Friday, February 20, 2015


This post is my entry for the blogger contest by Women's Web and Trishla eMart to describe a Style of My Own. 

 It's OK.   

The person alongside is not me.  (You must read to the end of this post to learn more ....)

You can laugh.  

And very clearly,  at three score and five,  eyes glazed by what goes in the name of fashion today, and a mouth, permanently agape at some of the visuals that appear in the name of modern dress design,  honestly , I never thought I'd be writing about this.  

A case of someone who started fairly slow in this field, and then, instead of speeding up energised by a wild ready-to-wear  industry,  someone who kind of decelerated , aided by a late physical blooming, if you know what I mean. 

But then what do you think of someone who was always a late starter, fashion wise ?  Someone , who  who wore knee length gathered skirts (with pockets) , with sensible blouses and chappals almost upto college,  when classmates sported what were called "tight skirts " and pointed "rock-and-roll"-shoes , ie when we were not in school uniform ?  A no nonsense encouraging attitude towards sports, had me escape stumbling in sarees at badminton, and buoyant sarees blooming n swimming pools, as the parents insisted that one wear suitable sports clothes, without making a fuss. 

The late sixties introduced salwar kurtas and chudidaars in college, and  a compulsorily saree-clad me , promptly switched over,  after having the saree pleats entangled in my bicycle almost every alternate day, on my way to my sitar classes.   Those were days of conservative extended family types muttering about marriageable-age girls, the tightness of chudidaars, and odhnees worn with wild abandon,  but one managed to hold one's own, getting good training for the future. 

An IT job in the seventies,  and sarees it was.  The choice of sarees was often dictated by your mode of transportation to work.  Crisp cottons were kind of the worst affected when you tangled with 50 ladies with big purses , trying to enter a suburban train compartment in 10 seconds, and one often took to wearing light silks which remembered their original drape after the daily travel skirmish.  A small rebellion happened in the form of sleeveless blouses that one wore,  to the consternation of some folks,  but then,  working gave one some confidence. By then , working on weekends was a given, and sensible me, also took to wearing jeans and kurtas , which were much more convenient and not frowned upon, on those days.   

 The last quarter of the last century, witnessed a great variety of design and outfits for the Indian woman.  Maxi/ankle-length  dresses at one point  were very popular, and were really convenient when one was expecting.  Those were days when you worried about what family elders thought, and the  generation previous to mine, clearly had no objection so long as the length of whatever reached your ankles.  

And so,  the style has always been a mixture of basically sarees, salwar kurtas,  and jeans-kurtas  in my relatively younger days.  A job where I didn't have to commute by a vehicle allowed the indulgence of traditional old style pallu-border sarees at work, with salwar kurtas  the staple during Mumbai's monsoon.   

I still belong to the old school of jewellery, where you routinely wear some standard traditional studs in your ears,  and  some kind of traditional necklace is added on along with the mangalsutra , when you attend a special occasion somewhere.  I love old jewellery , old designs, and at one point had someone publicly comment derisively on my wearing standard old style kakubai studs on jeans.   Sensible old me, just smiled and continued doing more of the same. 

Health issues on the wrong side of  50, and slowly the style has become synonymous with salwar kurtas; nice and loose,  without the high cuts on the side, which seem to be the hallmark of style today.  My tailor, a conservative person, with young daughters, approves.    What he doesn't approve probably, is the cutting up of several old silk sarees to make really nice salwar-kurtas. But he is learning, and I now have a sensible dressy option to wear in place of sarees, whenever required. Some family types kind of recognize older generation worn  sarees  in their new avatar, and keep their opinions to themselves.  Like  said, I love old things, and love to recycle those in case some part makes them unwearable as sarees. 

The word "sensible" often implies the existence of something that is not.  And for an old fuddy duddy like me ,  something that appears  completely insensible, is a deliberate display of inner straps at the neck and shoulder,  sarees worn so low that you wonder why they wear them at all, blouses that look like they have only sleeves and nothing else,  and jeans that are deliberately cut here and there with threads hanging out in the name of "distressed jeans"  and then worn as a new fashion.  The mind boggles at this slavish mentality to  what simply cannot be fashion .

Maybe "sensible"  has something to do with the age in which one has lived.   

Both my late mother and  late mother-in-law never wore anything but sarees. I remember my mother-in-law suffering from a frozen shoulder and unable to do her saree pleats, simply refusing to wear a long housecoat which would ease her work.   

But these folks changed with time as far as others were concerned. 

Picture my mother-in-law, in her seventies, lying in a nursing home , after an old style cataract operation , which , in those days, involved a 10 day stay, stitches, and removal , and so on.  Tons of relatives, some from out of town descending upon us  for the occasion, and me functioning as the official car driver, lugging guests, meals, and messages to and fro, several times a day, from home to railway stations and  to hospital.  My mother came from out-of-town to pay her a visit and  an old  local grandaunt of mine,  insisted on accompanying her to the hospital, since she lived nearby my in laws, and wanted to meet the patient. 

Picture a lady lying ramrod straight on her back, a huge white bandage on one eye,  people flitting in and out of the room, some sitting solicitously by the bed, and me walking in , wearing a jeans and kurta, escorting in,  my mother and grandaunt.   There isn't much conversation encouraged , but the grandaunt, in a nudge-nudge tone typical of a greatly audible whisper meant to be heard by all asks (in marathi), 

" Is all this jeans wearing and all OK with you ?  I see her  wearing this several times....  how do you allow it ..?   "    (all this followed by a sideways glance at me).

My mother-in-law, not allowed to turn on her side for sometime, held out her hand, trying to touch the grandaunt's, and said ,

" You know what, she has been run off her feet, driving folks everywhere, running up and down collecting and delivering dabbas and stuff, not to mention getting medicines as and how requested and prescribed by the doctors.  Her dress is so convenient  for all this activity, and  honestly, I don't see anything objectionable in jeans and a long kurta.  You see, when she accompanies me for invited functions here and there,  she wears nice sarees , sometimes even some of my own.   And so I have no problems with the jeans ....  it is a question of dressing sensibly ..." 

My mother , standing by the bed, simply smiled.  

The grandaunt did not.  ( I had once jokingly threatened to turn up in a paithani pantsuit at her granddaughter's wedding, and clearly , she was not amused.)

So that is the history behind my style.  Sensible.  Through the ages.  

Gosh.  Did you really think I am the type who gets my name woven in vertical lines every few centimetres, on six metres of silk, err...  even cotton, and then wear it for a fancy occasion ?

Nah. Not sensible. Not my style.