Category Archives: Fashion

Saree Sensation! #100SareePact completes one year!

That’s Anju Kadam (right) with her gal pals.

So here I am, with my colleague Ambika Shaligram, tracking the 100 Saree Pact that came into being last March and the way ahead for the ubiquitous Indian drape.

Last year in March, two Bengaluru ladies, Ally Matthan, an entrepreneur, and Anju Kadam, who is into video production, decided to bring out their forgotten sarees from the closet and make it a part of their daily life instead of restricting them to special occasions.

They made a pact, to wear sarees at least 100 times in 365 days. They posted their photos with the saree number on Twitter, and were soon joined by hundreds of women, who loved the six yard but never really got around to draping it regularly. The 100 Saree Pact became a mini revolution embraced by not only women in India, but those who lived abroad too. Facebook groups, Saree Dates (like kitty parties) and with the celebration of the First World Saree Day on December 21, the pact has come a long way. We chat up with the founders, the Pune pacters, and a Ukrainian lady who is in love with the saree.

Over to Ally Matthan and Anju Kadam-

Ally Matthan in her 100th saree of the pact.
Ally Matthan in her 100th saree of the pact.

The highlight of the 100 Saree Pact was that every pacter got to share the “story” behind the saree she was wearing. “I don’t expect my favourite pair of trousers or a shirt to have a story, but, yes every saree has a story behind it and it’s amazing to listen to it,” says Kadam, adding that saree lovers and pacters in different cities and states participated in Saree Dates to share their stories.

In the year ahead, Kadam and Matthan now want the saree weavers to share their stories. “The hard work the saree-makers put into the weaving, especially handloom sarees, never translates into money. That’s how the concept of pop-ups was born. I am working with some weavers and NGOs to encourage women to hold pop-ups in their homes, so that sarees can be bought directly from the weavers,” explains Matthan about their new 100 Saree Project.

The charm never fades-

Savani Laddha first heard of the pact from her school friend in Mumbai, Priya Kadappa Shah. She was tagged by Shah on FB posts, but didn’t take the pact seriously till July. “I was intimidated by the number and thought it was an impossible task. In July, there was Eid celebration in office, so I decided to wear a saree. That started off. I took pictures and then started tagging friends and later Anju Kadam and Ally Matthan. And, by December I had completed the pact,” grins Laddha, a CA by profession.

The festive season — Shravan, Bhadarapad, Navratra and Diwali — provided the necessary impetus to Laddha, who was soon joined by her neighbours in the housing society.

Her friend, Anu Pazhayannur, who completed the pact in January, says, “I am a teacher, so I would wear a saree to school. But it was not a regular affair. After I joined the pact, I increased the frequency to two or three times a week. We kept encouraging each other.

Sujata Mane
Sujata Mane

Our friends and colleagues would often ask, ‘So, at which number are you on?’  At every milestone, we partied or celebrated with friends. For instance, we all dressed in Kasavu sarees (known as Kerala sarees), wore gajras and then dined at a South Indian restaurant when I reached the target.” But why did saree-wearing take a backseat?

“I won’t say it’s a cumbersome affair. But sari is an elegant garment, so everything else — your hairdo, make-up has to be perfect! It’s not like pairing a t-shirt with denims,” says Laddha. “A lipstick is a must when you are wearing a saree!” chimes in  Pazhayannur. In the course of the pact, the duo reaffirmed their love for silk sarees.

“My mum was from Belgaum, so I have a deep and abiding love for South silk, especially Kanjeevaram. I wore sarees borrowed from my mum and granny. For my 100th saree, I wore my granny’s Navwari (nine yard),” adds Laddha, who shared her story and  nuggets associated with every saree that she wore on FB.

Pazhayannur too wore silks bought from Chennai. “I discovered that I have less sarees in shades of orange. And, I think I need one Banarasi saree,” she adds.  Even after the pact ended, they have been wearing sarees, but not posting pictures.

