By Amrita Narayanan
I think I’m lucky that most of my clients are women and that I work out of home. I have a certain leeway with how I dress and I get to focus on my own needs and my own idea of what would complement the psychotherapy hour. For couples counselling I happen to dress more conservatively: it seemed like an automatic choice, I haven’t really given it thought as to why I do that — it was almost subconscious, but there must be something of the culture in that.
Because the climate of the work I do in particular, and the weather in general can so often be hot and heavy, I try to choose clothes for work that connote both calmness yet a hint of playfulness. Light fabrics like cotton and linen are my favourites, and for work I like long shirt-dresses, tunics paired with culottes, and light cotton saris. Lots of pastels, greens, blues and pinks.
Most of my work clothes are the creations of my sister, Anaka, a Chennai-based designer of a line of clothes called Brass Tacks. My favourite thing to wear from her collection is this thing called a fashion tunic, which is essentially a really long kurta, and a pair of culottes. I own two of them and they are great to mix and match because they’re so easy to wear. Anaka’s tastes complement mine, which is great. I like to joke that I was able to to move back to India because of her designs, since at the time no one was doing stuff like that. Today, there a few big fashion houses that do the kind of light-weight tailored pieces that she does, but back in the day there were none. I really love and support her work, so I don’t just mooch stuff off of her; I actually buy her stuff.
My wardrobe is divided into two sections of weekend wear and workday wear, and are quite different from each other. The weekend stuff can range from grunge and strappy things to frills, and is overall less formal, though still has lightweight cottons for most of the year. I do love bright colours like gulmohar orange, ox-blood red and hot pink, but it’s often too hot for them. I guess you could use the word ‘elemental’ as my dress-code shorthand. Weekend colours tend to be more blazing, especially in winter when one of my favourite play-day outfits is a hot pink silk jacket fashioned from an old sari that belonged to my grandmother. I pair it with jeans and a black tank top.
The reason for not wearing flashy clothes to work is that much of what I do is about seeing people, seeing them on their journey, and it can be a bit distracting if I wear clothes that demand to be seen.
At home, I go for a grungier look, most often a tank top and shorts paired with a salwar. Lunch break, I always change into something grungy, so I can lunch with my kids and have them climb all over me without feeling fussy about the outfit. When it’s time to see clients again, I change into my work clothes and I like also the kind of transition it provides. There is something about clothes that helps me with transitions. In a music piece, when you are playing it, there are different things you can do a crescendo, a diminuendo, a coda that accents a transition; but in life we have, among other things, clothes!
Amrita Narayanan is a writer and clinical psychologist in private practice. She lives in Goa with her partner and their daughters. Her edited anthology, The Parrots of Desire: 3000 years of Indian Erotica is forthcoming from Aleph Books this autumn.