Wear a saree in the winter and stay warm

Just like sarees needn’t be occasion wear, they also don’t have to be just pleasant weather outfits and can totally be transitioned into the colder months …

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

A lot of you have asked me how I incorporate my six and nine yard beauties in my daily wear in the colder months and the only answer I have is that our mothers and grandmothers have been rocking the unstitched cloth with sweaters and coats for ages.

However, since so many women have asked me the same question over and over I have made a list of a few things that I do to wear sarees when it is really cold or I travel to sub-zero temperatures. In my opinion there is no such thing as too cold to wear what you want if you wear the right kind of layers.

  1. Merino base layers: Lightweight merino wool base layers are incredibly warm, soft against the skin and absorb sweat keeping you dry, don’t need to be washed very frequently and can be chucked in the washing machine. I shudder at the thought of  going anywhere near synthetic thermals.
  2. Use the pallu as a warm scarf: Wrap the pallu in myriad ways around your neck and torso to keep it out of the way and to keep you toasty.
  3. Don’t shy away from beanies: There is no reason to not wear cute beanies when there are tonnes of options to choose from and a lot of independent women owned businesses that will knit you cute ones.
  4. Heavy boots and sneakers look fabulous with sarees: Heavy duty socks along with thick soled boots and sneakers look amazing with sarees. I don’t understand women who wear uncomfortable strappy heels in the winter with their desi wear and get frost bite. I’d rather wear warm boots and dance!
  5. Buy good quality clothing in natural fabrics: Wearing the right fabrics will keep you looking great and feeling warm during the short days of the cold season. A good winter fabric should be strong, warm and natural, but should look amazing as well like merino or sheep wool, cashmere, pure silks etc.
  6. Incorporate down jackets into your layers: Down jackets have saved me from freezing in sub zero temperatures, I always add a vest under my final outer layer.
  7. Ditch the petticoats and wear wool leggings and skirts instead: I hate the petticoat in general and will never wear one in the winter. Merino wool is my choice of base on the lower part of my body as well.
  8. Play with drapes that work for the season and your lifestyle: I cannot stress how important it is to think beyond the Nivi drape if we want to actually wear sarees in general and especially in the winter. Customise your drape to your needs and screw the purists if they annoy you like they do me.
  9. Sarees don’t always need to be ankle length: Floor length drapes may not work in the rain and snow, so get creative with the length.
  10. Don’t hesitate to add a scarf: On really cold days I add my wool scarves and shawls or even dupattas to my sarees. The play of colours and textures is fun and it is functional.
  11. Winter outer wear like leather jackets, trench coats and wool overcoats work wonderfully with sarees.
  12. I love light merino or cashmere flowy cardigans in different lengths with everything I wear including saree.
  13. Thick and coarse sarees in silk, cotton, khadi work great as do the simple cottons. Just concentrate on your base and outer layer the most.
  14. Remember layers, layers and layers, you will be just fine. There is nothing that layers as easily as a saree.

I am wearing a hand block print mulmul cotton saree here on a cold day in Sydney, there is a merino base layer under my sweatshirt and a thick denim skirt under my saree. I have a massive collection of merino, cashmere and sheep wool socks & beanies that I love wearing on seriously cold days.

If you want to check out some of the other times I have worn my sarees out and about in on cold days, you can do so here, herehere, here, here and here.

 

 

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Reimagining the saree

Why can’t a saree wearer also wear bikinis or enjoy a drink or date someone out of their own race or religion?

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

I get a lot of comments and questions on my clothing, they are mostly appreciative, sometimes funny and at other times downright offensive.

I have been documenting what I wear off and on for over five years now and have always veered towards handcrafted ethically made/ sourced clothing. I wear sarees very often but I also wear a lot more than that. I hate labelling my clothes or accessories as desi or western or fusion, I wear what I want to wear in combinations that make me happy.

This blog and the accompanying Instagram is about draping the six and nine yards of unstitched fabric so here you only see my adventures in them but I am a massive believer in people wearing whatever they choose to. Rules, trends and opinions of others be damned!

A lot of people somehow can’t reconcile the fact that I constantly talk about handloom sarees with the girl who will happily frolic in skimpier clothes. I didn’t know that I had to be exclusive to any item of clothing or any specific school of thought on how a woman should dress.

I wear my booty shorts with as much ease as I drape my nine-yard sarees and refuse to fit my personal style into a box to please a certain section of people. I will cheerfully wear my swimwear as well as sarees on the beach, I will drink like a sailor when I please and liking handlooms does not make me or anyone else a ‘behenji’. By the same token, wearing something skimpier does not make any of us sluts!

