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.

 

 

 

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Tips for buying handlooms online

This post is for those of you who live outside of the sub-continent and have asked me questions about starting your handloom journey. If you are already a handloom connoisseur, you don’t need me to tell you what to do …

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

I would love to buy all my sarees from brick and mortar shops, hole in the wall shacks in bazaars, sleepy Government emporiums or Khadi bhandars, directly from artisans at various exhibitions and on visits to weaving clusters …However, I live no where close to any of the above.

So, I often wear and re-wear my sarees, wait to go home to India to satisfy my buying fix or coax my friends with impeccable taste into picking stuff up for me. But there are a lot of you who may be new to the idea of handloom sarees and I do know that not everyone in the diaspora goes to India often.

So here are some things I have learnt about shopping online for handlooms as a beginner:

  • I prefer to buy from websites that have the the handloom mark or are government certified handloom resellers. Also, most of the bigger websites will have complimentary services to get the fall attached to the bottom of the saree and close the edges.
  • Remember to be patient and look for what really feels like you. Whether we like it or not, most saree websites stock what is popular among customers (i.e. bling-ey non-handlooms), so you will need patience to sift through.
  • Set your own budget, there is a handloom saree for EVERY budget. Don’t let anyone tell you that your interest is not legitimate because you are not buying the latest super expensive revival weave and/ or you are not a textile scholar.
  • Don’t let anyone else tell you what to buy and what to pair with what. Especially ignore cranky purveyors of saree sanctity on various saree groups.
  • Interact with people online who are passionate about sarees, they will be able to point you in the right direction.
  • When buying online, ask questions to know what you are buying:

– what is the material and where has it been sourced?
– is it from a weaver or a middle person? (imo stay away from resellers who refuse to call themselves that.)
-what exactly is handcrafted and what is special about the work? (A craftsperson or an honest reseller should also be able to give you some added information and knowledge of the weave/print/ craft.)

  • Enlarge the photos on display so that you can see the fabric clearly or ask for close-up photos if you need. Handlooms show up fine irregularities, handblock is easy to distinguish from machine prints and printed bandhani/ leheriya is discernible from real hand tied work.
  • Check the website/ online store a couple of times before you buy anything, speak to people who have already bought from them and check the reviews.
  • Research the various weaves, fabrics, hand block prints and embroidery styles available. There is a lot of information out there that will help you decide where you want to start.
  • Most of us have been exposed to hand crafted beauties in our families, our Mothers, aunts, uncles and grandmothers are sometimes the best people to guide us.

This saree is a budget handloom from Karnataka sourced via a website who I have had a fabulous experience with. They have a decent selection of handlooms for someone who is just starting out, offer complimentary finishing to make the saree read-to-wear, their blouse tailors have given me the best blouse I have ever had made plus the person I spoke to on live chat was wonderfully helpful.

I find this saree very versatile, it can easily be dressed up or down based on where you are planning to wear it. I have worn it here with a hand embroidered Kutchi choli bought from the community that wears these in their every-day lives, along with a massive flower head-band.

This was worn to go to a national park and float about in the backwaters for a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I don’t know if the photos to justice to the perfect colour of the fabric, it is bright but in an understated way and the checks are heaps fun.

I would wear something like this with some silver jewellery to a day wedding or I would wear a white tee to wear this saree to work. Styling options are limitless based on your ability to re-imagine simple cotton textiles.

Most of what I have in my tiny saree collection are gifts from family and friends therefore I have no idea about the source. But this saree was sent to me by Sareez.com, I have not been asked to review or write about the saree but I loved dealing with them and what they sent me, therefore I am choosing to share my views.

 

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.

 

 

 

Chasing waterfalls in a block print saree

Cotton sarees with Ganesh tees and vans sneakers make for a great outfit to run up and down mountains …

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

I like chasing waterfalls, climbing cliffs by the sea, walking through deep rainforests, riding my bike in national parks, floating leisurely in backwaters … basically enjoying the world around me that isn’t constricted by concrete walls.

I have been told again and again that the photos I post are too removed from most people’s reality and sometimes it does make me stop and think. But I always come to the same conclusion, I don’t know how to be anyone else apart from me.

So if you want to follow my adventures, there will be a lot of curious exploration of the world around me, there will be innumerable photos of water bodies, heaps of animals and plants, there will also be a lot of mis-matched accessories and ambivalence regarding things that others may have strong opinions on.

