Wearing a saree with a swimsuit top

Draping a saree over a swimsuit seems to generate a lot of strong sentiments in many women … Why is wearing a saree with a bikini top such a big deal? Why is that people’s pride and joy in their motherland is contained in someone else’s clothing? Why are women’s sartorial choices such a battle ground for those who indulge in moral policing?

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

Apparently, wearing a saree with a bathing-suit top is vulgar, an insult to my culture/ religion and a way to completely destroy what my country stands for!

Seriously? Is the Indian culture just so easy to ruin and destroy?

Why is it that a woman dressed comfortably is vulgar and men dressed in much less aren’t?  To those worried about ‘too much skin’ on show, I would like to point out all the Indian men with dad bods just lounging around shirtless or on the beach in their ugly ‘Rupa underwear/ baniyan’.

The severe scrutiny faced by women’s external attire and the moral policing of our bodies is not news to any of us. I call bull-shit on people trying this form of sexist disciplining on grown individuals like myself.

To the moral police, women’s bodies are a battlefield to hoist their flag of decency- body parts are provocative, female agency offensive, feminist actions an anathema and our collective living, breathing existence an abhorrence. Why?

I have no time for older women passing on the pearls of patriarchy to those of us who are viewed as younger or less modest. Let me remind all the ‘sankskari’ types who think all women should dress ‘modestly’ that there is no dress code defined by our culture or by our constitution. We are all free to dress however we like!

I wear what I like, go where I please, respond aggressively to sexism and misogyny coyly called eve-teasing, unlike the demure, quivering girl looking for a knight that patriarchy expects me to be.

Let me make myself clear, extreme forms of misogyny are flourishing in India, aided, abetted and perpetuated by the women who are self-appointed protectors of patriarchy.

And here’s my little message to women who victim blame, slut-shame or bully other women and police their choice of clothing or shove outdated ideas of modesty down other people’s throats: You are the cog in the wheel that is responsible for India’s rape culture and violence against women.

More posts of me wearing sarees with different swimwear here, here, here, here, here  and here .

 

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Walking the dog in a nandana print saree

Sarees can be a fuss-free but vibrant clothing option if only we eschew the popular edicts that govern women’s clothing  …

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

After a month of showcasing various weaves from West Bengal, I am ready to explore other states in my sartorial journey…

These photos were taken on an afternoon spent with the furbaby, playing in the park, walking around the neighborhood and getting yummy gelatos. Wore a Nandana print cotton saree draped in a fun way with a gajji silk bandhani blouse, no petticoat, no pins just easy breezy relaxed comfort.

Nandana is an elaborate style of hand block printing practiced by local Chippa community in the Tarapur village of Madhya Pradesh. It is a time consuming and labor intensive process involving about 16 steps to get to the final design.

Traditionally these prints decorated rough thick fabrics used for making ghagras by the women of tribal communities in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. These prints have a limited number of block patterns, mostly flowers and fruits and printed in the same manner all over the fabric.

I believe there are just five designs ranging from small buti to big buta known as mirch, champakali, dholamaru, amba and salaam are the signature motifs for these prints.

I love easy lengths of fabrics like this saree with handcrafted fun patterns because I don’t have to worry about them too much and can get on with my monkeying. I chuck them in the washing machine and never bother ironing out creases.

In the last decade my wardrobe has seen an addition of these kinds of fuss-free clothing over the harder to maintain pieces.

In my opinion the unstitched cloth can be a wonderfully practical garment that really adapts to the needs of the wearer if we remove the baggage of rules and  traditions.

The saree is a purely functional garment that has been saddled with too many do’s and don’ts.

We must remember that anyone can wear sarees (if they want to). Anyone can have fun with sarees, you don’t need video tutorials just an open mind and the willingness to play with them.

No one, I repeat no one is the wrong shape or size or age for them, and we must stop stressing about the nonsensical rules tied to the wearing of sarees.

Don’t believe me? Here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here are a few of my older posts where either my sister or I concocted a drape on handcrafted sarees.

