Best sarees to travel in

As I am absolutely rubbish at choosing between the various handloom weaves, I’ll leave you with a list of five kinds of sarees I reached out for most often during our last trip to Europe.

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

In these photos I am wearing a fabulous hand block print Chanderi saree on a day exploring the cobble-stone lanes in the medieval city of Senlis just north of Paris. Worn here with a white cotton top with fun sleeves, I think I wore this saree about four times in a span of two weeks.

I get a lot of questions asking me what my favourite saree is to wear during travel and although I am loathe to make such lists and believe each of us has our own preferences, repeated enquiries have made me kinda think about this topic a lot.

I think comfort and ease in one’s drape comes from choosing to wear sarees often but I also think there are certain fabrics and weaves that are just great to work with. I also would like to point out that what I wear during travel or otherwise is an extension of my personality and I hate labelling myself or anyone else.

I detest conventionality and love eccentricity, experimental clashes that lead to fun pairings are the best! And I absolutely love an eclectic mix of natural fabrics, flea market finds, vintage treasures, bright colours, dull hues while I wander rainforests, chill on beaches, sip on cocktails and dance to wee hours.

My clothes and shoes need to keep up with my madness as thrill of finding the perfect brekkie spot, hidden alley full of graffiti, secluded beach, magical lake or waterfall and spectacular ruins take precedence over looking a certain way. My saree drapes are more often than not my own concoctions and I need ones that don’t protest the contortions that I twist them into.

We both love exploring a country at our own speed and love to find offbeat locations to spend our time. So for me comfort trumps trends and I dress to make myself smile when I pass a mirror on a hectic day of exploring.

As I am absolutely rubbish at choosing between the various handloom weaves, I’ll leave you with a list of five kinds of sarees I reached out for most often during our last trip to Europe.

Here are the top picks from the most recent trip in no particular order:

  • Fulia cotton from West Bengal (Check Biswa Bangla for some fabulous pieces)
  • Chanderi from Madhya Pradesh (Check the MP Government handloom emporium, Mrignayaanee)
  • Hand block print mulmuls (The kinds I reach out for again and again are Dabu, Bagru, Bagh, Kalamkari, Ajrakh and Sanganeri)
  • Bandhani cottons or chiffons
  • Silks with out zari (For dinners and fancy do’s, check Co-optex)

These sarees were worn in multiples cities in a bunch of countries while we road tripped and Eurorail-led over the Northern summer.

I’ll be honest, this list might need to be updated from time to time.

 

 

 

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Why mulmul block print sarees are great

I think mulmul sarees are a great place to start one’s six-yard journey

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IMG_2662Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

Mulmul is a fine cotton fabric, slightly heavier than the gossamer-thin muslin that India has been known for since ancient times.

I think the world of mulmul sarees, they are like that buttery soft, comfy tee-shirt you have had for years, hassle free and simple. I prefer my mulmuls to be hand block printed with the designs made using organic dyes and traditional techniques.

This blue mulmul DIY saree made from Jaipur hand block printed scarves and travelled with me to Europe this summer and is worn here with a Bandhani kediyu. These pictures were taken on a warm day when we spotted lovely violet flowers blooming in the middle of the forest in Picardie in France and wanted to get a bunch for home.

I think mulmul sarees are a great place to start one’s six-yard journey, especially if one is busy and can’t be bothered with heavy sarees that need a tonne of safety pins.

I have made a list of why I love these kinds of fabric and enjoy draping them as sarees regularly:

  1. They require hardly any maintenance, can be chucked in the washing machine, don’t need to be ironed if they are dried right and above all get better with wear.
  2. This light-weight fabric is a known summer staple but honestly, worn with the right things it is great for winter as well and is fabulous for travel.
  3. They are tremendously easy to drape, support various experiments and will make the messiest pleats look pretty.
  4. A lot of the indigenous block-print techniques use natural dyes that are better for one’s skin and general well-being.
  5. Depending on the kind of printing technique mulmul sarees come in various bright as well as sober hues of the colour spectrum, appealing to people with different colour sensibilities.
  6. You can dress them up or down, wear them to work or to a function, it all depends on how they have been accessorised. And I’ve worn them with both gold and silver jewellery.
  7. They are very easily available in most saree shops, government emporiums or independent boutiques.
  8. Depending on the amount of work these fabrics are priced to suit a range of budgets and can be bought by students for a pittance as well as connoisseurs of higher end designers.
  9. They come in a tremendous variety of patterns and prints from stripes, checks, geometric or floral to suit every design sensibility.
  10. You can get mulmul hand block prints from different states that look completely different from each other, for example: Kalamkari from Andhra, Ajrakh from Kutch, Vegetable prints from Dessa, Ahmedabad and Kutch, Saudagiri prints of Ahmedabad, all in Gujarat, Dabu, Bagru, Sanganeri block print from Rajasthan, Bagh from Madhya Pradesh etc.

I always have and I think I always will like clothing ethically made with handloom-ed, handcrafted natural fabrics in cuts that are breathable.

Having lived in India and elsewhere, I have a huge reverence for our traditional techniques of dyeing, weaving, stitching and embroidery that are still culturally relevant.

Artisan handicraft is still the second largest source of employment in India with an estimated 200 million workers at the core of the handicraft industry (Crafts Council of India, 2011).

I like clothing woven with stories, so when I am buying something that is handcrafted I am buying a slice of heritage handed down through generations.

And I find mulmul block prints even though the fabric may be power loom just ticks all the right boxes for me because of the efforts of the craftspeople who decorate the textile with their art.

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.

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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!