Patola saree and some more sisterhood

Here’s to stunning ikat textiles that never fail to mesmerise me with their beauty …

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

This patola saree in the photos is an example of one of my most favourite kinds of textiles, ikat, an exquisite form of tie-dye. The patterns are created by protecting parts of the yarn by binding it before the dyeing process, removing the binds after dyeing, possibly repeating this process multiple times, and then using this yarn in the warp, weft, or both to create stunning ombre patterns.

I’ve grown up around various ikats from Orissa (or Cottoki as I called it as a kid), Pochampally and Patolas. It is a weave I continue to be obsessed with, want more of and wear in many different forms like sarees, pants, shorts/skirts or tops as you can see here. It is also a weave that binds India to vast sections of Asia and South America.

The technique seems to have developed independently across many different cultures and continents, appearing in places like Peru, Chile, Guatemala, Yemen, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Kyrghystan, Uzbekistan and probably more locations that I am not aware of.

The saree I am wearing in the photos above is a single ikat Patola from Gujarat woven painstakingly by a skilled artisan. I bought this saree from one of the loveliest, most knowledgable and down-to-earth textile expert, Archana Jain of Jhini Chadariya. Since February is all about girl love here on Pleats n Pallu, I would like to take a moment to appreciate everything wonderful that women like Archana personify.

Willingness to share knowledge, celebrating everything from humble weaves and crafts to grander more illustrious ones, being open and transparent about the exact origins of her products, never bad-mouthing other online sellers and above all celebrating the artisans who create the products.

There is a lot to love about her way of operating her business and I wish there were more people like her around. Everyone that has interacted with her have nothing but wonderful things to say and I cannot wait to see her when I am in India next.

I wanted to write about her because my experience of buying from her has been truly great and she doesn’t go around marketing her brand much. Just the fact that she doesn’t tom-tom about her products and doesn’t get other people to shout from the rooftops about her products means that when you buy from people like her, your money is truly going to the artists that create your products and not paying for sponsored posts all over the internet.

So, if you’re looking to buy wonderful handmade products from a truly ethical business run by a woman check Jhini Chadariya out on facebook and instagram.

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When sisterhood meets sareelove

Celebrating the enduring power of female friendships and saree love …

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

February is called the month of love and I have always wondered why celebrate love just one day of the year. The world today could do with a lot more love and understanding.

One of my biggest gripes with Valentine’s day is that it predominantly sells the idea of cis heterosexual romantic love. The majority of cards depict images of heterosexual couples, or male and female animals, soft toys, and the like, in the same way that anniversary cards are almost entirely designed for opposite sex partners.

However, as saccharine sweet, cheesy and commercialised as I may think the socially accepted version of Valentine’s day is, I can’t help but get behind the message of celebrating positivity and affection. Just not the romantic, boy-girl kind.

What I would like to celebrate this month is the love and solidarity that has ensured my existence today: female friendships.

We are told that our romantic partners are supposed to complete us but our most profound relationships are just as likely to be with our close female friends. For many women, friends are our primary partners through life and are those who centre us emotionally.

So in the sprit of sisterhood and saree love, all through this month I am going to highlight fabulous women who love sarees. Some of them wear sarees, some design them and others work with weavers and karigars to bring to us most delectable unstitched concoctions.

The saree I am wearing in the photos is a symbol of that exact kind of love in more ways than one, I won’t go into details as I’ve been told not to!

It is a Begumpuri weave from the cluster of villages around Hooghly in West Bengal and it has been customised with stunning Moroccan motifs embroidered  on by the lovely team at Sutaknotty (find them on instagram or facebook). Begumpuri sarees are cotton weaves with bold lines and geometric patterns that run across the body.

The lady behind Sutaknotty, Sweta is a veritable encyclopaedia of weaves from West Bengal and she customises sarees with the most exquisite and quirky touches. She also patiently answers questions about handlooms without being pushy to make sales and will try and source the most obscure weaves.

It is women like Sweta who make online shopping for sarees a fun experience for me and Sutaknotty is the kind of business I would like to see do tremendously well.

I am tired of resellers making a quick buck by selling really commonly available, reasonably priced weaves for exorbitant prices by presenting them as something on the brink of extinction!

Wearing handcrafted, ethically made clothing doesn’t have to cost heaps and there are businesses run by ladies who not only sell the most amazing stuff but are also taking sisterhood to new heights. Happy love month Sweta and I am glad you’re a part of my life.

 

How I style my traditional saree blouses

This post is going to be all about the one thing I don’t seem to wear a lot with sarees, the traditional blouse/ choli …

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

I love versatile pieces in my wardrobe that work as separates with a bunch of other things, like this blouse. It was made over fifteen years ago for Navaratri and today I wear it with with jeans, shorts, skirts and sarees. Check it out worn with a skirt here.

I really cannot get behind the thought process that says every change of season means a new wardrobe haul. I like having multi-functional good quality pieces in my wardrobe that can be mix and matched and layered as per requirement.

