A lot of people insist on the perfect pleats on a saree but I wonder why that is?
Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)
There are a plethora of articles online telling women how to wear sarees, with tips to get the neatest pleats to look slim, elegant, poised and who knows what else.
What these articles seem to forget is that women are living breathing entities who actually believe it or not run around and get sh*t done. And people who are doing stuff and living their lives don’t have the time or the inclination to perfectly pleat their sarees. Also, what I find most appalling about these articles is that they are almost always written by women.
The multiple ways in which women who wear sarees are shamed by other women are subtle but obvious, small but inescapable. What is the big deal about perfect pleats anyway? To be honest the stiff safety pinned look does nothing for me.
These articles get shared and re-shared and we’ve set up a world in which wearing a saree seems like an unknowable mystery and we all feel at least a little unsure and bad about ourselves while trying to sort it out.
I don’t know what is it but asserting some sense of moral authority, know-how, expertise at another’s expense seems like people’s favourite sport. We like rules and we like checklists and we are vulnerable to people who seem like they have it all figured out.
Rules about wearing a saree well are not actually real but a reflection of the institutionally sizeist/racist/ageist/misogynist stew we’re all marinating in.
There are no actual experts when it comes to wearing sarees, it is a fluid garment that takes the personality of the wearer. No one knows how you should be wearing your unstitched cloth — not the bullies, not the rule-makers, not the writers of stupid articles online.
Often people think there’s only one way to wear a sari – that is the ‘Nivi’ drape.
But the truth is that there are hundreds of different region specific ways to drape a sari. Just like cuisines, language and customs in India – the drapes are an outcome of context, geography, climate and function.
I would assume that there are other drapes that have died out or ones that haven’t yet been officially documented. And this safety-pinned neatly pleated look that most of us are told to aspire to is a very recent concoction.
So I say, wear whatever the hell kinda saree you want, in any damn way you want. We are all perfectly imperfect and our sarees don’t have to be impeccably pleated if we are happy running around chasing our dreams and having fun.
I strut around all day in this vintage jamdani, put it on over my bathing suit in the morning, road-tripped in it through tropical rainforests, danced in the said forests, took it off to swim and put it back on, had a picnic lunch, drank copious amounts of beer, hug and kissed my love and above all chased waterfalls with him all day.
I see no reason for neat pleats or to ‘secure’ the saree with safety pins while doing any of the above. Even at work, I refuse to pin my pallu up, instead I use it as a scarf to protect me from the freezing temperatures.
In fact, I feel most people overuse safety pins and often make their sarees more rigid, which is not absolutely not how I wear my un-stiched cloth.
As women, we need to set new saree styling rules for ourselves, ones that have nothing to do with age, body types, colors or shapes but everything to do with how our clothing makes us feel.