Sujata Mane, who hosted Pune’s first Saree Date, enjoyed the meet. She says, “Obviously, we were all wearing sarees, some in Navwari style, some in Gujarati style, some in Kerala sarees… inspite of the diversity, we all clicked on a personal level and the common bond.”

World Saree Day celebrations (December 21, 2015).
World Saree Day celebrations (December 21, 2015).

The 52-year-old also attended the World Saree Day celebration held by Kadam in Bengaluru in December. “It was fun socialising with women who are crazy about the six yard,” she concludes.

Sanjana Jog, an army wife who has lived in many parts of India thanks to the postings of her husband, she was able to buy sarees from all parts of India. She also found numerous occasions to wear, since women generally wear sarees in all formal functions in the Army.

Lyuba Johnson

Across the seas-

Lyuba Johnson, who grew up in Ukraine watching Bollywood movies, has always been fascinated with this Indian drape.

“The first time I tried it on, the result was ‘scary’. I went though numerous YouTube videos — they went too fast — and finally decided that the best way would be to just drape it,” says Johnson, who can now drape a saree as flawlessly as any Indian woman.

Earlier, Johnson’s biggest reservation about wearing a saree was if it meant disrespecting the Indian culture. But soon she realised that there was no better way of winning an Indian’s heart than flaunting a saree!

Johnson, who now lives in US, buys her sarees online, and has now found an Indian store to get her blouses custom-made.

This article first appeared in Sakal Times Pune edition dated March 17, 2015. All photos have been sourced from the Pact members. 

100 Saree Pact

Why I like to shop from saree exhibitions rather than showrooms

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I felt possessed. I had never seen so many cottton sarees at one place. And what an amazing collection they had — something that would attract a grandma as well as young woman. I like to buy my sarees and contrasting blouse pieces from such exhibitions because –

  1. I am assured of authenticity of the product
  2. Handloom weavers and hand-dyed fabrics are a good buy anytime.
  3. I feel good that those who work hard to keep our Indian fabrics alive are getting a good price for it.

IMG_20160206_161816Broad borders, small borders, sarees in vibrant colours, sarees in simple hues, and every possible combination — you name it and it was there! The exhibition was organised by Dastkar Andhra Marketing Association. They have an online shop too! www.dacottonhandlooms.in

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I instantly became fida on their prices too. Sarees were ranged between Rs950 and Rs1,600 and while yardage — pure cotton and natural dyed ones — ranged from Rs120 to Rs250!

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The exhibition had a wide variety of yardage, sarees, dupattas and stoles from Andhra region. Fabrics like kalamkari, simple plain cotton, and khadi cotton were available. I bought four sarees for just Rs4,500. I have bought it for gifting, but I have my eye on them, so maybe they would end up becoming a part of my closet only!

If you thought selecting gifts for kids is easy…

Why the hell is it so hard to pick out gifts for babies. No, I don’t have kids, but I am in that age bracket where almost all my friends have kids/are pregnant/trying/trying frantically. And a direct side-effect of having such friends is that you get invited to a lot of birthday parties. So,”what to gift” is a recurring problem.

I know the world is full of baby-related items and every fourth shop in any market will stock toys and kids’ clothes. Okay lemme rephrase my question… Why the hell is it so hard to pick out gifts for kids that won’t make their moms go “oh not again”?

I am fortunate to have people around me who are well off in their life. They are able to provide the best of everything to their kids (sometimes more than what their kids need). So selecting gifts for their kids is a taxing task bhai!

If you aren’t creative enough, chances are that their child (or plural) would already have what you gave (maybe in plural too). If that happens, neither the baccha is excited at opening your gift, nor is the mom, who secretly adds it to her database of recyclable gifts.

I definitely don’t want my gift to be recycled. No No.

So what Mr Bachchan is saying these days in First Cry advertisements, that Bachchon ki shopping #BachchonKaKhelNahin, is 100% correct. (I accidentally read it as Bachchan ki Shopping at first, ha ha.)

So for years, I stuck to two trusted things — envelope mein cash for relatives’ kids and books for friends’ kids. One can never go wrong with these.

