Do’s and don’ts of wearing a saree

What a saree gives you is, the freedom to interpret it in new ways or happily be comfortable in the tried and tested..

IMG_2124IMG_2126IMG_2129IMG_2130IMG_2136

Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

I have come across an article that talks about what not to do when wearing a saree, a well-wisher (read asshole) sent it to me in the murky world that is Instagram direct message.

I am definitely not sharing a link to the article because I think it is absolute nonsense of the worst kind but here is what I will share: A list of dos and don’ts when wearing a saree:

  1. Choose the right blouse

Wondering if you should wear a matching blouse or a contrast blouse with your saree, or about the neckline or design at the back or sleeve length? That skimpy choli you saw on a celebrity, could you wear it and look great? Should it be fitted or boxy?

How about just wearing whatever the hell you feel like and whatever is within arm’s reach on the day? Its a whole different kind of fun to design one’s blouse and feel fabulous in it. But you can also wear whatever top YOU thinks looks fabulous and if the blouse police has a problem with it, it is THEIR problem.

2. Choose the right pallu length

This is one of my favourites! You know what they say? The pallu length is crucial to the final look of the saree. Too long or too short pallu will just make one look, hmm what exactly?

How about wearing the length that seems right for you, on that day? I like my pallu long, but you might feel completely different about a long pallu, so you do you my friend, you do you!

3. Choose the right petticoat (under skirt)

Asking yourself questions like: How can one have a matching petticoat for every saree? What if the petticoat you’re wearing is wrong for the saree? What if the petticoat kills your entire look?

How about just having a nude petticoat that looks good under any saree? How about no petticoat? How about wearing your sarees with pants? And above all how about wearing a fun underskirt and not caring if it matches or peeks out from under? How about making what you already have, work for you?

4. Choose the right footwear

We’ve all heard things like wear your heels before you start draping or you’ll mess up the length. Asking yourself if you should wear heels with your saree as it will give you extra length and look great? Should you wear those high heels that you love but makes you tower over guys? Wondering if you could get away with embellished flats because it is going to be a long day and you don’t want to wear heels?

How about just wearing whatever you feel like? Wear the flats if you want to, wear heels if you feel like, wear sneakers if you’re running from pillar to post. 

5. Choose the right length for the saree

You know what they say? The length of your saree should be neither too long nor too short, just right. (Are we stuck in a Goldilocks and the three bears universe?)

What is just right length though? How about just wearing it the way you want? Mini-length, midi-length, dhoti style till the ankles, knee-length dhoti, anything you want!

6. Choose the right draping style

Have you been told any of the following: Stick to the drape that looks good on your shape, some draping styles makes one look bulky, others flatteringly slim, wear your pallu pleated and ‘flaunt’ your flat stomach, hide your not-so-flat stomach. Hmm?

Also don’t show too much cleavage and definitely no back cleavage! Yaar! back cleavage kya hota hai?

There are hundreds of draping styles in India and there are many more ways of experimenting with the saree. How about just playing with your drape till YOU feel great? Or just sticking to YOUR tried and tested?

7. Choose the right bra

Ooh! This is a big one. Have you heard something along the lines of, wear the right bra in the right colour for a saree/saree blouse and make sure the straps are not visible?

How about wearing the bra you like in whatever colour you like? Or going bra-less or wearing a fun bralette, sports bra or swimsuit top as your blouse? The bra that feels right for your needs is the right bra for a saree! I wear a sports bra if I feel like it, a lacy bra if I want to and if a strap peeks out, I make sure its a bloody cute colour!

8. Choose the right fabric and colour

Did you know there is the right fabric for every body shape? And suitable colour options based on the shade of your skin, age and marital status?? Mujhe toh pata hi nahi tha!

Rubbish like, skinny girls with no curves should wear certain fabrics, curvier ladies should wear another and who knows what else. Or one should wear cotton with cotton, silk with silk and of course only silk for pujas or weddings, you know because cotton is for the poor and silk means opulence and wealth?

How about just wearing the saree you want to wear, not the one THEY say is right for YOUR body type, skin colour, age, socio-economic status etc.?

