Frock You

The enduring allure of Austen’s women.

Words by:

Aarushi Agrawal

Photos by:

Shashank R Yadav, Amit Mali, Nitin Sadana

JANE AUSTEN WASN’T trying to overthrow the patriarchy. The eighteenth century English author’s primary concern was to create women with agency. And a voice. Her works represent women with starkly different lives and thought processes, reminding the reader not just of a woman’s individuality but also about how class and societal pressures affect her choices and actions. Austen, like most authors of the time, wanted to lay out the human experience, and in doing so, offer her women and their inner worlds the centre stage.

A good example is in the famed Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet is the lovable heroine most women can relate to or look up to. She’s witty, vivacious, deeply individualistic, and everyone’s beloved. Her strength and courage lie in wanting true love and respect instead of a marriage of convenience.


Asymmetry Mastered

Aseem Kapoor plays with an asymmetry done in shades of maroon. Cowrie shells and mirrors embellish a yoke that runs parallel to the asymmetrical cut that runs from over the left shoulder to the under the right arm.

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Bruna wears an Injiri dress, INJIRI, from the rasa collection; Gayle wears an orange dress, EKA; Deepa wears an off-white spice dress, NOVEMBER NOON, layered with a caper blazer, NOVEMBER NOON; Jojo wears a handwoven denim vest, MARGN, and trousers, KARDO.

But even as Austen glorifies this spirited woman, she’s not taking her side or dismissing other women’s experiences. While Lizzy is aghast at her cousin Mr. Collins’ proposal, her close friend Charlotte goes on to marry him. This is her explanation:

“I am not romantic, you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and, considering Mr. Collins’s character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.”

IT’S NOT DIFFICULT to believe that an Indian woman in the twenty-first century, faced with a decent arranged marriage proposal, wouldn’t have a reasoning similar to Charlotte’s. Similarly, there’s certainly plenty of women like Lizzy, who want love and romance and for whom marriage is not a calculated, logical decision.

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Tamanna wears a pink crinkle crepe embroidery aari rasa one shoulder dress, ASEEM KAPOOR; Gayle wears a ritu kaftan jumpsuit, ASEEM KAPOOR.

Lizzy is the protagonist, but not necessarily better than her friend. Her character arc is such that she must also go through a substantial emotional and mental journey, work on her prejudices, and emerge as a wiser, kinder woman. In this way, Austen is also giving her women the place to grow. In a patriarchal society where women are either seen as lesser beings or put on a pedestal, Lizzy is growing and evolving, making mistakes, being vulnerable, learning, and above all, loving.

Austen isn’t defining the perfect woman. She’s simply, and brilliantly, presenting the mental states of different types of women. Each of her women are simultaneously a type and an individual. Therein lies the novelist’s appeal.

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Navya wears a dreamt of paradise dress, ODE TO ODD; Mahieka wears a white dress, INJIRI.
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Aarushi Agrawal

Aarushi Agrawal is a journalist, and extremely passionate about research, reading, and writing.

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