But now it seems the options are endless. I just checked out the online baby market (i mean baby-related-products’ market, you freak) and found many utility items that a mother or a child can actually use. People rarely gift useful things these days, don’t you think?

In case you think you don’t know the baby’s choice (oh yes, they are very fussy) or needs, then why not go for a gift voucher from FirstCry.com. I am always in favour of doling out gift vouchers as it gives moms the independence to get something their kids will enjoy or use.

I think I have given out a major spoiler alert for all my friends who have babies — they know what they are gonna get next time they invite me to a birthday party. And those who don’t have a clue and act surprised, I am gonna punch you hard — you are my friend and you still don’t read my blog!!!!!

Rajasthani fabric designs

Rajasthan has such a wide and vibrant collection of textile designs and fabrics that is sure to leave a person bankrupt if his wife is left alone to shop! Too bad my husband didn’t realise that.
On a recent trip to Bikaner, I was accompanied by two friends on a shopping trip where our sole aim was to get some exquisite sarees, bed sheets and table covers. It took us three entire days to properly scan the old market area of the city and shop to our heart’s fill.
In sharp contrast to Rajasthan’s colourless topography, the fabric here is extremely vibrant and colourful. Craftsmen put in a lot of effort to get the designs and motifs onto the fabric and their hard work is evident in their product’s popularity.
Sanganeri fabric is the most common form of block printed cotton fabric in which wooden blocks are used to create some stunning motifs. Sanganeri prints on bed sheets and table covers are my personal favourite, though I would rarely let go of an opportunity to buy a Sanganeri saree.

Sadly, I couldn’t find good curtains with Sanganeri print. So I got this crazy idea of buying a nice Sanganeri saree, cutting off the pallu, and cutting the saree in half to make a set of two curtains. I, however, made the stupid mistake of saying this out aloud in front of the saree shop owner. He was scandalised to say the least! He went all musical on me, “Madem ji, aap saree ka parda banaoge? Itni acchi saree… aur uska parda!!??
I tried to calm him down, but I have a suspicion that from thereon, he was reluctantly showing me sarees, probably imagining me as a saree-slaughterer.

There we are, bringing every item off the shelf.
There we are, bringing every item off the shelf.

Now that we are talking about sarees, how can I not mention Bandhej and Leheriya? These sarees, mostly on chiffon, are a big hit among women, right from a humble village woman to the aristocratic royals.
Kota-doriya and supernet sarees also has a rich look and the best part is that they are quite pocket friendly. Where a chiffon Leheriya or Bandhej saree costs about Rs3000 (or Rs500 for synthetic machine printed ones), Kota-doriya or Supernet sarees’ cost starts from Rs1000 and goes up depending on the design and zari work on the border.
If you feel Sanganeri bed sheets are beautiful, then wait till you hear its price — trust me you will fall in love with the pricetag as well! Shelling out just Rs500 for a bed sheet-pillow cover set does not pinch the pocket at all! Have a look at these sarees and fabrics which I have posted below. The shopkeepers at Laxmi Sarees and Deepak Textiles in Bikaner were kind enough to let me click pics while we were all haggling for prices (women will be women).

Black Bandhej Saree, a rare colour in Rajasthan.
Black Bandhej Saree, a rare colour in Rajasthan.
Electric blue Bandhej Saree with a unique design.
Electric blue Bandhej Saree with a unique design.
Dual coloured Leheriya pattern
Dual coloured Leheriya pattern
Supernet Sarees with zari borders
Supernet Sarees with zari borders
Sanganeri printed table covers and bed sheets. These items usually come in a white-base fabric, but you can get it in pastel colours if you are lucky.
Sanganeri printed table covers and bed sheets. These items usually come in a white-base fabric, but you can get it in pastel colours if you are lucky.
A typical Indian patch-work bed cover which is made in Rajasthan.
A typical Indian patch-work bed cover which is made in Rajasthan.

