Fashion police creating confusion

Anith and Vanessa before their visit to the National Archives on June 10.
Anith and Vanessa before their visit to the National Archives on June 10.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 — Recent incidents of security guards taking on the role of fashion police has created a furore among the public.

Two Malay Mail reporters share their run-in with the self-appointed fashion police when they went to the National Archives in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim to gather information for stories they were working on in two separate incidents.

All they wanted was information — instead they were asked to don a sarung songket first.

In the first visit on May 27, Anith Adilah went to get information for a special report. Prior to the visit, she contacted the department and was told to register as a researcher.

Since it was her first visit, the guard guided her to the car park and she made her way to the lobby where she was greeted coldly by a woman at the counter.

“I noticed she was sizing me up as she directed me to the research area upstairs,” she said.

Anith, wearing a knee-length dress and high-cut boots, went upstairs and was greeted by two other women who said she was not properly attired.

“They said they would lend me a sarung and handed me an expensive looking piece of clothing.

“I was taken aback but as I was a first timer there, I thought it was normal,” she said.

Since Anith did not know how to wear a sarung, the woman helped her put it on.

“Just when I thought I was ready to go in, they handed me a shawl and said it was to cover the top.”

After the whole dress-up session, she was allowed to conduct her research.

Anith and Vanessa after their visit to the National Archives on June 10.
Anith and Vanessa after their visit to the National Archives on June 10.

On Anith’s second visit on June 10, two weeks after the first encounter with the fashion police, she was accompanied by colleague Vanessa Ee-Lyn Gomes.

Anith registered at the guardhouse for both. While walking in, they felt they were being watched.

‘’Perhaps, it was the way we were dressed —  I was in a grey dress and a white and red cardigan, while Anith was in a black dress with knee-high socks,” Vanessa said.

Walking into the research area, the receptionist asked them in Bahasa Malaysia, “How did you get in here with that dress? How come the guard at the main gate didn’t stop you? You’re not allowed to enter the building because your dress length is above your knees.”

A second receptionist suggested the two wear kain songket before entering the research area.

She then gave them two songkets to wear.

“When we asked why, she replied it was normal in government buildings and that the dress code was displayed in the guardhouse,” Vanessa said.

Anith, familiar with the earlier sarung episode, said: “I expected to be given another songket and shawl but they only requested me to cover my legs. I asked why I was made to wear a shawl on my previous visit.”

“The dress you wore must have been low-cut, so the shawl was to drape around your shoulders,” Anith was told. The girls asked her to take a picture of them.

Before snapping the photo, she said, “Don’t put this in the newspaper okay? If you want to post it on Instagram, it is okay but not for the paper.”

She then proceeded to direct them where to stand to get the best photos.