Wednesday, March 2, 2016

How to Drape a Sari

Image from here
Also on the Huffington Post


Women have engaged in the act of draping ever since the concept of clothing captured the imagination of Neanderthal women. And yet, some of us are destined to spend hours draping a sari. 

Those who wear a sari on a regular basis can hardly comprehend the dilemma of an occasional sari enthusiast. The cosmic dice never falls in your favor every time you are late for a wedding. All too often, you are rendered pathetic when it comes to length of the pallav, the symmetry of the pleats, or the fall of the border. Total helplessness. 
That said, several variables can dampen the enthusiasm of an occasional sari aficionado. The weather is one of them. The time allotted to drape a sari is another. As is a husband who can’t tell between a Georgette and a Crepe.
So, I am warming to the task of wearing a sari for a wedding and debating serious issues – like which sari to wear, which blouse will fit and what jewelry will match. That is when the husband starts it all. Subtly, of course. “We’ll take an hour to reach. The traffic is bad.” In short, hurry up. 


I struggle with the damned safety pin that refuses to dive in the folds of a Kanjeewaram. When I tuck in the pleats, the outcome does nothing to flatter my month long attempt to reign in my belly. Moreover, my back hurts after failed attempts to pin the pallav right. To add to the misery, the men folk don their suit and are ready in a jiffy. As drops of sweat begin to play with the make-up, I overhear the son, “Dad, why do you think women haven’t learnt the art of wearing a sari, in like, say thousand years? Isn’t it against evolution?”
This is when I’ve lost it. The husband comprehends the gravity of the situation and plays pantomime with the son. I notice their 'wink-wink, say-no-more' moment in the mirror. 

Finally when we reach the venue, we are the first to arrive. The anger simmers. As guests begin to arrive in Swarovski studded chiffons, I wonder if silk was appropriate for the pleasant weather. Nonetheless, I try to ginger up. But when women know that they are not looking their best, they get entangled in weird emotions. Don’t get judgmental. It’s human nature.

As the venue reverberates with ‘Congratulations and celebrations, I want the world to know I’m happy as can be’, the silence between us deafening. The husband tries to warm up. “You look nice. Moreover, who remembers what you are wearing?”
He gets it when a cousin chimes in, “Wow, bhabhi. Love this beige sari you wore at my wedding.” Bingo. Perfect timing.
If he gets a glacial look, he totally deserves it. Because his expression is like 'what have I done now'? Also because he can happily wear the same suit for the engagement, wedding and reception and the universe will not notice. 

It gets worse when the videographer captures our cold war for posterity. There is something about videographers who act as if they are capturing Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus. The shameless pervert in them can never miss an embarrassing moment. Like when you are wiping curry stained hands in a napkin or tucking your bra strap. He will blind you with lights, trap you in a mesh of wires, shove his camera on your face, and ensure that you drown in the embarrassment of your forced smile.

The trigger for writing this piece is the reflection that a sari means nothing until a woman lives in it. And revels in the joy of being a woman. She either looks her best, or doesn’t. It is about something that feels right. And drapes right. Mind you, it has nothing to do with narcissism. Vanity perhaps?

All said, women dress for themselves, and of course, fellow XX brigade. If women dressed for men, as the saying goes, they would just walk around naked at all times.

46 comments:

  1. Heh heh ! Sari can truly be a Grrr sometimes.. The mark of the fold which gets created after being kept folded or pressed and trying to accommodate that particular crease in my front pleats, is what completely gets me. And if it keeps climbing up when i walk..then that's it :D

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  2. Ahh...well, I love to wear saree when mom makes me wear it..she just has this way of making it comfortable..But when I wear it myself, either the pallu is too short or the petticoat too tight..Plus I'm worried sick about how I'll manage going to the washroom wearing a saree..Maybe I'm just weird! I remember once wearing making myself and my friend wear sarees with pallus on the wrong side for a college function..Only after the function was over did I realize what I had done!

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    1. Yes, going to the washroom. How could I forget? Wonder how our moms were so comfortable.

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  3. I love wearing sarees ;) But I do understand the dilemma that faces the ones who don't wear it regularly. Plus it's so true that the men can wear the same thing ad nauseum and nobody will notice! I mean how?? I have people who remember what I wore 3 years ago at an event and why? No wonder the saree guys do thriving business!

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    1. I love them too. And I have no answer to that. :)
      Thank you for the RT Shailaja.

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  4. I wish I can wear one beautifully one day! ^^

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    1. Sure, you would. And look absolutely lovely.

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  5. Draping a sari is a perfect excuse to get the husband to his knees and watch him sweat as he tries to get the symmetry of the pleats right.

    You should get your husband to do it as well. That'll keep him from exchanging wink wink moments with your son,

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    1. Ha,ha. He used to do that when we were newly married. Now he is always in a hurry to reach before time. :)

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  6. My heart goes out to you, you poor thing. I can just imagine your plight. I have worn a sari just four times in my life and have been extremely uncomfortable (scared to sit down in case the million and one pins mom has inserted, poke my butt or any other part of my body).
    I read somewhere "that women don't dress up to please men, they dress up to irritate other women."

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    1. Brilliant. Bingo.
      Good to see you here after a long time Rachna.

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  7. Just like Purba, I enjoy doing that too. And G does a good job of getting the pleats right. Silk sarees make me sweat too. They crumple so easily. But georgettes, chiffons and crepes are a breeze. They look gorgeous, are easy to drape and suitable for us not wear sari regularly folks. Besides, the compliments are really worth it. :) I have three smitten boys in the house when I wear one, no matter how I drape it. :-D

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    1. Aww.
      You look lovely in a sari Rachna. And you have a lovely collection too.