Lunkaransar, the cotton county

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I find no other fabric as comfortable and durable as pure cotton, though it is a tough task to find the real thing among hoards of imposters. Many shopkeepers and fabric sellers would try to convince you that cotton-mix is same as pure cotton, and it is easy to get fooled by them. I learned identifying cotton fabrics from my mother, whose one look and touch was  all that was required to pass the judgement. She later took to another way — burning loose threads at the end of the fabric and determining whether it was cotton or synthetic based on what the ashes looked like. I am yet to come to that stage. 🙂

Many regions of India are known for its cotton weavers and high quality cotton made by them, and I was thrilled to be able to visit one such place.

On a recent trip to Bikaner in Rajasthan, I was told that a place called Lunkaransar, about an hour away on National Highway 15, supplys to some of my favourite clothing brands like FabIndia. So it wasn’t long before my husband and I were on our way to Lunkaransar.

A bit of research on the internet told me that weavers in Lunkaransar are promoted by Umrul and Vasundhara Grahmothan Samiti and it has been decades since weaving has become a source of additional income in this draught-hit area.

Cotton yardage I picked up form Lunkaransar.
Cotton yardage I picked up form Lunkaransar.

So on National Highway 15, at the end of the salt lake and about 2 kms short of the Railway station, they have a tiny shop in front of a petrol pump and sell handmade cotton fabric, garments and embroidaried bags made by weavers of Lunkaransar. I saw the cotton yardage which they sell there which is of top quality (I can totally visualise them as kurtas in FabIndia or Anokhi) and was available for Rs120 per metre.

I bought a lot of stuff and my total bill was just Rs 1000 (me happy, husband super happy). I felt very good that weavers of this town would get a majority of what I spent today, especially when they really don’t get a fair price when their products are bought by multinational companies.

Two days later, Dastkar’s Facebook page had a piece of news about Lunkaransar’s weavers attending an entrepreneur’s workshop which taught them essential business skills. That is indeed a great step.

They could start with advertising about their Lunkaransar outlet in a better way — no need to spend a lot of money on it as all they would need to o is make a visually appealing Facebook page. They should choose a catchy name first as there is a lot of confusion among the tourists and outstation customers about this… is it Urmul or is it Vasundhara Gramhmothan Samiti? Tags on readymade garments say Urmul, but the sign board of their outlet says the latter in bold letters.

Also, they need to go beyond simply making kurtas and tops. Experimenting with other designs might bring out amazing results, like palazzo pants, skirts, light jackets or even long designer dresses with some fancy embroidery. So there, that’s all a user like me can think of at the moment. I leave the rest to professionals.

DIY Designing a lehenga

There was almost an year’s gap between my engagement and wedding, and when that happens, your brain kinda goes into planning some pretty unrealistic projects. You know, stuff like what you want to do on your wedding day, who all should be there, what everyone should be doing or wearing… totally random.

So I got this idea in my head that I will make my own sangeet lehenga since most of the lehengas I checked out in the shops were not what I wanted. And the ones which actually caught my eye were way too expensive.

Now I have a very simple taste, I don’t like a lot of embroidery work on my garments and usually go for something elegant and classy. I used to shudder at the thought of being buried in a lehenga which resembled a chandelier — both in cost and look.

Fashion Designer Vyoma Kawdikar
Fashion Designer Vyoma Kawdikar

So my fiancé’s cousin, Vyoma Kawdikar, who is a fashion designer and owns a label called Vyoma, got on board with this idea. She lives in the USA now, so we had to discuss most of the things online. She helped me out with what colours would go with each other and what kind of borders I should use on them.

Our combos changed almost every fortnight. But she was really patient with me and finally we zeroed in on the combo which was very very in at that time — emerald green lehenga, hot pink choli, and yellow dupatta.Then my colleague introduced me to Kaveri Batla in Delhi, who owns a boutique in Lajpat Nagar, who (again, very patiently) ironed out other design issues like what kind of fabric I should go for and where I would find all the raw material. She told me a gher-daar lehenga would need at least 8 metres of chanderi fabric which is light weight silk, about a metre of raw silk for the blouse, and 3 metres of net fabric with sequins work on it for the dupatta.