9. Choose the right jewellery

Should you wear all the jewellery you have because you love them all? Should you wear nothing because jewellery isn’t really your thing? But your friend reminds you, not to look like a Christmas tree or that you’re going to a wedding and should wear some gold. Or that well-meaning relative says that you look like you’re going to a funeral because of minimal jewellery.

One, what’s wrong about looking like a Christmas tree because you want to?! I mean most people love looking at/ decorating Christmas trees. And what’s wrong with wearing plastic, wood or any other kind of jewellery you like with your saree? Or no jewellery at all, because you feel like it?

How about just wearing the jewellery you like, you want to wear and you feel comfortable wearing? 

10. Choose where and how to pin your saree

They say, securing your pleats and your pallu are a must, the pins shouldn’t show and definitely must be positioned right?

How about pinning or not pinning the saree based on what you prefer or wearing fun pins and not caring if they show? How about filling your saree with brooches? 

11. Choose the right hair cut/ colour/ style

Have any of you been told any of the following: Straighten your hair into sleekness when wearing a saree, girls with long lustrous locks look best in sarees, wear your hair in nice bun, don’t leave it wild and unruly!

How about just let your hair be the way it wants to be? Wear a saree with long hair or short, with thick unruly hair or a shaved head, tie it up or leave it down, whatever YOU want.

What not to do when wearing a saree?

Don’t be a misogynistic, gender roles obsessed, douche that wants to maintain shitty beauty standards and views people’s bodies as objects meant to please the viewer’s gaze!

Also remember saree is probably one of the first gender neutral clothing options meant for everyone inside and outside of one’s understanding of the gender spectrum.

The saree doesn’t have to come with a set of dreary rules, an expiry date based on trends especially if you choose timeless handlooms, it doesn’t have to have an age limit, or a body shape preference!

What a saree gives you is, the freedom to interpret it in new ways or happily be comfortable in the tried and tested! So if the saree police accosts you, ask them to get lost and choose to feel good about YOU!

Tell me what saree rule gets your goat, let’s keep the conversation going in the comments section.

 

Leather jacket and boots with a vintage saree?

Isn’t it time we took one of the oldest, continuosly worn garment and made it our own?

IMG_1823

IMG_1808IMG_1852IMG_1864

Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

Leather jacket and boots with a vintage saree? Why not? Isn’t it time we stopped wearing things the way other people wear them? Isn’t it time we took one of the oldest, continuosly worn garment and made it our own?

Here’s the thing, I don’t care how you wear your sarees, I wear mine the way I like and the way I feel on the day. I love leather anything and I love sarees and sometimes I wear everything I like together.  Old world Ikats with perfectly worn in leather was the choice of this particular day of roaming about to get some brunch and walk around the neighbourhood.

I cannot get enough of material that has softened with time, aged beautifully and has character. I love the quality, the uniqueness, the stories and the images I conjure up of vintage garments. They are more than just used-clothes, they come with history, an old world charm, a sprinkle of magic and are what I think; clothing with a soul. And in my opinion the best kind of vintage item is the perfectly preserved saree, the old world craftsmanship, wrapped up in whimsy, its truly a handloom lover’s dream come true.

One is never too old or too young to wear vintage, it can be styled in myriad different ways but it still somehow retains its soul. And there is much more creative freedom in doing things in one’s own way, to cause one to grin from ear to ear in joy at the reflection in the mirror!

 

 

 

 

Travel stories of a saree enthusiast

I don’t think travelling in sarees is a big deal at all, I have photos of my Mother and GrandMother both globetrotting in their stunning six yard beauties forming my earliest fashion inspirations and now I am just continuing the tradition.

IMG_3782IMG_3786IMG_3823IMG_3825IMG_3826IMG_3831

Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

The memories I have of travelling on my own, initially to university, then moving cities for work before eventually moving to a different continent, to now traipsing all over the world, all have sarees attached to them.

I remember carrying three sarees when I had to pack up my life and condense it to 40 kgs for my move to Australia. I don’t think travelling in sarees is a big deal at all, I have photos of my Mother and GrandMother both globetrotting in their stunning six yard beauties forming my earliest fashion inspirations and now I am just continuing the tradition.

