How did I start collecting antique silver jewellery?
Back in 80s and 90s, I used to be a kathak performer, very often on stage. Big and bold jewellery was a key accessory to the Kathak costumes. Because the glass bangles would break and I would get hurt during performances, my mother bought me silver jewellery which would not get stolen during costume changes and would also not break. The jewellery in those days was not finished in antique look but was the shiny silver glaring look ideal for the stage. Then came circa post MBA of the sales stint which took me travelling to villages in Orissa and also Tier 2 cities in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Once again the silver jewellery came to the rescue of the young Marwari bride who cannot be not wearing jewellery. This time it was worn with work clothes and not costumes and finished in antique style (polish). The silver jewellery from Rajasthan was a rage in Mumbai and the pieces were unique. Thus started a life-long habit of acquiring pieces which are unique. The collection is now my pride as it also reflects timeless taste and my sense of design. The best compliment I have received is from a young friend who requested that I include her in my will to inherit at least one of my pieces!
(Deepali Naair is Director, Marketing, India and South Asia, IBM)
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.
There is something about turning Fifty that empowers and liberates you. I
don’t know about others but for me crossing the Big 5-Oh was the turning
point, the defining moment when I decided to shed my inhibitions, stop
worrying about judgements and wear what I want.
I have been wearing sarees for the last decade or more of my life and I love
how it makes me feel all elegant, poised and confident. I walk differently when
I wear a saree and I am convinced the world communicates with me differently
when I wear one.
In 2018 I significantly upped my saree quotient by moving away from my near-
addiction to block printed Tussar-my designer friend Indira Broker has made
me feel like a goddess in them for the last 2 decades- and decided to
experiment a bit. The result is a wardrobe full of sarees, most of them
handloom, from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal , Jharkhand and
many other parts of the country.
I also gave up my traditional blouses for funkier ones, many of them bought
on-line, featuring bell sleeves, embroidery, three quarters sleeves, some of
them crop tops and one with a Chinese collar. It made all the difference and
gave my saree a contemporary, fun new avatar.
2018 is also when I got myself a few trendy, smart western outfits- LBDs, smart
linen casuals and gifted myself burgundy highlights in my hair, all of which has
lifted my spirits and given me my mojo back. I love the changed woman I see in
Change is always good and even though we need not be fashion victims,
tweaking our sartorial choices is a great way to reinvent your look.
The mustard linen saree is from Anavila, teamed with a traditional Maharashtrian Khan blouse. The peace/ orange saree is from bai lou and I have teamed it with a lime green raw silk closed neck princess cut blouse. I teamed up the mustard sleevless kurta from Plantation House with a raw silk, multi-colored checked stole I picked up at Dastakari Haat.
I love silver jewelry and have been collecting them for a few years now. I find silver much more versatile and easier to dress up an outfit or to even step out casually with friends for chai or a girl’s lunch out.
(Sudha Menon is the author of five non fiction books including Feisty At Fifty and Legacy. She is the founder of the writing workshop series Get Writing and Writing With Women. She is a saree addict and loves silver jewelry and photo shoots.)