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Titilayo Olurin: Short Dresses, Ogling Men and Busy Bodies

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“You for no wear cloth na!”

“Material finish?”

“You no see material use?”

“You never get tailor o!”

On a lazy Saturday afternoon at Obalende, while the sun was at its peak and shouts of “Keffi! Falomo! Lekki! Ajah!” by conductors whose voices had grown hoarse from shouting, smoking or drinking rent the air, I hurried to catch a cab to Ikoyi at the park just under the bridge.

Men with shirts drenched in sweat and foreheads glistening in the sunlight loitered around the bus parks, food or fruit stalls and makeshift kiosks which boasted of fairly used clothes.

My dress must have caught the attention of these men who were passing their time in languor of their animated talks, for they hollered their profanities at me and punctuated them with whistles and catcalls.

There they were with their ogling, leering, and lascivious grins which they did nothing to hide as they passed their verdict on my dress and blamed the inexperience of my tailor and the unavailability of “material” for its length.

Okay. So, maybe the dress was a little more above the knee than some would find comfortable, but it was mine to wear. What did it matter to these men – total strangers – that it was short? Besides, I was happy wearing it. Loose and free with short, wide sleeves, it was most comfortable in the sweltering heat. It was what I would call the perfect sundress, with its soft beautifully-patterned fabric gifted to me by my father. I loved how the dress made me immune to the effects of the scorching sun, and I was grateful that my thighs could breathe in it.

What Makes a Dress Short?

I confess, I love short dresses. I mean, I live for them. They make me happy, like doughnuts and cake do. I get the same satisfaction from wearing them as I do from removing my bra after a long day out of the house. Oh, that feeling! I can breathe in them, and I do not have to worry about sweat running rivulets down my thighs. I do not have to constantly pull at a pair of trousers stifling the blood flow in my thighs. I love the feel of breeze and air on my skin when I wear them. They are easy to wear, they flatter my legs and complement my body. But I get that not everyone understands this or appreciates anything that is even remotely above the knee.

Jesu Kristi, oko ijo o!” my twin sister shouted in exaggerated Yoruba one time when I appeared at her doorstep in a short dress. “Is this how you came?”

Another time, when my older sister saw a dress I was wearing, she blurted, “No, not in my house, you won’t!” She stood with her arms folded across her chest and a scowl on her face as she stared at my dress almost in disgust.

“I can see your thighs!” she spat out the words, making sure I knew exactly how she felt about my wardrobe choice.

So, yes, I get it. Not everyone can stand a short dress. I also get that it is not for every occasion. What I do not get, however, is people being busy bodies about the length of my dress.

“Titi, don’t wear a short dress tomorrow o!” a colleague advised me one day at the close of work as we said our goodbyes.

“Uh, why?” I queried, perplexed.

She had her answer ready, like she had rehearsed it, “You wear them too often. They make you look like a child.”

“Okay.” I nodded. But the next day, I wore a short dress. It was what I felt like wearing, and there was no way anyone’s reservations would change that. As long as it was okay to wear one at my place of work and it did not go against the office’s code of dressing, it was fine.

What makes a dress short anyway? How short should a dress be to count as a short dress? Knee length or above the knee? Some would say the former rather than the latter. Others would say the latter rather than the former. Yet, others would argue that it depends on how far above the knee the dress is. There are still others who would say it all depends on the wearer. I would say that as long as you are comfortable in it and it is not inappropriate for an occasion, wear it. Short might be relative, after all. What is short to someone might not seem so short to someone else. So, don’t sweat over what the next person thinks about your dressing, wear what makes you happy.

Does the Length of My Dress Make Me a Bad Person?

Certainly not! Just like the colour of my nails or hair does not make me a bad person. It is what I do, not what I wear, literally. While it is true that how you dress influences how you are perceived and your dressing – like your smell, your countenance – could either put people off or endear them to you, it does not make you who you are. As long as your dressing is not appalling or bad, dirty or ragged, scruffy or unkempt, you should wear what you love. If you dress to please other people, you will become sad and miserable because you will never wear what you want to wear. Imagine spending your money on clothes that you hate. Ugh, what an awful waste!

The important thing, when it comes to dressing, like my boss would say, is read the room. Make sure that your dressing is not out of place and you are not dressed inappropriately for an occasion. I have goofed many times in the past, wearing a dress that I should not have been caught dead wearing to a particular function. In the last few months or so, though, I have learnt that the three most important things to consider when dressing are; occasion, time and place. This, of course, applies to all kinds of dressing. But if you love wearing short dresses as much as I do, here are some tricks I use when wearing one.

Stoop rather than bend

When you are alighting from a bus in a short dress, do not bend. Stoop so that you do not give the people on the seats behind you a free show of your thighs.

Clutch your laptop or sling bag to your thighs 

This is in case you meet with mischievous hoodlums who want to raise your dress up (I have seen it happen) or a sudden stubborn breeze that wants to embarrass you in public.

Don’t use a belt if it is not necessary

Belts make your dresses smarter, but they have a way of raising your short dresses up and making them look even shorter. So, if it is not necessary to use one, do not use it.

Wear blazers and jackets

Not only do blazers and jackets make your dresses smarter or more formal, especially if you are going to work, they also come in handy when you are wearing a short dress. You will understand this when you have to go through Obalende and Oshodi.

Wear black colours more

Nothing beats the classic black. It makes you look pretty, and more importantly, your dress does not look so short when it is black. Try it, you’ll see.

There you have it. Had any awful or great experiences wearing short dresses? Spill! 

Titilayo Olurin is a writer whose stories and articles have been published on various online platforms. A love junkie, as she often describes herself, Titilayo is on radio every week talking about relationships, dating and family. She spends most of her time curating and creating content around these same topics on her Instagram page @toastlinewithteetee. You can connect with her on Instagram and Twitter @titilayo_olurin.

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