None of these are the result of any one else’s tutorials, just the outcome of enjoying playing with the six yards of fabric.

 

 

 

Why I wont be making how to wear a saree videos

I like to wear handcrafted sarees in ways that are fun and interesting for me but I am not sure that making saree draping videos is what I want to do …

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

In these photos I am wearing a light and breezy cotton Angara handloom saree from the East Godavari region in Andhra Pradesh. I draped it over a Sanganeri block print barely there, cropped slip and ensured that the pallu and the pleats are all out of my way as I needed to be nimble climbing cliffs and jumping around rocks.

The handwoven backpack from South America had all my essentials for the day and the beat up sneakers were comfy for the amount of walking we had to do. This drape has no name but it has two sets of pleats and a knot to join two ends of the pallu so there is nothing trailing behind me.

As per usual no petticoats or safety pins were harmed (read used) to drape the saree or keep it in place.

A lot of people contact me asking for videos on drapes that I wear my six or nine yard sarees in. There are also a lot of people who ask me what my draping charges are.

I’d just like to clarify, PleatsNPallu is a fun project for me, I am not someone who is looking to drape sarees on people. To be honest, half the times I don’t even know what the end result will be as I just pleat, knot and wrap based on my activity/ saree for the day.

There is enough information around on the hundreds of traditional Indian drapes and they are a good place to start experimenting.

I am not comfortable making videos and I above all I choose not to make videos. If you are a friend or someone I know, I will definitely  give you an idea of how to recreate some of my drapes. I didn’t start this blog or the accompanying instagram handle to become anyone’s go-to for different ways to wear a saree.

This space exists so I can share the fun that are sarees. The idea is not to teach people how to drape but to encourage anyone who is interested in wearing the unstitched cloth to enjoy the process.

The photos I post here are not the result of carefully chosen locations, meticulously applied make-up, professionally styled outfits or even a professional photographer. They are a result of us taking pictures running up and down mountains or cliffs by the coast or exploring a new country and most of the time I wear ethically made, hand crafted clothing, without  a lick of make-up on my face and my hair is windblown.

The goal isn’t to get people to do what I do but it is to start a conversation about being comfortable doing what comes naturally to us and wearing sarees the way we feel like.

I started posting photos because I didn’t see photos online of everyday women having fun in sarees. The top images were the ones shot for big brands or designers and that kind of styling doesn’t appeal to me.

I am hoping to accomplish the following by posting photos and talking about wearing handloom sarees:

  • Show that a young modern woman can have fun styling the unstitched cloth for her everyday adventures and challenge stereotypical notions about what women in sarees can and cannot do.
  • Be free to express myself and not be shackled by age old beliefs of how a saree should be worn.
  • Convey that it is wonderful to not following rules of how a woman should dress or behave.
  • Reject the notion that petticoats or saree blouses or safety-pins or even bras are essential to wear the six or nine yards.
  • Shun gender roles roles forced on me. I absolutely have no time for people who think that women look the best in sarees, all Indian women must know how to drape them and wear them regularly! Sarees are probably the oldest, continually worn unisex garment and I have no time for gender in general.
  • Actively encourage the idea that everyone can style the saree in ways that they like, not give or take style advice from strangers but be a part of the movement that rejects outdated ideas of morality associated with the garment.
  • Being liberated from religious connotations. Yes, I love wearing nine-yard sarees and I refuse to be a good Hindu about it, I like my sarees without a side of religious fanaticism.
  • Have a wardrobe that is mostly void of man-made fabrics like polyester, acrylic, nylon etc. I like my skin to breathe and my clothes to be bio-degradable and not clog up landfills.
  • To completely get rid of fast fashion from my life.
  • Not be limited by body type or physical characteristics. Rubbish rules like short girls should’t wear sarees with flats, dark girls shouldn’t wear bright colours etc have no place in my life!

I am happy to share what I do via photos, writing and maybe in person but I don’t like draping sarees on people I don’t know.

However, if there is a cute puppy or kitty looking to flounce about draped in an unstitched length of fabric, I would definitely play dress-up with them. Its just people I am wary of.