The last time I wore a saree as a gown/ maxi dress (you can view the post here) I got reported for being offensive and got tonnes of messages accusing me of insulting my culture.

Here is the thing though, culture is not static and changes with time. It is constantly evolving and being re-interpreted by different individuals in myriad ways. I might express, communicate and celebrate my culture in ways that are different to someone else but that does not make me or anyone else right or wrong, just dissimilar.

I don’t think of a saree as something staid or boring or even just traditional, the unstitched cloth can be whatever I want it to be, it is fluid and timeless. So here I am with another Gajji silk bandhani saree worn as an off-shoulder dress. A bunch of pleats, tucks, knot, a belt and one safety pin is all it took to create this dress.

I wanted to wear something fabulous for someone special on a day that meant a great deal to them. And this is what my sister came up with, a tweak from me here and an adjustment there and I was ready to spend a fabulous evening with a bunch of friends.

This drape lets me run, dance, jump, hi-kick and twirl while feeling really pretty. If someone fails to see the beauty and versatility of this hand tie-dyed beauty and all they notice are my bare shoulders or legs then the problem is with them not me!

Travel outfits that include sarees

Want to travel in a saree? Read on to find out how I manage to gallivant around the world in my six and nine yard drapes …

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

A few months ago, I went to Europe and met an amazing lady in Amsterdam ( Hey Koel!)who gave me this beauty of an Ajrakh saree that I treasure and wore non-stop on the trip. Here I have worn the saree in a little village in Picardie with an oft repeated top that you have seen worn in France here and here.

I get asked very often how and why I incorporate sarees on my travels across different parts of the world. Travelling is fun and dressing up while exploring a new country is even more fun. Do I just wear sarees when I travel? No! Do I wear sarees as frequently as my heart desires, travel or no travel? Hell yeah!

I am not looking to exude sophistication while I am on the go. I like to wear what makes me happy as well as be comfortable and I really believe that one needs way less than one thinks during travel.

I think every person is different but because I have been asked this question very often, here’s a list of what I do to travel with ease in my six and nine yard beauties:

  1. I carry comfortable, often used clothing when I travel and that extends to my sarees as well. I am not one of those people who buys new clothes to travel.
  2. I absolutely abhor the petticoat (underskirt) on normal days and there is no way I will wear one while travelling. Using denims and other skirts/ shorts/ pants I already am carrying saves space in my suitcase.
  3. I don’t mind wearing lighter/ translucent sarees without a full-length skirt underneath. However, if that is something you would rather not do, I would suggest carrying darker colours or thicker drapes that offer the coverage you want.
  4. It’s fun to get creative and use the same item of clothing in different ways and pair it with multiple pieces in the suitcase. Like versatile tops make great saree blouses, skater skirts make great tops and my cotton six yard stunners make great beach cover-ups.
  5. I would suggest not worrying about the perfect pleats or pallu, just concentrate on being comfortable and having fun.
  6. I never ever use safety-pins. Knots, pleats and tucks work way better than something that is likely to jab me while I nap on the train!
  7. Ignore people who say sarees should always be worn with heels. I carry four to five comfortable pairs of shoes that go with everything I wear. You will see me wearing the same shoes with jeans or skirts or sarees.
  8. The same goes for my bags, saree or no saree I carry bags that are roomy without being too bulky. I don’t have the space in my suitcase or patience to have a different bag for every outfit.
  9. Also, likewise for jackets. I wear my sarees with leather, denim or wool jackets/ cover-ups. Every piece of clothing I carry goes with at least four different things in my suitcase.
  10. I also don’t worry about carrying the right kind of jewellery for sarees or any other outfits. I carry a mad bunch of silver and beaded jewellery that I love to wear and don’t care about being matchy-matchy.
  11. Instead of carrying a whole heap of sarees, I change the way I drape, switch the tops and style the same ones differently. This same saree was worn with a Metallica tee-shirt while bumming around Paris and on the Metro with our luggage.
  12. If you are not comfortable with different drapes, I would suggest playing with the length of the saree to ensure comfort and enable movement.
  13. Avoid trailing pallus, I normally wrap mine like a scarf around my neck to keep it out of the way when rushing about.
  14. I spot clean my sarees and hand-wash and dry them in the bathroom after three to four wears. There is nothing more annoying than taking dry-clean only sarees and search frantically for a dhobi during a trip.
  15. I don’t think of a saree any differently than any other item of clothing, just wear them when I want to and do just fine.

And for those of you wondering why I wear sarees during my travels … I wear what I want, when I want, where I want and how I want.

