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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Drape a saree as a maxi dress

The festive/ wedding season is well and truly upon us and you know you need new sets of traditional outfits for all the functions you have been asked to attend …

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

No, don’t rush to the nearest store, put that credit/ debit card down and step away from the website luring you with their sales. Instead look into your wardrobe for those traditional sarees you get given and never seem to wear. Don’t have any? No worries, go look into your mother, aunt, grandmother, older cousin or friend’s wardrobe, pull out any flowy silk saree and start playing.

I don’t think it is necessary to buy new festive garb every year based on what trends dictate. Sticking to handcrafted beauties that appeal to you regardless of trends will ensure you have outfits that will probably outlive you.

There are myriad ways to style the same saree and use it for different events. The normal Nivi style, saree with a lehenga, draped as a dress or as a dhoti jumpsuit are some of the ways I have styled my sarees for various events in the past few weeks.

Draping the same saree in the same way might get boring but playing with the silken folds and styling experiments are not only fun but a tremendously practical way of ensuring your sarees are worn often and loved.

It is also a great way to ensure no one will be wearing the exact same thing anywhere you go. Not to mention it is a fun way to be sustainable and to make the best use of what you already have. So this festive season I encourage all those who read this post to step outside their comfort zones.

If you normally hesitate to wear a saree try a drape that you feel good in, if you are tired of the same drape switch one element of it up, if you’re tired of heavy jewellery wear something minimal or just concentrate on one item, if you think celebrations mean silks, give your cottons a shot.

In these photos I am wearing a Jamnagari Gajji silk bandhani as a dress and I think with the right accessories it can be elevated to something appropriate for most weddings and black tie events.

I find this drape super easy to walk and do hi kicks in, plus this drape ensures there is no trailing pallu to trip me up when I am running away from aunties asking me about my views on marriage! *wink wink*

Six knots, two safety pins, a belt and four minutes is all it took for my sister to create this drape on me. She has also created several variations of this drape to include a pallu if we want and reduce or increase the slits on each side.

Sarees are works of art in themselves and lend themselves beautifully to anything you may want to do with them.

They can become a beautiful evening gown or a skirt or cocktail dress or even pants when one uses their imagination. One saree can be so many different looks that a few can take you through the entire festive/ wedding season with ease.