 

 

 

Why do I wear sarees the way I do?

Immersing myself in breathtaking scenery and natural waterfalls is one of my most favourite things to do…Sometimes I do it in handcrafted sarees that make the experience even more fun.

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

We went over to Tropical North Queensland recently and these photos were taken on a day spent exploring the rainforests, chasing waterfalls and experiencing some of the best natural swimming holes Australia has to offer. I wore an Ajrakh block print saree over my bathers to go on the adventure. There was no petticoat worn as per usual and the swimsuit top made the perfect blouse, I don’t really care that it is not an exact match.

There are many saree wearing women and men who  have been wonderful in sharing their knowledge, sources, expertise and sometimes even their six yard beauties with me. I am forever grateful to them and love interacting with them online.

However, I have also been asked a lot of asinine questions by random strangers here on my blog and on my instagram in all manner of ways, some curious, some polite, some territorial and some downright obnoxious.

Normally I just delete the comment or block the person depending on how nasty or abusive their comment is. This post however answers some of the weird questions/ comments I get for wearing the saree. These are literally the exact words typed to me or someone else close to me.

If you don’t like opinionated women who use strong/ coarse language, this is the time to look away.

  1. Don’t you think you could have worn the saree a little higher or a little more modestly?

Bitch please! I’ve worn the saree this way and posted the photos online, do you really think your stupid, passive aggressive bullshit will make me question myself? Eff off!

    2. Why does she wear jamdanis with sneakers and jump around so much? I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Exactly auntyji! Aap se nahin ho payega. One, you limit the saree with your regressive thinking, two, you have no imagination and three, you’re too ungainly. So take your judginess elsewhere. What footwear I wear with the unstitched cloth is my business!

    3. She’s so bold naah? (Btw WTF is bold? I mean seriously its 2018.)

Yes, I am bold and ferocious. Apparently much more so than you. Do you know what you’re doing is using a positive word in a slut shamey/ body shamey way? Go home and read about how women like you internalise misogyny.

   4. I don’t like. Why you wear the sadi like this?

I don’t remember asking for your opinion?! If you don’t like it/me, look away. Its that simple! I wear my sarees the way I want, now go be your ignorant self elsewhere.

   5. Why you wear saree if you don’t be with Hindu boy?

One, none of your business who I am with. Two, I wear sarees because they are fun and not because I am trying to be a good Hindu. My faith is my own and won’t be plastered online. Also, please take a look at your grammar and/ or spelling before you hit post!

   6. Are you too poor to get proper saree blouses made?

Are you too stupid to understand women can wear whatever they want?

  7. Why don’t you wear make-up and/or show your face?

Because this blog is about sarees, not my face with or without make-up. Now, why don’t you go educate yourself about the perils of asking redundant questions?

  8. Why did you say no to a collab with me/ my brand?

Because I am not here to sell sarees. If I mention a brand, it is because I have high regard for them, not because they gave me a saree or offered to pay me for a post. I choose to be picky and don’t partner with everyone that asks. I refuse to be the person who just posts to shove a brand down their readers throat.

  9. How do you pee/ poop in a saree?

Are you f**king kidding me? Just like the women in your family have for generations. Now go annoy your mother with this question.

 10. How can you say nine yard sarees are fun? Do you even really wear them or is it just to attract attention?

I actually think that nine yard sarees are heaps fun and the extra fabric is great to play with. Yes, I really wear them a lot just like women before me have for centuries. Please take your idiocy elsewhere.

  11. How can you talk about wearing sarees on this blog and instagram and then have pictures in bathing suits on your other blog and instagram?

Are you for real? I didn’t know one couldn’t wear sarees as well as swimsuits. Its simple really, if I go swimming I wear a swimsuit and when I want to drape my six yards I do so. Now you do something actually useful with your time!

These are just some of the gems that come my way and I am sure a lot of women with an online presence get this and much more. I wish 2018 is the year when the world finally realises that women just get to be who they want and that the saree has no religion.

 

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.

 

 

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?

 

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.