So I scan the Delhi markets and buy everything that I would need.

From Lajpat Nagar

1. Green Chanderi fabric – Rs 900

2. Raw silk in hot pink – Rs 250

3. Brocade fabric in hot pink, for sleeves – Rs 100

4. White net with sequins buti on it – Rs 450

From Chandni Chowk (Kinari Bazar)

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The final product

1. For dupatta, yellow border with kundan work (9m) – Rs 2000

2. For lehenga, golden heavy sequins lace (15m) – Rs 250

3. Golden ribbon – Rs 50

4. For lehenga, hot pink narrow lace with leafy design (9m) – Rs 350 (for two rolls)

So I buy all this, and give it to Kaveri, who got it stitched for me in her workshop. She added lining in blouse and the petty coat of the lehenga from her side and charged me Rs 3,750. She even dyed the white net fabric in yellow, which saved me a lot of running around the market. And voila! in just two weeks I have this lehenga ready which was very simple and the flair of the skirt caught everyone’s attention. I was damn happy that I achieved this within my budget in just Rs 8,100. A similar lehenga in Hauz Khas or Shahpur Jat would probably cost Rs 20,000! Way to go.

Check out Vyoma’s collection here
https://www.facebook.com/Vyomafashion

While Kaveri’s work can be viewed here.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reet-by-Kaveri-Batla/159207244269258

That perfect haircut

I always tell my friends that it is easier to find a good husband than a tailor who understands your needs, than a hairstylist who gives you a perfect haircut, and a housemaid who doesn’t come in our nightmares.

You have seen my picture on the left side of this blog right? (If you haven’t then gimme your email id, i’ll start sending you hate mails.)
I had shoulder length layered hairstyle till a breakup forced me to revamp my life and my mane caught the brunt of it. I have always been a big fan of the pixie cut and a senior colleague told me about this place in Pune which is famous for that.

Indian women are extremely proud of their long hair and are intensely protective about it. Trimming just one inch means the girl would have shed a mugful of tears before getting into the chair (and after it too). So it’s pretty hard to find someone who understands that SOME women like short hair and it needs to be different from a guy’s haircut…however similar they might look to you.

So this place in Pune is on Ferguson College Road and is called Techni Art (they are listed with Justdial.com). The gentleman who owns it, Manoj, is also a fantastic hairstylist and I have always made sure he is around when I take my appointments. He understands right away what I am looking for and his results are fabulous.

I hated myself for doing it, but I had to move out of Pune as I got a better job in New Delhi. Worked for two years in Delhi, then moved to Lucknow after getting married, and then within three months to Dehradun.

I have not found anyone else who has given me that perfectly sexy pixie cut. Last week I went to Pune on a week-long holiday. And it was after exactly two and half years that I got a satisfactory haircut 🙂 Finally!!!

Eves – THE place for saree blouse.

Trust me, it is much easier to find the perfect guy… when you compare it with the probability of finding a perfect saree blouse. It is hands down the trickiest garment of this Indian attire. Getting the fitting and styling correct is a work of art, and women would die for the master ji (as tailors in India are fondly called) who can achieve this.

Now this piece of clothing which covers the upper body of a woman and shows off the waist to the best effect, is nothing short of a piece of art.

balan bedi

As far as I remember, my mom and aunts and grandmas have always worn sarees as opposed to other comfortable options like salwar-kurta or jeans. Two bollywood celebrities, Mandira Bedi and Vidya Balan are two ladies whom I adore for the way they wear saree and have given it a non-mom look. They make it glamourous too, I feel a large part of it is because of the blouses they wear.

