Hi I am Vibha Simha an Architect and now a full time Homemaker, a mother of twin toddlers.I grew up reading and watching fashion and wanted to pursue fashion but I had to take up Architecture. While working I realised fashion is bad for the environment unless we cleverly and carefully utilise it. That is when I started to love Sarees. I remember watching my mother going to work in Sarees and she would repeat them often. Saree for me felt like a professional work wear. Slowly I started to incorporate that into my own work wear, only to get some extra attention (Which I loved), but mostly questioned if there is something special for which I am wearing a Saree?
I started to casually wear Sarees to office, clubs or get togethers. This became my personality. So when it came to moving countries I just couldn't leave my Sarees back home. I am as much a denim shirt girl as much as I am a Saree girl. I had to balance it out. I used to think of occasions to wear a Saree in Oman. Luckily we were part of a Kannada Community in Oman and I would get plenty of reasons to drape my Saree or meet friends during festivals. But I was loosing touch with the casually draping of a Saree personality here. So I slowly started to wear Sarees casually to a mall, or a music festival. To make it more sustainable, I would repeat them often by mixing and matching with T-Shirts, shirts, crop tops, blouses or drape it completely different.
But then the challenge was how many Sarees to pack as an expat? Every year I went back to India once a year and get confused what saree and how many sarees to carry for the whole year until I visit next so that I could shuffle. That is when I figured some guiding points for a Saree Capsule Wardrobe and will be sharing those with all you lovely people. If you are not a Saree wearer and don't own much, do not panic. Start with borrowing it from your mum, grandmother or sister. It's the best way to start your Saree journey altogether. All you need is 9 Sarees to start with. Now why am I saying 9? Well this is the major thing, every year there will be a roll out of Navratri colours and that is your base colours to choose with. Every year the colours are mostly similar except for few changes which is a rarity.
It is best to have a mix of fabric choices, A cotton one which is easy breezy and to top it up if it's Handloom and hand-crafted; this can be a conversation starter at any party you walk in and boast about the richness of India and its craft. A couple of Silk Sarees will be another fabric you can go for as there will be Diwali, Sankranti, Ganesh Chaturthi and many other festivals where you can repeat them. If you are a Bollywood lover, then you might want to carry a Plain saree in Georgette or Chiffon (it should be hand-me-downs). Carrying a Plain saree will be good for you as this is your blank canvas to experiment with your drapes as well as pairing them with blazers and trench coats during winters or a denim jacket for other times.
Always have blouses in basic colours like black, white and beige which will go with every 9 Sarees you are carrying with. Along with different sleeve length to give dynamics to the same sarees. If you are a denim, crop top kinda girl, it's kinda easy for you as you can pair your crop tops with the Sarees.
It's also questionable which are the most sustainable choice of fabric. Before we dwell into the fabric choice, I must tell you the most sustainable saree are the ones in your cupboard or your mum's, sister's or any elderly person at your home. Borrowing and wearing is the most sustainable way to go about it. But if you have to buy for yourself and have a Saree Capsule Wardrobe of your choice then it's best to choose a handloom. There are Hemp and Linen fabrics (basically natural fibers) which are the most sustainable choice to buy from. When budget and sustainability is concerned safer choice would be organic cotton, brown cotton. Next option of fabric to look for are Kesh meaning Recycled Sarees. There are Ahimsa Silk sarees too to opt for, as generally Silk Sarees are worm based. That said, if you are borrowing a Non-Ahimsa Silk Saree from someone and wearing that is also sustainable way to look at.
Some fun prints to look at are the Handblock Prints, Hand-painted, Kalamkari, Mata ni pachedi, Madhubani. Crafts rendered on a cotton Saree to give a vibrant colours to the otherwise boring colours and texture. It's also good to dwell in the richness of our Indian art and culture as you build your own Capsule Saree Wardrobe.
I hope these few pointers really help you to reach out for more Sarees and feel at home in another country. If you need any help with drapes and styling there are Instagram divas who can help with mixing and matching for carrying accessories. If you feel stuck there is a popular hashtag #100SareePact to guide you.
I would love to see more and more women owning their Saree look globally and I hope my small little writing help you take that first step. Let's go back in time but still take it forward in Sarees as a regular wear just like your denims or dresses. Let others see our sustainable wear is so unique and so beautiful and make Saree wearing a global thing.
Vibha Simha is an Architect but has keen interest in Fashion. She says sustainable fashion is a way of life and her wardrobe consists of Thrift buys, hand me downs and vintage clothings. She believes Styling and confidence cannot be taught but a little guidance as to how to go about it can bring anybody's style game on point and still sticking to the kindness towards the environment and being sustainable.
You can find her on instagram