I also get asked (often) if I only wear sarees. Here’s the thing, I wear whatever I feel like wearing on a given day. This blog is about wearing the six yards, so photos on this blog are of myself and other women wearing sarees. I also have another blog where I share my outfits that may or may not be sarees.

On the day these photos were taking we were running late and I had the last minute inspiration to take our mini super hero nephew waterfall chasing with us. I wanted to wear comfy track pants, an over size tee-shirt and comfy sneakers but I also felt like wearing a saree. So what did I do? I wore everything I just mentioned, all together.

The saree was thick enough for the pallu to be used as a scarf to protect against sudden gusts of winds on the way, it is a soft enough cotton that it survived hours in the car without looking like a wrinkly mess and I like the way it looks with the Ganesh tee.

I think the way one looks at life manifests in photos, I have always thought there is a bit of magic in the world and have never stopped looking for it. And I think it comes through in the photos we take and share, that as hard as it is sometimes, we would like to see beauty in this world.

We’re both hellbent on chasing our own kind of peace and happy while trying to drown out the negativity that surrounds everyone. Nobody’s life is perfect and ours is far from it but we’re just trying to find beauty where we can and engage with things plus people we love.

 

 

 

 

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.

Do’s and don’ts of wearing a saree

What a saree gives you is, the freedom to interpret it in new ways or happily be comfortable in the tried and tested..

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

I have come across an article that talks about what not to do when wearing a saree, a well-wisher (read asshole) sent it to me in the murky world that is Instagram direct message.

I am definitely not sharing a link to the article because I think it is absolute nonsense of the worst kind but here is what I will share: A list of dos and don’ts when wearing a saree:

  1. Choose the right blouse

Wondering if you should wear a matching blouse or a contrast blouse with your saree, or about the neckline or design at the back or sleeve length? That skimpy choli you saw on a celebrity, could you wear it and look great? Should it be fitted or boxy?

How about just wearing whatever the hell you feel like and whatever is within arm’s reach on the day? Its a whole different kind of fun to design one’s blouse and feel fabulous in it. But you can also wear whatever top YOU thinks looks fabulous and if the blouse police has a problem with it, it is THEIR problem.

2. Choose the right pallu length

This is one of my favourites! You know what they say? The pallu length is crucial to the final look of the saree. Too long or too short pallu will just make one look, hmm what exactly?

How about wearing the length that seems right for you, on that day? I like my pallu long, but you might feel completely different about a long pallu, so you do you my friend, you do you!

3. Choose the right petticoat (under skirt)

Asking yourself questions like: How can one have a matching petticoat for every saree? What if the petticoat you’re wearing is wrong for the saree? What if the petticoat kills your entire look?

How about just having a nude petticoat that looks good under any saree? How about no petticoat? How about wearing your sarees with pants? And above all how about wearing a fun underskirt and not caring if it matches or peeks out from under? How about making what you already have, work for you?

4. Choose the right footwear

We’ve all heard things like wear your heels before you start draping or you’ll mess up the length. Asking yourself if you should wear heels with your saree as it will give you extra length and look great? Should you wear those high heels that you love but makes you tower over guys? Wondering if you could get away with embellished flats because it is going to be a long day and you don’t want to wear heels?

How about just wearing whatever you feel like? Wear the flats if you want to, wear heels if you feel like, wear sneakers if you’re running from pillar to post. 

5. Choose the right length for the saree

You know what they say? The length of your saree should be neither too long nor too short, just right. (Are we stuck in a Goldilocks and the three bears universe?)

What is just right length though? How about just wearing it the way you want? Mini-length, midi-length, dhoti style till the ankles, knee-length dhoti, anything you want!

6. Choose the right draping style

Have you been told any of the following: Stick to the drape that looks good on your shape, some draping styles makes one look bulky, others flatteringly slim, wear your pallu pleated and ‘flaunt’ your flat stomach, hide your not-so-flat stomach. Hmm?

Also don’t show too much cleavage and definitely no back cleavage! Yaar! back cleavage kya hota hai?

There are hundreds of draping styles in India and there are many more ways of experimenting with the saree. How about just playing with your drape till YOU feel great? Or just sticking to YOUR tried and tested?