I have never not carried a few sarees while travelling and really don’t think it is a big deal to travel in sarees. My Mother and GrandMother as well as countless other women from the sub-continent have traipesed across the globe in their sarees and I am just following in their foot-steps.

That is it – this is how I travel in sarees and it works for me. What are your travel outfit essentials?

 

My love affair with linen sarees just got serious with this Jamdani

Customised drape for a linen jamdani saree that is light as a feather and drapes like a dream

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

I am an absolute hoarder of linens in any form and have an ongoing love affair with the fabric. Shirts, tops, dresses, pants, sarees, bed clothes, you name it and I adore it in linen.

I know a lot of us are intimidated by the thought of ironing the creases but I feel linen can make for great outfits when one knows how to get the best out of it. It is one of the oldest fabrics known to mankind and really comes into its own after a period of rigorous wear. It tends to get softer and shinier with each wash as flax fibres don’t stretch a great deal and are resilient against damage caused by abrasion.

To wear linen confidently is to embrace the material’s relaxed crumpled-ness. I carry a lot of linen while travelling as well and I absolutely refuse to iron my clothes. I just hang any crumply item of clothing in the bathroom on a hanger while its steamy from a shower and that usually eases out the creases.

What I also like about linen is that it is a natural fabric which breaks down over time and causes little harm to the environment. It is also easy on the environment during cultivation and production. Unless organically manufactured, cotton production requires a lot of water and is heavily reliant on pesticides which impacts the health of farmers in developing countries, pollutes waterways and soil.

Linen on the other hand consumes much less water and needs fewer chemical interventions during manufacture. I find it best to stick to organically produced natural fabrics, they come with a higher price tag but leave a smaller environmental foot-print.

I don’t think any other form of clothing does as much justice to linen as a saree. The fabric inherently lends itself to drapes beautifully, is very flattering to form without being clingy and doesn’t stick out in stiff folds. I find linen/ linen-cotton mix sarees to be malleable to my draping experiments.

In these photos I am wearing a wonderful linen-cotton with a temple border and Jamdani motifs on the pallu that was hand-woven in West Bengal. The drape has been customised to make the best use of the stunning aanchol/ pallu with a tulip opening in the front, pleats at the back and a long pallu.

This saree is a brainchild of a fabulously talented woman I am honoured to call my friend, Amy Aribam. She is the tremendously inspiring lady behind the indie label based out of Delhi: Amaria. Check them out on Instagram here and you can visit their website here.

The Dhoti style saree drape

A handcrafted beauty of a saree in the dhoti drape with a silk stole worn as a halter top for an afternoon of fun …

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

If you follow the Pleats N Pallu on instagram you will know that I rarely wear my everyday sarees in the usual Nivi drape. I get bored with things easily and feel there is so much more that can be done with the six-yards of fabric.

One of my most repeated drapes is the dhoti (or dhuti as we say in Bengali) drape that I customise a lot once the bottom is done. I find this style really easy to play with, especially with the usual saree length as I don’t have very many nine-yard sarees.

The saree I have worn here is a hand crafted beauty received as a gift from a woman I have come to admire and love. I wore it in the dhoti/ pant drape with a fanned out section at the back, no petticoat, no safety pins and no fuss for an afternoon of fun. The blouse worn with the saree is a silk stole that I wore as a halter top. I like using everything I have as separates and put them together in ways that are pleasing to my eyes.

A few posts ago I waxed eloquent about the global saree sisterhood and these photos are a visual representation of it. This saree is a Durga Pujo gift from one of the wonderful ladies I have met via the online community of women who love the six-yards. Deepa has fabulous taste and I am beyond grateful she and her wonderful M thought of me during the festive season.

I think the love for handcrafted textiles binds a lot of us in a bond of affection that is hard to describe. Deepa and I started talking about sarees but discovered one day that conversing with each other became a daily part of our routines. We can chat for hours moving from topic to topic and not tire.

There is tremendous support and strength in solidarity and I completely believe that women supporting each other can vanquish all negativity. I absolutely reject the idea that women inherently envy each other. Women competing, comparing, undermining and undercutting one another is just the prevailing notion of how we interact. It doesn’t have to be our absolute truth.

Women don’t hate each other but patriarchy does dictate that we should. It is a system ensures that we are in constant competition with each other. It is 2017 and we should stop seeing each other as rivals, and more as comrades.

Patriarchal and misogynistic systems will only collapse when women stop holding themselves and fellow women to its standards. So, can we just stop reinforcing this trope that women are inherently ‘bitchy’ toward each other? It doesn’t do us or other ladies any good and will hold us back in a system that is already doing its best to keep us down.