When we travelled to Europe this summer, road tripping across the spectacular South of France, bumming around in Amsterdam before coming home to the countryside around Paris, I carried six sarees and was given one while I was there. If you have been following @dtanaya or @pleatsnpallu on instagram you have seen photos in realtime of my travel adventures in these sarees.

Although I carried half a dozen six yard beauties, I carried no underskirt or saree blouse as I absolutely don’t believe that they are needed especially when living out of a suitcase for weeks, flying budget airlines and dealing with the Paris metro. Every piece of clothing I carried could be worn with each other and I really don’t like matching separates.

In these photos I am wearing a chiffon leheriya saree from Jamnagar with a dabu print top and leather shorts at the lovely Château de Pierrefonds. It is a medieval castle at the edge of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris and the picturesque village with a lake in the centre is also very pleasant to explore.

Leheriya gets its name from the Hindi word for wave, ‘leher’ and is a tie & dye technique that produces ripple-like patterns. I have many many sarees in Bandhani as well as Leheriya and cannot get enough of them, this saree barely weighs anything and looks pretty even when its crushed (at least to me, I hate ironing clothes).

Sarees and travel both play an integral part in my stories so here’s to travelling the world one handcrafted saree at a time!

Saree love in the Netherlands

Rules like ‘fat girls shouldn’t wear light and starchy tangails just because it might makes them look even bigger’ are bullshit. Pick whatever YOU think is beautiful and my one styling/draping tip is not to follow any rulebook..

IMG_3323IMG_3324IMG_3336IMG_3337

Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

2014

Photos: Koel Banerjee’s family archives

From wrapping big gamchhas and shawls as sarees to mimic the older ladies of her Bengali household, to being a true connoisseur of handloom beauties, Koel Banerjee has come a long way in her saree journey.

We caught up with her on summer day in Netherlands for an adda about her love and celebration of the six yards as well as her thoughts on the various rules that people have around wearing sarees.

In between sumptuous food and endless giggles she said, “Born in a middle class joint family in Calcutta I have always seen all the female members of the family wearing only sarees, since my birth I have been literally surrounded by sarees”.

Her earliest memories include her Mother’s tomato colour organdy saree with spaced out small checkered fabric appliqué flowers on the body with very thin lace borders which she remembers vividly, a saree bought from New Market in Calcutta.

She said, “I used to love most of my mom’s sarees but this one in particular is engraved in my memory”.

Koel’s grandmother was endlessly entertained with both her grand daughters’ love for the six yards as well as playing dress-up in sarees and she bought them one kid sized saree each.

Her grandfather, a freelance photographer documented the saree shenanigans in the afternoons while the household was quiet during siesta, “I was his favourite muse and was about three or four and during my first saree photo session”.

As she left her idyllic childhood behind for studies and moved overseas it became harder and harder to continue with the saree love on a daily basis. But then Koel decided to to join the 100SareePact, a saree movement started by two friends who wanted to wear 100 sarees in 12 months and tell their saree stories.

Koel said, “Earlier I used to wear sarees for special occasions only, like birthdays/anniversaries/Durga Pujo, but ever since I started my 100SareePact journey last year and successfully reached the target in an year, it gave me immense motivation and strength to keep going. Geographical location, weather, profession, age, body type etc are all excuses we make up in our minds”.

She revels in wearing her saree loud and proud while globetrotting as one half of an expat couple, “I feel beautiful and feminine in a saree which usually doesn’t happen in any other attire. And also the fact that I am wearing my culture and tradition makes me feel proud too. Oh and not to miss that I love to be the ‘odd’ one out in a crowd…especially out of India”.

Her one buying tip to newbie saree enthusiasts is to go for handlooms to start with, “The most important piece of advice is to not let anyone else tell you what kind of sarees you should wear. Because you need to see and feel how a drape falls on your body rather than someone else tell you that”.

In her opinion, “Rules like ‘fat girl shouldn’t wear light and starchy tangails just because it might makes them look even bigger’ are bullshit. Pick whatever YOU think is beautiful and my one styling/draping tip is not to follow any rulebook. Just mix and match with any blouse/top/tees etc. with any colour you feel. Though I have never tried draping a saree without an in-skirt but I have seen a few who look stunning draped in a saree on jeans or trousers or dresses. So just be your own stylist”.

