Dressed to un-impress

A Pakistani designer called Faiza Saqlain has created a collection of Pakistani formal wear, which usually you would wear at an elaborate Pakistani wedding, complete with several days’ festivities, guests arriving from overseas, and tons of money spent on food, decor, and flowers.

The Covid pandemic has put a halt to many of these weddings, although the government has recently allowed outdoor weddings. But who’s going to wear a heavy jora to an outdoor wedding — in June?

Hence, the Faiza Saqlain team got creative and decided to market the clothes with a storyboard on Instagram. The young woman wearing the outfits isn’t at a wedding — she’s an aspiring writer and is getting ready for her first book launch. I totally wear this kind of outfit when I launch a book:

I also totally pose like this with my book in the tony wood-paneled library of a private club when I’m doing my book launch.

It isn’t the outfits that have me scratching my head about this though: it’s the story line. Some young intern has gone totally crazy with writing a story about the (fictional) book launch. The opening few photos have this caption:

A passionate literature graduate with sight set on her book launch, Sakeena was never a conformist. When women were expected to identify primarily as wives or daughters, she was glad she chose a husband who turned out to be the biggest advocate of her writing and dreams.

Since the couple wasn’t adamant on following strict gender roles complied with society’s expectations, Sakeena was just a few weeks short of her first book launch.


All eyes turn to Sakeena as she makes the grand entrance. Clad in an ethereally elegant choice for the occasion, made after weeks of squabbles with Master Ji, it was finally, absolutely the fit she had always imagined for her book launch.

Sakeena had combined her literary influences and her own lived experiences to write the story of Ismat, through the character she aimed to empower women and expel the deeply rooted patriarchy in society.


But the story doesn’t end there. The contents of the book, called Ismat (a nod to Ismat Chugtai, perhaps? the storyboard is set in post-Partition Pakistan, when Ismat Chugtai was at her prime), cause Sakeena’s in-laws to gossip, and the gossip inflames Lahore society, and before you know it, Sakeena’s father-in-law’s election dreams are at risk of being destroyed. All because Sakeena wrote one lousy book!

I totally dress like this when I’m writing a novel.
The artful draping of your brocade dupatta on the chair is key to writing a good book.

I think one of the Instagram photos is actually a short movie — a movie! — about how Sakeena’s novel is supposed to be turned into a play, but the gossip is too much, and the play may never happen, but then Sakeena’s husband says he supports his wife, and she’s a rising star in the Urdu literature world. And so the play is produced and everything turns out okay.

All because she wore Faiza Saqlain clothes. Damn, I need to order some of these outfits and maybe then I’ll win the Pulitzer. Because God knows I want all eyes on me and nobody actually reading my book.