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Features
November 29, 2016

Taming the Sari

Text by Wyanet Vaz

Sari blogger and columnist Piyali Bhattacharya on the art of daily draping

“The idea of wrestling with five yards of fabric while getting dressed, then battling through the metro station in a sari before finally reaching the office for a day of work, was unthinkable.” Indian American writer Piyali Bhattacharya revisits her struggle with the sari during her brief stay in New Delhi in 2014. A few months and draping hacks later, she began her personal blog titled The Sari-torialist, that aimed at explaining the various facets of the sari; textiles, weaves and even the politics that surrounded it. Each blog post talks about desi diasporic fashion, and ways of incorporating it into a western, winter wardrobe. Making indigenous fashion accessible to Indians living abroad, Bhattacharya talks to us about the initial hiccups, her ever-growing blog, and how to master the art of sari draping.

Earliest memories…
“For someone who didn’t grow up in India, my fascination with saris started very early. I remember pulling fabrics out of my mother’s closet and folding them over my little body.”

First impressions…
“When I started to to wear saris as often as possible both in the US and in India, the responses I got were mostly incredulous. In America, questions about my dress revolved around my ‘native heritage’ as an Indian American.”

Humble beginnings…
“I started The Sari-torialist when my husband and I were about to spend the 2013-14 academic year in Delhi (I now live in Nashville, TN). I’ve always been deeply interested in South Asian style, but when I found out I’d be travelling a lot all over the subcontinent, I wanted to enrich my understanding of the histories and contexts behind these styles. Hence, The Sari-torialist was born as a tiny blog that I could share with family and friends about style secrets I unearthed in India.”

Blogger to columnist…
“This blog started getting read by more people than I ever imagined. It got shared on social media so many times that, eventually, it reached the desk of an editor and all of a sudden, I was writing a regular column in an international newspaper.”

From the closet…
“When introduced to ByLoom a few years ago, I was nothing short of stunned. ByLoom cottons regularly prove that a dressy item does not necessarily have to be silk. Every time I wear one of their bold creations, people want to know where my sari or scarf is from. I smile and say: ‘You have to go to ByLoom!'”

Sari myths…
“I think we’ve got our attitude about how the sari should look all wrong. We see it like a business suit or pencil skirt and blouse: fixed, sleek and sophisticated. If we do wear saris, we want them to be pleated exactly right, we don’t want the blouses to be loose, or to look like we’re coming apart at the seams. As a result, we’re constantly fussing with the pleats or straightening out the fall, making the garment awkward and tiring to wear. I understand this attitude; I had it for a long time!”

The Sari-torialist’s guide to regular draping…
“1. It’s taken me some time, but I’ve found that to wear saris regularly, I’ve had to become comfortable with a slightly looser blouse sleeve.
2. I’ve also had to adapt to the back of a cotton sari riding up just a bit when I walk, and the seat of a linen sari looking faintly crushed by the end of the day.
3. I’ve given up a little bit of control over the rigidity of my clothes. In doing so, I’ve allowed my saris –and myself—a bit of freedom, and in return I’ve gained the easy elegance I used to envy in women who wear saris regularly.
However, the change in our attitudes towards saris cannot simply be in how we wear them, it has to be in how we view them too.”

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