The sari is a garment of genius. It fits all sizes, flatters all shapes, can be shared and never goes out of fashion. The sari makes every woman look sexy. I am convinced the sari was created by a man. Not just any man, but a man who worshipped the shape of a woman, who was moved by the movement of silk skimming curves. By a man who understood the fundamental truth that illusion is more enticing than exposure, that seduction lies in that tantalising promise of more.
But they are a bloody pain in the arse to put on.
Yes, the sari was definitely designed by a man.
When picking out a sari, fabric is king. Do not be distracted by pretty print, delicate embroidery, fancy cut-outs. Let your fingers, not your eyes do the picking. You want fabric that moves, that swishes, that ripples, that skims, that flirts.
New to wearing a sari? Allow me to share my process.
First. Empty your bladder. This is very important. Trust me. There will be no peeing once the sari is on. Unless you are a contortionist.
Second. Get your ghagra ready, which is an abnormally ugly cotton skirt into which you tuck the sari. Normally ghagras come with drawstrings. Apparently, Indians are allergic to zips. For some reason, whilst sitting innocently in the cupboard, one end of the string tends to embark on a flighty adventure, to join the other end, in the process getting hopelessly lost within the seam. To avoid such nuisance, tie a safety pin to the end of the string.
Put on your blouse, a tiny boob tube type top with little hooks down the front, which always has a secret adjustment if you need to let it out. Sometimes a girl needs to let things out. This is just reality. Sari blouses are very sensible items of clothing that way.
Next, put on the ghagra. The string of the ghagra should be tied very tight around your waist. If you are able to breathe, you are doing it wrong. Don’t ask me why. I do not question centuries of tradition.
It is essential you put onyour shoes before you wear your sari, or you will be caught either sweeping the floor, or sporting the decidedly unflattering mid-calf length fashion.
Get out your safety pins. Do not be a snob. Safety pins are your friends. They are the only thing that lie between an over-zealous dance move and a pile of fabric around your ankles.
Now for the sari, which is 9 yards long Yes. 9 yards! Start with tucking in one end into the ghagra, all the way around. Stop. Now comes the complicated part. The pleats. The beauty of a sari lies in the way the pleats fall down the middle. You can be wearing the most exquisite sari, but if your pleats are not perfectly centred, you may as well be wearing a tablecloth. Also, the pleats allow you to walk, so you aren’t shuffling about like someone with a full bladder and no loo in sight.
Back to the pleats. Ok. Admittedly, this is where it all falls apart for me. I huff, puff, curse, get tangled up, curse, trip over, curse, start all over again, pull, curse ad infinitum. After the tenth attempt, at which point the neighbours are now alarmed at the sounds coming from our house, I get frustrated. Inevitably this tale ends the same way every time.
Me exclaiming…yes exclaiming…
Eff it. I will wear a Punjabi Suit instead.
Though it may not sound like it, I do love saris.
They carry in them stories. In my cupboard lies the rich sky blue silk sari, passed down by my grandma, hand painted with splodges of Chinese flowers that bleed yellow and orange. The blue bandhani tie dye sari that I bought in a little hovel in Mumbai, in a room that looked like it moonlighted as a drug transaction parlour. The sari was still tied up in a ball, wound up in string, having been tossed onto the bus straight from the fields of Gujurat, smelling of die and dung. I have a black and white polka dotted sari with glossy black sequins and a red feather border that makes me feel like a 70’s Bollywood actress when I wear it. I have a red chiffon sari that whispers against your skin, and shows enough of a trace of what is underneath, to make old aunties raise their eyebrows. There is the kikoy sari I had made for my wedding. I could go on. All these saris sit forlornly in my cupboard, their glory unfairly hidden from the world.
It is unjust for such beauty to stay locked up, so it will be my mission. I will learn how to put on a sari, I will load those YouTube videos, I will muster up the patience, I will not be conquered by a mere 9 yards of fabric. For there is something slightly pathetic about a woman in her thirties that needs her mum’s help to put on a sari.
I apologise for the remarkably unhelpful guide to wearing a sari. Here is a YouTube video by someone who actually knows what they are talking about.
Here is a song about sari, which I love. Play it on repeat as you put on that sari.
Don’t give up. I believe in you. Turn those sari woes into sari wows!