“For a person who is not really interested in fashion or trends, the saree, evergreen and eternal, can become the default garment, especially as formal wear. If the said person is lazy and hates going to her tailor, mismatched blouses are a life saver! I also rarely buy sarees for myself: this beauty here is a gift from my daughter-in-law. I’m not sure of the fabric, but it is very soft and cool, and I was happy wearing it with an ancient Ikat blouse and dangling silver earrings.”
“Handloom sarees are my great love: silks, cottons, even polycots, all have a special appeal. Weaves of different kinds fascinate me, and we have a huge range of weaves across the country. Traditional prints and printing techniques are fabulous too. I end up being given many wonderful sarees. The few that I buy for myself are often impulse purchases, bought when I’m buying a gift for someone! Silver jewellery, beads, pieces with exquisite craftsmanship all speak to me. I truly cherish my antique choker, made from my great-great-grandmother’s bajubund.”
“My mother had a pair of ‘ponchiyaan’, kundan pieces strung on thick golden thread, worn as bracelets. My sister and I got one each, which we converted into necklaces by stringing them on pearls. Most of the blue and green meenakaari has worn off. I don’t really know how old these were. My parents got married in 1943, but I’m not sure if these were made then or earlier. I also love all my ‘junk’ jewellery!!! Come winter though, I am usually found in jeans and pullovers! Comfort is usually my highest priority! ”
I look for quiet and calm amidst chaos. Therefore, comfort rules my dress code.
And my wardrobe consists mostly of sober cotton, handloom and silk kurtas. I end
up wearing black more often especially when I don’t want to think through colour
schemes. My collection of traditional dupattas/stoles from all over India blends
perfectly with my salwar suits. And the latest addition to my collection is an
Assamese handwoven ‘tongali’ (worn by the farmer as a waistcloth). In this
picture, with a plain silver coloured kurta, I have wrapped a stole embellished with
kantha work around my neck. This stole is from Bengal.
For any kind of meetings and get-togethers, I prefer the Assamese mekhela sador
(mostly the handwoven ones). And for formal gatherings I prefer a paat silk
mekhela sador. Paat silk is probably one of the lightest silks. In this photograph
clicked on the streets of New York, I am wearing a white cotton mekhela sador
with blue and purple flowers. The flower motif is a traditional design called king
khap. The Halloween pumpkins in the backdrop almost seem like an art
(Teresa Rehman is an award-winning journalist and author based in Assam. She loves collecting ethnic accessories from different corners of India and the world.)
A popular or latest style of clothing or a manner of doing things, what is your definition of fashion? I have never been the type for whom the latest style or cuts work perfectly. For me, fashion was and is defined by clothes in which one feels comfortable in one’s skin, confident to take on the world and challenging situations, and feeling that I look my best without worrying about unsightly curves on display or seams that could burst anytime. It is not just about high-priced labels but also about quality, workmanship and the right fit. My fashion choices have always been safer, hesitant and predictable so far.The forties, however opened the floodgates. I began to think bold splashes of colour, explore racks that I would have never stepped close to in the previous decade and experimented with different kinds of attire like skirts and dresses that I had not worn for nearly 10 years. Look 1
The all-forgiving, ubiquitous sari. Saris to me was about if there is no matching blouse I cannot wear that sari. It was something that one wears on special occasions and only the fancy silk variety that looks grand and well-set on the body.In my forties, I learnt to step out in a sari that boldly draped over shoulders that showed a blouse with colours that had no connection with the sari. In fact I rebelled in the blouse does not match proclamation! I got a selection of blouses stitched in bold hues that could work with saris of colours that were either bright and flashy or dull. Blouses that lit up the sari in a manner in which the attached blouse we buyers are so fond of, would never do. This look is put together with a bright rani pink Bengal cotton sari. which is buttery soft and cocoons the wearer in the folds. Nothing describes fuchsia as well as rani pink, a colour so named because it was a combination of rare purple fit for royalty and pink. This is worn with a yellow blouse that doesn’t really match exactly with the borders but still works. I teamed it with a chunky silver floral filigree necklace, an antique finish bracelet a setting of fuchsia stones, from GRT jewels, white gold and diamond hoops from Carat Lane and silver sandals from Clark’s. After years of snobbishly wearing only gold, I hesitatingly moved to rose gold and then white gold to try whether I could work with colours that only the fair-skinned people seem to feel confident with. One day, I graduated to silver- a metal I fell in love with all over again when I discovered the variety I could play with in accessories and style without draining my savings. I also discovered that I could no longer rely on flimsy footwear that gave up on me on the second wear and have permanently moved to sturdy brands like Clark’s and Hush Puppies.
Look 2 Simple, Smart and Comfortable The Kurta revamped.In my previous life, I always went with simple, straight cuts with side slits that in my opinion gave me the illusion of a better figure. I never touched those in which the side slits were given a miss. Fab India was my friend because of their cuts, prints and overall looks. I felt comfortable in their silks on formal occasions because of their no-nonsense cuts with three-fourth sleeves and sometimes high necks and prince collars. It made me feel in command in official meetings. Then I stepped into Sanginee, a boutique that works with bold cuts; I have noticed inspirations from places one would not have imagined taking. I learnt to wear Anarkalis after 25 years and worked with bolder necklines and patterns.This mustard and red cotton number has been on my to-buy list for almost six months. I loved it yet never felt I could carry it off. In fact I bought it when other pieces of the same or similar cut were already sold.The kurta has pleats that are similar to box-pleated sports skirts of my school. I had instantly seen the possibilities of traversing this look to a dress however to do that I needed to live in the dress. I am glad I bought this, even though it needed a few tucks and stitches to get the cut lengths of the box pleats to my liking.The Kalamkari print also was not the run-off-the-mill kind and the material hugged the body well without being stiff in places. Bright red churidars completed the look.The wooden beads necklace is my go-to necklace for attires of all kinds – western or Indian. Yes, I graduated to wood, seed and cloth jewellery even, in my forties though I did team it up with a gold jhumka and bracelet because it was Diwali and the mood was celebratory.