about me. So why worry about it?
I love the way I dress, but there is so much more to me than that. But if somebody makes assumptions about me based solely on my fashion choices, that is their problem. It doesn’t have to impact my life.
And it doesn’t have to impact yours. Dress however you want.