Inspired by a father who loved being stylish even when impoverished or restrained by the demands of a government job, I have always enjoyed putting my own spin on style. Bandanas around my hair, scarves around the knee, dresses worn with churidars, dramatic earrings etc were all part of my hatke take on fashion back when I was in college. When I began working in advertising, salwar kameez was the norm, and wearing business suits or pants and formal shirts with a tie was considered avant garde (!) but I did it anyway. To me, getting ready every morning is almost like putting on a costume for a role in a play – who am I going to be today?
A few years ago, the saree pact rekindled my love for the saree – at one point in time, I had vowed to have one saree of each type woven in India, before I realised the number of distinct weaves India is home to! But I was determined to own the saree look in a way that made it super comfortable for me. So I discarded the ubiquity of the saree blouse and took to wearing sarees with whatever top felt convenient – fitted white shirts, t shirts, crop tops and the like. It was a great way for me to make the saree as easy a choice as western wear when dashing out the door every morning.
One of my fashion dreams was to start a label that made western wear out of Indian fabrics suited to Indian weather, especially our never-ending summer – jackets with a muslin lining, not synthetic, and dresses that wouldn’t hug me too close for comfort in our sticky monsoons. Now there is a host of fashion labels has sprung up which does this with panache. In the hot Delhi summers, if I’m not in a saree at work, I’m usually in one of many anti-fit cotton or muslin dresses, Ikat pants and the like.
A constant challenge, thanks to an auto-immune problem, is that my size varies hugely – between water retention, weight gain and a bad gut. As a result I have found that if I pre-plan an outfit, typically on the day I will find it’s not fitting well, feels uncomfortable, makes me look fatter etc etc. So serendipity plays a huge role in helping me pull an outfit together for any occasion. At least, that’s my excuse for an ever-expanding wardrobe J!
My Must Haves:
Accessories – they can make or break an outfit. Shoes, bags, jewelry, scarves, hats – and the more expressive of your unique style, the better, be they never so weird. They add so much pizazz to the most sober outfits, and make the outfit you! Plus they make the same dress or jacket look so different each time. One of my prized possessions is a necklace made of zips with temple motifs – it looks so rich and distinctive. Another, a nod to my love for writing, is a necklace made of fountain pen nibs!
Dresses – drapey and anti-fit for the most part, since my size varies and we have 8+ months of gruelling summer
A variety of sarees, especially in ikats, and an array of versatile crop tops, Tshirts and fitted shirts to pair with them
Most of all, my mantra is that I must feel comfortable and confident in what I am wearing, and it must express my identity. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t considered ‘in vogue’ currently, I’ll still wear it if I love it. And if it is in vogue but I don’t love it, I’m never going to wear it.
(Priyadarshini Narendra, 48, is a marketing professional with over 25 years of experience in advertising, consulting and trend spotting. She is currently Head of Brand Solutions with the Hindustan Times group. A published author, she is also a moody chef, serial hobbyist, fashion aficionado and mother to three human children and two canine ones.)