In these photos Koel is wearing a linen with different shades of thread in warp and weft which makes large checks of combination hues in the body with a lovely silver pallu and a thin silver border. She said, “I am crazy about silver zari and that is one reason i chose this saree”.

She says that her biggest saree wearing inspiration is her mother, “She (Koel’s Mother) has always looked so classy and elegant even in the simplest and inexpensive sarees. And even now at this old age she looks the best amongst the three of us (me and my sister) when we all wear sarees for any occasion”.

 

Get in touch with Koel via her instagram handle @k_babushka

 

Handloom silk in the French countryside

I didn’t wait for a special occasion to bust out this silk loveliness and wore it to prance around a tiny village set in the picturesque French countryside, surrounded by sandstone cottages, miles and miles of fields and lush green forests.IMG_2555IMG_2565IMG_2567IMG_2595Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

For sometime a few stray comments (meant as compliments) have been weighing on my mind and I’ve been meaning express my thoughts on them but since we’ve been away I didn’t get around to doing so. However, this past week a video came to my attention and I found the reaction to the video appalling on many levels.

I won’t bore you with the details but it was a video about five women in India accepting a challenge to wear the saree to work for five days. Let’s just say they weren’t exactly pleased but what really surprised me was the rabid nastiness of the online response I saw.

Here were these grown women who extolled the virtues of wearing handcrafted sarees, trolling a bunch of young girls because they expressed discomfort at wearing something that we apparently MUST respect as our cultural attire! Not to mention the body shaming in the name of feedback. I was asked to write an opinion piece on it and I politely declined because I don’t understand why I should have an opinion in what another woman finds easy or hard to wear all day.

Here’s the thing, I love handcrafted, ethically made clothing, I love wearing handloom-ed sarees, I love learning about them, I collect them and most of all I feel comfortable in the folds of something that I’ve been given with love. The saree in the photos above is something that my Mother painstakingly picked out on an incredibly hot afternoon in Chennai because she knew I would love it.

I didn’t wait for a special occasion to bust out this silk loveliness and wore it to prance around a tiny village set in the picturesque French countryside, surrounded by sandstone cottages, miles and miles of fields and lush green forests. I used to be intimidated by stiff silks till I learnt not to try and tame them into shape with safety pins but to just wear them in my own messy way.

I get a lot of messages telling me people love that I am promoting wearing sarees, I would like to clarify that I am a saree enthusiast and I am not promoting any particular type of clothing. I share what I like not what I think someone else should like.

I also don’t think that telling me women look their best in a saree is a compliment. Women should wear whatever they want to wear and it is nobody’s business but their own, it is not my or anyone else’s place to tell anyone what constitutes appropriate attire.

My point is that I choose to wear whatever makes me happy, whether it is the skimpiest bathers, booty shorts, anarkali or torn jeans and a raggedly tee-shirt or a fabulous saree. I carried a bunch of sarees including this one on a trip to Europe because I knew I’d want to wear them at some point, I also carried a whole lot of other clothing. A peek at my personal instagram or blog will show you that my clothing preferences vary wildly from day to day.

Telling people what to wear implies that they can’t think/ choose for themselves, women don’t exist to satisfy someone else’s gaze, nothing outweighs her own autonomy over how she chooses to exist in the world and we definitely don’t need commentary on our bodies or clothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indigo dabu print by the lakeside

Here you have a garment that didn’t cause much destruction to the environment while in production, is ageless, fits any size or gender, can be worn in innumerable ways and lasts and lasts ..

IMG_2019.jpgIMG_2018.jpgIMG_2028.jpgIMG_2025.jpg

Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

Immersed in the patterns of Rajasthani tribes in India’s west, this hand blocked dabu print indigo saree is the very definition of softness created with natural colours and gets better with ever wash. In my opinion, garments that have been made following age old practices not only look fabulous, they have a long life, are good for the environment and for the wearer as well.