And every Indian naari knows how difficult it is to get such fancy blouses made. It takes a while to trust word-of-mouth publicity by other ladies, and after a lot of trial and error, I had found a good master ji in Pune. But the bond lasted just a couple of months as I had to move to New Delhi. And so the search and research continued…

Finally, some colleagues told me about ‘Eves’ in Greater Kailash M Block market and told me they make the best ones in Delhi. A couple of weeks later I read an article about it in the newspaper I worked in, and so decided to check this place out.

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I think no other shop in that market has a board this tiny. I walked past it twice, but helpful shoppers directed me to the right place finally. I had just one blouse piece (an 80-centimetre or one metre piece of cloth either detached from the saree, or bought separately) with me, and had to wait for my turn as the ‘attending master ji’ that day — Vineet— took measurements and discussed styles designs with his client. There were just two ladies before me, so I was confident my turn would come soon.

Can you believe it… I got master ji’s darshan after almost an hour! The first woman had seven blouse pieces, and she gave wanted a different design for all of them. Vineet master ji gave suggestions according to the saree it was to be worn with and the type of fabric of that piece.

A few strokes of his pencil, and  new design would be ready on a small piece of paper, which he would staple to the piece if approved by the client. So after the seven-wonder got over, the lady ahead of me gave just five pieces. But she took ages in negotiating the date of delivery. Apparently she was leaving for US in 10 days and wanted it by then. Master ji said he would try, but it would be very difficult.

He said it was the peak wedding season and he had a lot of orders to complete. On top of that, most of his kaarigars (other tailors and skilled embrioderers employed by him) were on leave. The US-bound lady squeaked, “Arre how can you let your kaarigars go on chutti during wedding season?”

Master ji said, “Because they are also getting married madam ji.”

Meanwhile this 20-something girl rushed in asking for her blouse. The woman at the reception looked at her reciept and told her that blher blouse has gone for “finishing” and will be with them in the evening. But this girl won’t hear any of it. “Please please please give it to me. I have a parlour appointment in the evening so I can’t come then. I am getting engaged tomorrow and will absolutely die without the blouse.” (Well guess what girl, so would the guests!)

By that time, it was my turn. He gave me three design options, all drawn in front of me, and asked which one I like. I chose one, he promptly took the measurements and apologised that he won’t be able to deliver it before 3 weeks. I was in no rush, so I agreed. And the product which I got after three weeks, was worth the Rs 600 I paid for it.

It does seem very expensive, as the starting price itself is 600 for the simplest of blouses. It goes up as the complication in design increases, or if you had embellishments like zardosi work, swarovski crystals, pearls or beads etc. Vineet’s team of Pawan master ji and Irshaad master ji make padded ones as well as non-padded ones, and their finishing is very professional. Styles like halter, sleeveless, chammak chhallo style (Kareena’s red blouse in Ra. One), or corset style, they can make it all. Fitting is awesome.

blouse

I got all blouses for my wedding made by them, and I was extremely happy with their work. Of course, you need to keep in mind that they take 15 days to one month during the peak season (October to March), so plan your trip to Eves accordingly.

I think the best part is that they courier it if your stay in Delhi is a short one. I just placed an order for five corsets worth Rs 12,000 and they are going to courier it to my cousin who lives in Mumbai. Cool na!

Maharashtrian nath (nosepin)

Put that on, and even if you are not one, you would definitely look like a true blue Marathi mulgi!
A typical Maharashtrian nosepin (or nath in marathi) is one piece of jewelery that is typical of this state and is worn by women during auspicious occasions like weddings or pooja. It is made of pearls and small colored stones.

It’s peculiar shape, as shown in the pictures with this post, makes it the most unique nose ornament in India, which are generally round shaped or resemble a ring.

Nath 3 Nath2 Nath1 IMG_1112

Remember Priyanka Chopra in the “Raat ke dhai baje” song from Kamine, or Kajol at her own wedding…Yes they were both wearing one. Even Rani Mukherjee was recently spotted in a function in Pune wearing a nath and a Paithani saree. The best thing about it is that you don’t need to pierce your nose, its a clip-on and thats why scores high on convenience scale. And it is very cheap. My friend’s mom got one for me for just Rs 100.