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  8. It's such a coincidence I had cause to wear a sari recently after a good ten years - my daughters bharatnatyam performance - and even the moms had a dress code. So sari it was. I could identify with so many things in your post. The husbands - OMG. and the being first at a venue after rushing you at home!!! Painful. And of course the fact that they can wear just about anything and get away with it. So not fair.

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    1. Ha ha. So, I'm not the only one.
      Your daughter performs Bharatnatyam, wow!

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  9. Oh Lord ! I have worn a saree just a couple of times in my life and I cant drape one to save my life ! I do wish I could wear one though, I have always admired women who carry of their sarees well !

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    1. Try a Georgette or a Chiffon first. Heavy silks and slippery Crepes can be a pain.
      But the result is worth the effort.

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  10. Hehehe...enjoyed the last line the best! Nothing to beat the grace of a well-draped saree! The key being 'well-draped'! I have heard of pre-stitched or ready to wear sarees...have to get meself a few of them! If you think draping the regular 6 yards to be a pain, think again! We Tam-Brahms have to drape the whole 9 yards of a saree in the most convoluted technique conceivable during significant religious functions! Of course this fancy dress parade happens only occasionally (thank God!) but whenever it does, it sure is tough....given one can't visit the loo, without unraveling the whole 9 yards ;)

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    1. Oh, I wasn't aware. I thought only Maharashtrian women wear a nine yard sari. And it looks lovely. Reminds me of the Pinga sari.
      Thank you for the Twitter RT Kala.

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  11. This was the funniest. I could totally picture your and the boys' expressions at every point!

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  12. Lovely tale of draping a saree,Alka! Thankfully, I can identify a few of the sarees, but believe me no outfit can make a woman look more elegant and beautiful than a nicely worn saree:)

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    1. Of course, no dress can beat an elegant sari.

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  13. I totally loved your last lines Alka...You are right...Women do dress for themselves ha ha ...I am one saree enthusiast and I love the feel of wearing one...Nothing on earth can beat that... During Navratri when I get to wear sarees a lot , it being the festive season , a whole lot of planning just goes into what sarees to wear, which blouse, what accessories to go with it etc etc ha ha

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    1. I have seen your pictures in a sari and you look absolutely lovely.
      Thanks for reading Jaish.

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  14. Being a bengali bahu ma, I had to learn. And honestly, my husband likes me in a saree a lot. Your post was totally relatable till I learnt the love of draping the saree, but the story remains the same with my Mom. And in the family gatherings that we go to, the constant battle of my mother and a saree are what gets us late ;)

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    1. Welcome back Sakshi. Can you wear a sari Bengali style like Aish in Devdas? That looked so regal.

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  15. Oh I loved this one!!!!! Even though I have rarely worn a saree, I totally know what you mean. Itni mehnat karke bhi if you don't look your best, then what's the point, right? I couldn't stop laughing through the post, agreeing to everything you said!

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    1. Right.
      Glad you enjoyed this one Akanksha. Tx.

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  16. Ooooooooooo saucy, Alka, the last line...............TOTALLY! But yes, I can't wear a sari if my life depended on it. It is too air conditioned for my liking too, if you know what I mean :P I like everything to be tucked in, cellulite et al. This was such a good post. Reaffirmed the fact why I don't own saris either :D

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    1. Look who is here!!!
      You would look absolutely ravishing in a sari Vini. When I come to Mumbai, I am gonna try and drape one on you. Pucca.

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    2. Too air conditioned...LOL. The air conditioning is from one end. The blouse can be suffocating though. I can't wear a tight blouse where I am unable to breathe. And an ill fitting blouse totally kills it. Ye problem to hai.

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  17. I hear you...I am terrible at wearing sarees. I am just not cut out for it, I guess. But I know how it turns out when an event calls for one and you are caught between looking your best and getting there on time. I hear you so totally!

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  18. I totally understand! I wear saree once a year and I fuss about it so much that it becomes a post every November :D The thing about videographers - that should be a separate post. We all have that experience.

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  19. A very well written piece on the art of wearing a sari the right way. I always have the feeling that it's a mammoth task to wear a sari. True, we men have it easy with trousers, shirt and blazer. By the way, I don't know how to pull a tie and been a successful failure at it despite trying. I always give SOS call to the next door uncle to do it for me!!

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    1. Vishal, it was not exactly about how to wear it. But yes, men do have it easy.

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  20. While my mother takes on the pace and swing of a saree with the grace of a Tendulkar, the same cannot be said about my infinitely better half, and I suspect my sisters too, not that they can't handle the six yards of fabric at the end of it all after what you have captured vividly in the earlier part of the post. As for evolution, I suspect the pendulum has started its journey to the other extreme, to the day when the sun and the wind were the only apparel we wore, so I cannot say the cosmic mechanism has failed. Your pictorial representation of the evening complete with the imbecile vediographer is delightful as ever.

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    1. Equally delighted to see you here. Yes, my mother too drapes it like a pro unlike me.

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  21. Good job Alka... very funny and interesting.

    - Surendra Verma

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  22. How true Alka!It is true,a saree needs deft handling but it is the only attire suitable for certain occasions--so we have to sweat it.

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  23. I need 3 people and a 100 safety pins to enter the domain of sarees.
    It is truly a colossal task.

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  24. Thankfully I dont have to wear it :) he he he he he he ... But here's a confession I love ladies in Saree's :)



    Bikram's

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