I also don’t understand why we can’t wear our saree blouses as crop-tops with things other than sarees? They essentially are exactly that. I mean when we can use our crop-tops as blouses why not dress down our vibrant saree blouses with jeans or shorts. You can see some photos of me in my blouse that came with my Gadhwal saree worn with shorts here.

I’ve been wearing my saree blouses with everything other than sarees for ages and have had some people recoil in distaste but i think it is a crime not to wear saree blouses outside of traditional outfits.

In my opinion saree blouses make wonderful tops for dancing the night away and look great paired with basics. So here is my list of things other than the six yards that you can wear with your saree blouses:

  1. Denim, denim and some more denim: Think a pair of boy friend jeans with fun heels and a silk blouse for a night out or a pair of denim shorts with a cotton block print or khaki blouse for brunch.
  2. Over-alls: My olive and khaki dungarees look amazing with my bright blouses.
  3. Skirts: High-waist skater skirts with saree blouses with an oversize denim or leather jacket on top looks absolutely fabulous. I have worn saree blouses with my mid length skirts with sneakers for fun days in the sun.
  4. Flared or fitted bottoms: I love wearing my Ikat and block print saree blouses with super flared and even skinny bottoms in various fabrics.
  5. Wear them as shrugs: Some of my strappy dresses look wonderful when worn with a bright bandhani or hand embroidered blouse as a little jacket.
  6. Mirror work cholis: Hand embroidered cholis look great when they are fitted and look even better when they are slightly over sized and paired with your basics like I’ve done here.

Mixing fabrics and patterns is great fun so please give your saree blouses another look for some eclectic ways to style them.

The saree I am wearing in these photos is a hand loomed piece from the West Godavari side of Andhra Pradesh called the Pathebad. It is a wonderfully versatile length of cloth that I can dress up or down, I like that the fabric is neither too thick nor too thin and I can do a lot with it in terms of drapes.

 

 

 

 

The laal paad saree love

What is a Bengali woman without her shaada saree with the laal paad (white saree with a red border)?

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

In the age of wanting to make everything trendy and giving all kinds of garments a contemporary twist, I find old-school fun. The saree I am wearing in these photos is a very common variation of Begampuri taant and I love it.

I know a lot of handloom saree enthusiasts love to source rare weaves, on the verge of extinction or buy from revival initiatives and hate to see someone else wearing a similar saree. But I still get attracted to the quintessential Bengal handloom sarees that are commonly seen on women all over West Bengal.

I am no handloom expert and haven’t worked with textiles but I am an enthusiast who is watching the words like exotic and revived etc. been bandied about to sell handlooms at exorbitant rates. Tribal is the buzzword in handlooms today, if you are to believe certain re-sellers handwoven is becoming extinct and will soon be a luxury only few can afford.

Believe me all this is just plain hype that is being created by re-sellers who have jumped on the saree bandwagon recently. They have realised that there are tonnes of desi women in the sub-continent and overseas with disposable incomes, looking to buy the six yards online.

I like looking at photos of every day women just going about their daily lives in their sarees. Women that don’t treat the unstitched cloth like an acquisition to be stored safely, too scared to damage them, what they love goes on them and they live in it. It’s wearable art in every sense.

West Bengal handlooms to me are like comfy worn-in tee shirts that always feel soft and snuggly. I don’t care if my sarees have a stain here or discolouration there, they are little things that signify a well-loved and oft worn garment. I have the same obsession with hole-y, well-ventilated and tattered jeans and tee-shirts.

And once these taants have been worn a few times, they tend to become this wonderful texture which is when I can really play with drapes. I love the broad border of this saree so much, that I had to do a hi-low drape to show it off and swoosh about for a sunset stroll exploring old train sheds.

For me the rustic charm of age old motifs in colour palettes like this laal paad score time and again over the sophisticated colour schemes preferred by certain connoisseurs with deep pockets but debatable motives.

The blouse in these photos is a Pochampally Ikat with a little drama in the sleeves that works fabulously as a crop top with many other high waist items in my wardrobe. I love everything in my closet to work as separates with multiple things and I legit can make this blouse work with a tonne of other sarees and bottoms of various kinds.

My point is that one doesn’t need to spend heaps to acquire a rare weave to truly enjoy handlooms. I believe the real fun lies in picking up easily available good quality sarees with traditional motifs and style them in myriad ways that truly makes them stand out.

This saree was bought from a fabulous lady who goes exploring the deepest corners of India and Bangladesh to source locally made handlooms that are a sight for sore eyes. You can find her on instagram and facebook.

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.

 

Kanjivaram silk for a day in the forest

I adore my silk sarees too much to limit them to special occasions and love draping them during my escapades away from the city into nature…

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

Kanjivaram sarees – Just the name conjures up images of opulence and Rekha at her elegant best. It also makes one think of a bride-to-be’s trousseau and traditional South Indian Pujas. Many people call these sarees South India’s answer to the Banarasi.