7. Choose the right bra

Ooh! This is a big one. Have you heard something along the lines of, wear the right bra in the right colour for a saree/saree blouse and make sure the straps are not visible?

How about wearing the bra you like in whatever colour you like? Or going bra-less or wearing a fun bralette, sports bra or swimsuit top as your blouse? The bra that feels right for your needs is the right bra for a saree! I wear a sports bra if I feel like it, a lacy bra if I want to and if a strap peeks out, I make sure its a bloody cute colour!

8. Choose the right fabric and colour

Did you know there is the right fabric for every body shape? And suitable colour options based on the shade of your skin, age and marital status?? Mujhe toh pata hi nahi tha!

Rubbish like, skinny girls with no curves should wear certain fabrics, curvier ladies should wear another and who knows what else. Or one should wear cotton with cotton, silk with silk and of course only silk for pujas or weddings, you know because cotton is for the poor and silk means opulence and wealth?

How about just wearing the saree you want to wear, not the one THEY say is right for YOUR body type, skin colour, age, socio-economic status etc.?

9. Choose the right jewellery

Should you wear all the jewellery you have because you love them all? Should you wear nothing because jewellery isn’t really your thing? But your friend reminds you, not to look like a Christmas tree or that you’re going to a wedding and should wear some gold. Or that well-meaning relative says that you look like you’re going to a funeral because of minimal jewellery.

One, what’s wrong about looking like a Christmas tree because you want to?! I mean most people love looking at/ decorating Christmas trees. And what’s wrong with wearing plastic, wood or any other kind of jewellery you like with your saree? Or no jewellery at all, because you feel like it?

How about just wearing the jewellery you like, you want to wear and you feel comfortable wearing? 

10. Choose where and how to pin your saree

They say, securing your pleats and your pallu are a must, the pins shouldn’t show and definitely must be positioned right?

How about pinning or not pinning the saree based on what you prefer or wearing fun pins and not caring if they show? How about filling your saree with brooches? 

11. Choose the right hair cut/ colour/ style

Have any of you been told any of the following: Straighten your hair into sleekness when wearing a saree, girls with long lustrous locks look best in sarees, wear your hair in nice bun, don’t leave it wild and unruly!

How about just let your hair be the way it wants to be? Wear a saree with long hair or short, with thick unruly hair or a shaved head, tie it up or leave it down, whatever YOU want.

What not to do when wearing a saree?

Don’t be a misogynistic, gender roles obsessed, douche that wants to maintain shitty beauty standards and views people’s bodies as objects meant to please the viewer’s gaze!

Also remember saree is probably one of the first gender neutral clothing options meant for everyone inside and outside of one’s understanding of the gender spectrum.

The saree doesn’t have to come with a set of dreary rules, an expiry date based on trends especially if you choose timeless handlooms, it doesn’t have to have an age limit, or a body shape preference!

What a saree gives you is, the freedom to interpret it in new ways or happily be comfortable in the tried and tested! So if the saree police accosts you, ask them to get lost and choose to feel good about YOU!

Tell me what saree rule gets your goat, let’s keep the conversation going in the comments section.

 

Leather jacket and boots with a vintage saree?

Isn’t it time we took one of the oldest, continuosly worn garment and made it our own?

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

Leather jacket and boots with a vintage saree? Why not? Isn’t it time we stopped wearing things the way other people wear them? Isn’t it time we took one of the oldest, continuosly worn garment and made it our own?

Here’s the thing, I don’t care how you wear your sarees, I wear mine the way I like and the way I feel on the day. I love leather anything and I love sarees and sometimes I wear everything I like together.  Old world Ikats with perfectly worn in leather was the choice of this particular day of roaming about to get some brunch and walk around the neighbourhood.

I cannot get enough of material that has softened with time, aged beautifully and has character. I love the quality, the uniqueness, the stories and the images I conjure up of vintage garments. They are more than just used-clothes, they come with history, an old world charm, a sprinkle of magic and are what I think; clothing with a soul. And in my opinion the best kind of vintage item is the perfectly preserved saree, the old world craftsmanship, wrapped up in whimsy, its truly a handloom lover’s dream come true.

One is never too old or too young to wear vintage, it can be styled in myriad different ways but it still somehow retains its soul. And there is much more creative freedom in doing things in one’s own way, to cause one to grin from ear to ear in joy at the reflection in the mirror!