Indigo, the most commonly known natural dye, is traced back to the days of the Indus valley civilisation, is the only dye that bonds naturally with cotton fibre, so it does not need a mordant (dye fixative) and (in my limited knowledge) it is also the only dye that is done in a cold process and not in a hot bath. It is highly revered among the craftsmen and wearing indigo dyed fabric is thereby considered auspicious.

Gorgeous embossed designs have been found on the cloth scraps in the carcass of Mohenjo Daro proving that block printing in India was used as early as 3000 B.C. One of the main forms of block printing consists of the Dabu & Bagru Block printing of the Thar desert.

If I could, I would solely wear natural over synthetic dyes, apart from being more sustainable natural dyes are also less of an irritant to one’s skin. Researchers have discovered that, as clothing comes into prolonged contact with one’s skin, toxic chemicals are often absorbed into the body, especially when one is warm and skin pores have opened to allow perspiration.

The fashion industry has been called the second biggest polluter on the planet and an average fast fashion garment does more harm than we can imagine to the environment. Think of the genetically modified seeds, harmful chemicals including synthetic dyes, pesticides and fertilizers, carcinogens, child labour, people losing their lives in questionable factories and pollution of water resources that are the requirements of the fashion industry.

Made from petrochemicals, polyester and nylon are not biodegradable, so they are unsustainable by their very nature. Cotton is a very thirsty plant and growing it in vast quantities can deplete valuable resources as well which is why I believe handcrafted/ hand loomed sarees that last generations are one of the most sustainable garments on this planet.

They are free-size so the fit is never a problem, if one doesn’t stress too much about matching blouses and fitted underskirts it is genuinely one of the longest lasting item of clothing a person could have.

Also this saree blouse and petticoat business is a Victorian British introduction which I have no fondness for. Don’t get me wrong, I love elaborate cholis and bright saree blouses as much as the next person but I don’t think the lack of those, impacts one’s ability to wear a saree.

Wearing different coloured tops and accessories along with a novel drapes can genuinely completely change the look. So basically here you have a garment that didn’t cause much destruction in production, is ageless, fits any size or gender, can be worn in innumerable ways and lasts and lasts.

Have I made enough of an argument about how ethical produced sarees are one of the most sustainable garments known to humans?

 

 

Khadi saree by the rock pools

The goal is not just to post photos but is to have a conversation about being comfortable in one’s own skin.

IMG_1642.jpgIMG_1622IMG_1659.jpgIMG_1683.jpg

Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

I love love love khadi sarees and since I’ve begun my modest little six-yard collection I’ve always wanted a simple, coarse handwoven piece from Khadibhandar. But since I live away from home, a little DIY to make three khadi scarves into a saree resulted in the pretty pink loveliness in the above photos.

As you probably know, Pleats N Pallu has a pretty active instagram page, a not-so-dormant Facebook page and I post from time to time on my personal Facebook about my  saree journey. And on these various platforms one of the oft repeated questions I get is: Do you wear these outfits for occasions and normal days or are these just for photographs?

Heres the thing, if you follow my other blog and/ or this blog, you might have noticed that the photos Vince takes are pretty decent but they are by no means professional photos. We are both photography enthusiasts and have no lighting equipment or anything, hell these photos aren’t even photoshopped! We take photos of my everyday outfits on days with good natural light and fortunately we live in a city with some spectacular natural spots so they make a good backdrop.

The whole point of Pleats N Pallu is to talk about your average person in a saree doing everyday things. Most of the photos I post of me are taken when we are out doing normal things, I wear sarees way more than I document in photos on social media. The goal is not just to post photos but is to have a conversation about being comfortable in one’s own skin.

On the day these photos were taken, we wanted to go to by the water and walk one of the coastal trails. I just wore the saree because I felt like it, the shoes I wore were beaten up converse sneakers, the top I am wearing is a merino tee (autumn in Sydney can be chilly), there was a jacket on top for the bike ride and it was genuinely a breeze to just hang about and soak in the day.

So, for all those wondering, yes these outfits are worn to do every day fun things involving, rainforest exploring, coastal gallivanting, doggie walking, working, brunching and myriad other things that a normal human being does.