There is a trend making rounds on Twitter, #SareeTwitter in which women are posting their photos wearing Saree. I spent almost my entire life, say till the late 30s wearing Sarees on important formal occasions both professional and personal. From a job interview to family wedding to a conference, I will wear saree without a second thought telling myself I look best in Sarees. But the whole time I was lying to myself. I was forced to be in sarees because I thought I do not have the ideal body to carry a western dress.
As far back as I can remember I wanted to wear the kind of dresses I saw in the film Sound of Music, perhaps the first English film I saw.
It is not like I never wore them. Before I entered teens, when we were still living in Kolkata mom bought me some very British style frocks and tunics. My favourite was a corduroy dungaree when I was 6 or 7, and a denim pencil skirt which I wore till 11-12. Once hypothyroid was detected and I started putting on weight that was the end of wearing anything I liked. Then it was all about hiding the bulges and looking decent. It wasn’t until the last year of college that I even wore a jeans / trouser which I only dared because I had recently completed VLCC and lost around 15 kilos. I felt super happy, confident and it lasted for about a year or two, before I again started putting on weight. During this period, the only western clothing I wore was a pair of jeans. Skirts, frocks, tunics, dungarees, trench coats, were all left behind in the pre-teen days. From 20s to late 30s, if it was an imp formal occasion Saree or salwar kameez was the default, and if it is casual occasion a jeans will do.
The cultural stereotype that surrounded me was partly the reason behind this limited choice in clothing but more than that, market was the reason. The 80s closed economy didn’t give middle class girls like me much choices. Our go to shopping destination was Sarojini Nagar market. It used to have the very Indian conservative middle class fashion.
Needless to say, I was aspiring to look like Julie Andrews even before I lost my milk teeth because I got it from mom. Sound of Music is her legacy for my sister and me. So although we couldn’t find them in the market, during my growing period all the way to the last year college, mom kept trying to stitch for me all the unique western dresses she saw in the 60s Hollywood movies. And some of them were just plain invention of her mind. She made me a long flowing asymmetric A-line skirt, something now in fashion, I don’t even know where she saw it in the 80s. Then she made a series of pleated skirts, thin pleat, block pleat. But once I entered college, wearing home made clothes were not cool. So even though mom made them, I didn’t wear them on any important occasion, and they remained casual time pass things mom makes. I loved them, but didn’t wear them with pride because I didn’t know their value.
Now, I am vowed to not wear a Saree for the next decade or more. In the last 4 years, I have not bought a single Indian piece of clothing. My old sarees and salwar kameez are gathering dust, I’ve filled the cupboard with all kinds of Western casual and Western formals.
This massive shift also happened because around 2015/2016 I started the Keto diet and lost weight and started fitting into a standard XL size. This is the second major shift in my identity. Both time it is related to body image.
You cannot wear whatever you like unless you have the ideal body for it. Your confidence, happiness, body, clothing, and the person you see in the mirror are all connected. Period. Every motivational talk about accepting your body, wearing whatever you like no matter what your body shape is, is just that – motivational talk. Practically, logistically they don’t work unless you have personal a designer and tailor to dress you. I am guessing you are not that rich.