Women standing together is patriarchy’s biggest threat.

If you want to follow the saree Goddess that is Deepa you can find her on instagram.

 

 

 

Saree clad skateboarder

I know that not many people associate skateboards and sarees together but here I am skateboarding in a handwoven and hand embroidered beauty in two drapes that have been concocted by my sister and I to facilitate my movement and be comfortable …

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

For some reason wearing sarees is synonymous with being coy, conservative and a whole lot of other stereotypes, which is absolute rubbish! A saree wearing woman is whoever she wants to be, the six-yards of fabric don’t wear the person, the wearer wears the drape.

Before I started this blog and its accompanying instagram, I was just plain annoyed with the online photos of women in sarees, same kind of bodies wearing similar kinds of slinky sarees, looking pretty in a studio. I found photos of real women doing fun stuff missing from the narrative and here are a few photos of me having fun while wearing the same saree in two distinctly different ways.

I know that not many people associate skateboards and sarees together but here I am skateboarding in a handwoven and hand embroidered saree. Both the drapes I am wearing have been concocted by my sister and I to facilitate my movement and be comfortable. The first drape was worn on a drizzly cooler day with a merino wool top, my trusty converse and a pair of baggy cords and the second drape was accompanied by a hand block print wrap around skirt worn as a top plus my beat-up vans.

A lot of people seem to be under the impression that sarees can only be worn with tight bottoms, I beg to differ. Sarees can be worn with whatever the hell takes one’s fancy and they can be worn to make the best of any adventure you want to undertake.

The saree I am wearing in these photos is a Chikankari on handwoven mulmul, I know it looks nothing like we expect a Chikan textile to be. It is a concept creation that blends of two schools of thought that have influenced the craft, Mughal & Nawab and the motifs used are typical of Mughal fresco art, instead of the more regularly used Nawabi motifs . Some rarely used exotic stitches can be seen on this saree including ghaspatti, shadow, ulta bakhiya, phanda, etc.

I get tonnes of queries a day asking me where I get my sarees and where I’d recommend someone go and buy a certain kind of saree. I have consciously  stayed away from naming sources here because this blog is about hand crafted textiles especially in their six yard avatars and not about where one should buy the latest trending item.

But I also know a lot of small independent businesses all over India that are trying really hard to keep some of our arts and crafts alive. So, from now on if I am wearing an extra special handcrafted saree or blouse/ top or even jewellery or other accessories from an independent craftsperson or business I admire for their ethics I will tell you the source. I am even more likely to love a brand that is woman owned and has predominantly female artisans.

This saree was created by an amazing lady called Vidhi Rastogi who started dabbling in textiles along with a day job with a corporate giant. She says, “The need to make a difference for our artisans was so strong, that I worked an extremely demanding day job and came home to  work on ethically sourced handcrafted textiles.”

Earlier this year she quit her day job and decided to work solely on her fabulous brand Meiraas that can be found online, on Facebook and on instagram.

The magic of Bengal handloom sarees

Handloom sarees from West Bengal never cease to amaze me with their unique designs and stunning craftsmanship …

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

My love for Bengal handloom knows no bounds and I will always invariably reach for them no matter what the occasion.

These photos were taken on a beautiful pre-spring day in Sydney when we wanted to go for a leisurely walk along the coast and chill on the rock-pools. And in my head this vintage taant seemed like the perfect outfit to wear. No petticoat, broad pleats like the Athpourey drape and a long pallu/aanchol that acted as a fabulous scarf.

I can never have enough of the spectacular taants, the awe inspiring Jamdanis, the fabulous Balucharis, the earthy Dhonekalis, the uncomplicated Begumpuris or the easy-to-wear Fulias. I get a lot of questions specifically on where I source my W Bengal handlooms, unfortunately most of mine including this one come from my GrandMother’s extensive wardrobe. But I LOVE what Biswa Bangla and Tantuja stock, weavers from Bengal are easy to find at exhibitions, the khadi emporium at Dakhinapan is a treasure trove and the Gariahat market in Calcutta is a handloom lover’s paradise.

There are multiple weaving clusters in the state with Shantipur, Hooghly, Nadia, Bardhaman, Dhaniakhali, Begampur, and Farasdanga being the main cotton weaving centres involved in the weaving of fine-textured saris and dhotis. There is a rich tradition of weaving handloom cotton textiles among the tribal and semi-tribal people n the districts of West Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Maldah, and Cooch Behar in North Bengal.

So if like me you are tired of all the blingy sarees clogging your social media feeds during the festive season and your eyes need a break, give your simple Bengal cottons a go. In my opinion they go with everything and are suitable for all activities.