When I see these mulberry silk six and nine yard beauties from Kancheepuram, I am mesmerised by the colours and sheer art that they are. I think they are special, too special to hide away in my closet for the next big event that is fit to showcase them.

Silks from Kancheepuram age beautifully and it is a shame that people just see them as occasion wear. I recently wore a Kanjivaram in a dhoti drape that showed the borders off to my liking and I am sharing it here in the hope that some of you will pull out your grandmothers’ and mothers’ or even aunts’ older heavier sarees and enjoy their loveliness sans an event.

The day I wore this flowing, unstitched loveliness, we went gallavanting into a forest and spent the day revelling in the natural beauty that we were surrounded by. I don’t like clothing that restricts movement and this drape ensured that I was free to run around and gesture wildly.

Since this saree is such a beauty I haven’t bothered to wear a matching blouse, opting for a fun flowy top instead. I like to dress my heavier sarees down anyway, especially when they are almost completely free of zari like this one.

I like the drama of the Korvai border on this one and the juxtaposition of the two wildly different colours. Korvai means ‘contrast’ and it is the kind of saree where the border and the body are two different colours. To weave this kind of design two weavers sit on either side of the loom to bring about the contrast in colours and this method of weaving originated in Kanchipuram.

This saree is from a woman-owned brand that I have come to love and appreciate for their quality products as well as the work they do with weavers. Vasini from the The Silk Line makes wonderful contemporary Kanjivarams that are rooted in traditional craftsmanship and continuously make my mouth water.

Their sarees range from wonderfully elaborate or deceptively simple, it is up to you to find the one that speaks to you. You can find them on instagram or their website.

 

Weaves of India: Moirang Phee

When struggling to wear a hard to tame fabric, the trick is to not give up and wear it again and again till you finally master the drape …IMG_1020

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

A lot of us struggle with certain kinds of sarees and tend to avoid them or completely give up on those kinds of fabrics. Over the course of my saree adventures I have identified that heavily starched and heavy zari sarees completely confound me.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t like them or wear them, I just scuffle with them more than I do with others. But with difficult sarees, any problematic fabric for the matter I’ve discovered the one thing that always works is to wear them … Again and again.

In the case of heavily starched cottons, repeat uses, steam iron and handwashing are my go to. The way I come to terms with hard to drape textiles is by playing with them to figure out how they prefer to fall, not forcing them to submit to what I want.

The saree in these photos is a stiff Moirang Phee that I played with for almost two months before I was happy with the way I wore it. I gave up trying to drape it the way I had wanted to when I first saw it and went with easy and relaxed.

Wore it casually over a gathered skirt with applique work and my swim-suit top to frolic on the beach one evening post sunset not caring if the pleats or the pallu were askew. As usual I skipped wearing safety pins and played in the waves till it got dark and a ranger came over with a torch telling people that the access gates were being shut.

I have wanted a Moirang Phee for ages before I got this beauty that was woven in Manipur by two female weavers and took about a week to be handcrafted to perfection.

Manipur is a tiny state in India’s spectacular North-east, set among breathtaking blue hills full of stunning water-falls, beautiful temples, picturesque paddy fields, scenic lakes and a plethora of indigenous flora and fauna. The art of weaving has developed and been perfected over centuries in the state.

Even though the weaves from there are not as well-known as others like the Kanjeevaram or the Benarasi, I believe Manipur has some of the most beautiful handlooms in India. Also, unlike other parts of India weaving in Manipur is entirely the work of women.

Most of the Meitei families in the rural areas in the Barak Valley depend on weaving and the handloom industry. The unique ethnic designs of Meitei handloom weaving include Ningthou-Phee, Namthang-khut-hat, Lashing-Phee, Moirang-Phee and Leiroom etc.

Moirang-Phee is a textile fabric which has a specific design called ‘MoirangPheejin’ which is woven sequentially on both longitudinal edges of the fabric and oriented towards the centre of the cloth with cotton or silk threads. Orginally a product of the Moirang village in the Bishnupur district this design is now protected under the Geographical Indicator registration and produced throughout Manipur.

The ‘MoirangPheejin’ design is locally known as ‘YarongPhi’, ‘ya’ meaning tooth, ‘rong’ meaning long and ‘longba’ denoting pronged. The design is said to represent the thin and pointed teeth of ‘Pakhangba’, the Pythonic God in Manipuri mythology.

I have come across a lot of sellers selling these sarees but only two who genuinely source from weavers in Manipur, are able to give me details about where their products have been made, tell me about the yarns used and the meaning behind different motifs.

It has also come to my attention that a lot of similar looking sarees woven with substandard yarn in Bangladesh are passed off by unscrupulous sellers as Moirang Phees.

One thing I’ve learnt is to stay away from sellers who can’t answer my questions or avoid them and those who claim to sell authentic products for ridiculously low prices.

This saree is from a woman-owned and operated business run by a fabulous Manipuri lady, Amy Aribam who stocks delectable handloom concoctions. Check out her MoirangPhee stocks on her website or on instagram.