Johannesburg - The barrage of criticism directed at a pregnant MP for her choice of outfit to the opening of Parliament last week was cruel and unwarranted, say fashion experts.
Thandile Sunduza, an ANC MP, and the chair of Parliament’s arts and culture committee, was last week on the receiving end of ridicule after being photographed in an acid-yellow boob-tube dress with ruffles.
On blogs, Facebook and Twitter, people poked fun at her outfit, calling her a lemon, a Teletubby and the Oros man’s wife.
During the opening of Parliament, Sunduza appeared to be in a jovial mood, laughing and posing for photographers. But it all became too much for her when her dress was the topic of much mockery on social media, with people jeering about her weight.
She collapsed a day later at OR Tambo International Airport on her return to Joburg.
Expressing her anger on Facebook, Sunduza said she was disappointed and upset and she wouldn’t be surprised if she miscarried.
She questioned why she should be confined to certain clothes because of her pregnancy weight.
“I am a woman, a beautiful, bold, black African woman,” she said.
“I am entitled to wear a boob tube. People can compare you to a caterpillar or Teletubby or animal. I don’t care,” she said, adding that had the dress been worn by Beyoncé or Top Billing presenter Bonang Matheba, it wouldn’t have been an issue.
But she also accused the dress’s designer, Mihlali Gqada, of letting her down.
Sunduza said the dress was torn, the fabric was falling off her and she had tried to alter it at the office, with disastrous results.
“A pregnant woman can’t just walk to a shop and buy a new dress,” she posted on Facebook.
Designer Mihlali Gqada retorted that Sunduza had, in fact, worn the petticoat of the dress.
Nevertheless, fashion designers this week said the embarrassment Sunduza had endured over her dress was unnecessary.
Nothile Khumalo said while Sunduza did indeed experience wardrobe malfunction with her outfit, there was no need for maliciousness on public platforms.
She said the dress did not flatter Sunduza’s body type nor did the colour and the design.
“It is quite important to know and understand what colours and design work for you, especially when you are expecting because, all of a sudden, you can’t dress as you would normally; you have to accommodate the bump,” she said.
Khumalo, who owns Miss Toitty boutique, said this did not mean women can’t still be fashionable, but that they needed to pay a little bit more attention to their choice of clothing during pregnancy.
She said women were no longer limited to maternity dresses since fashion had evolved so that they now had more variety.
“Maxi dresses (long dresses usually extending to or just past the ankles) are a great example of a style that works for most pregnant women and one can always add a thin belt that’s not tight and still look beautiful.
“Dresses that hug the body work for some women, but not others. Thandile should have opted for a dress that had a bit of a flare and wasn’t as tight, especially for her body type. Her dress made her look rounder than she would have looked had she made the right dress decision,” she said.
Robyn Cooke, a fashion commentator for Style Guide, said she was horrified at the remarks.
“It was bullying behaviour, pure and simple, by people who needed to feel smug about themselves by ridiculing someone else. There is absolutely no reason why fashion commentary has to be mean. It certainly never needs to objectify and denigrate women’s bodies,” she said.
Cooke said Sunduza appeared happy in her dress and that’s all that mattered. “She was like a beam of sunshine – all expectant mothers should have a turn on the red carpet.
“I always say someone who feels great and feels confident in their clothes makes the clothes themselves irrelevant,” she said. - Nondumiso Mbuyazi, Saturday Star