There are almost 50 news channels functioning in Pakistan at the moment; most of them communicate in Urdu and English, with a minority in regional languages. The one thing they have in common – other than the political heat they radiate – is the appearance of female anchors on these news channels. These are the women that appear as nameless faces on the news loop. They are not to be confused, I must add, with senior talk show hosts, who all have a distinct style and sensibility, or even with the very few news readers who have managed to establish a name for themselves. Those rare individuals – like Maria Memon for example – have risen above the sea of anonymity and aesthetic disarray. But Maria is just one exceptional example in a big pool of news anchors that desperately need a 101 on how to dress and look like a news anchor if they want to be taken seriously.
As a fashion critic, and someone who has been reading and writing about fashion for almost two decades, I can say with assurance that there is more than something very wrong with the way the average Pakistani news anchor dresses and presents herself. I am taking the liberty of being gender specific towards females simply because the average male news anchor is in a suit and a generic haircut that is usually not visually jarring. Most of the women, unfortunately, are visually jarring. And so I would like to offer a quick course in what and how they can fix the issue at hand.
Wear more monochrome; avoid looking like a botanical species
It’s time news anchors bid adieu to busy prints and embroidered clothes. There is already so much happening on our TV screens that the news anchor’s three-piece jorafeaturing 17 botanical species including birds and Chinese urns is not at all welcome. They should opt for monochrome outfits, limiting the colours to two, or three at the most. I don’t want to get into technicalities – that’s not my area of expertise – but the experts do offer a guideline for choosing the technically right colours for TV and reading up on it may help our anchors appear more professional.
Tone down the hair and makeup; you’re not auditioning for Huda Beauty
The second most shocking aspect of how the average news anchor looks on local television is the way she does her hair and makeup. Agreed, most of them depend on stylists that the channel provides but any stylist would be happy to follow professional guidelines, if given.
The average news reader, however, wears her hair like a helmet. It’s so obviously molded into shape that it looks unnatural and honestly, unclean. It looks like anchors don’t want to wash their hair and just keep adding hairspray and mousse to style it up. What’s with the long hair anyway? Most news channels in the world dictate that female news anchors have short or shoulder length hair at most. That memo obviously hasn’t reached Pakistan yet. I can understand the cultural disinclination towards a pixie or boy cut like Becky Anderson but easier role models to follow would be Mishal Husain and Yalda Hakim.
Also, a little less foundation, contouring and overall makeup may help them look more journalist and less model in a how-not-to-do makeup tutorial. Just tone it down, please. News channels cannot look like C-grade beauty pageants, which they’re currently running the risk of appearing as.
Dress conservatively but professionally
Every news channel in the world advises its anchors to dress modestly. While the BBC is a little more conservative, CNN for example may allow sleeves to be a little shorter and hemlines a little higher. Conservative works very well in Pakistan’s cultural climate but it simultaneously needs to look professional.
What’s the harm in a news anchor wearing a pant-suit? None, and yet there’s hardly anyone who does. I can understand a news anchor wants to appear culturally relevant but the professional woman’s dress code has changed in Pakistan over the years. Women do wear suits and there’s no harm in it. I would like to draw attention to Pakistan’s more iconic news caster here. Shaista Zaid, who read the news on PTV for over four decades, may not have followed a formal dress code but she effortlessly maintained a visual of dignity and professionalism.
Case in point: There needs to be focus on the whole package, which includes the ‘what’ is being read as news, ‘how’ it is being read (Shaista Zaid had impeccable diction) and finally the ‘who’ is reading it. The way the newscaster dresses does impact the impression of who she is and I would hope she’d rather be seen as a professional and reliable news reader/journalist than an auntie walking out of Rose Beauty Parlour on her way to her monthly committee party.
This story was originally published on Instep on 4th June 2018.