Sari Fashion

Drape it like Ashwini Narayan

Give Ashwini Narayan any piece of unstitched material and she will drape it in a jiffy leaving you wondering ‘How did she do it?’. Her Instagram feed has photographs of her posing with elan in a sari paired with sneakers, boots, shirt, kurta, jacket and what not. Her level of comfort and confidence with drapes speaks for itself as she strikes a pose in a piece of plain white khadi “which is not even the required length of a sari,” she boasts.

Drape it like Ashwini Narayan

Her eyes brighten up further as she goes on to say “I have worn the same white khadi material for a Punjabi mehendi and made heads turn.”

Such is her love for the Indian drape that Ashwini will go that extra mile to advocate the beauty of the sari. As a result of her trials and tribulations with the sari and its various styles of draping, she has become a well-known sari draper in Hyderabad, who can show you 20 ways of doing it at the drop of a hat. Hard to believe for a woman who used to turn to her mother-in-law to drape the sari for her a few years back. “I would take my blouse and petticoat and land at my in-laws’ so that my mother-in- law would drape the sari for me. I found it cumbersome in the beginning,” she says.

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Dressed in a soft simple Sambalpur sari with a body- hugging casual western shirt, she won’t let her short green tufts of hair on the side, fool you into believing that she’s a a lover of western fashion. Even for the most casual outing or a clubbing night Ashwini will turn up in a sari draped in a way that will make jaws drop. “The behenji image of the sari has to go away from our minds. Sari is meant to be ladylike agreed; however, if draped well it can beat the comfort and ease of the most convenient shift dress, still pass off as Indian attire and make a style statement,” says Ashwini.

Drape it like Ashwini Narayan

When she decided to make the sari a part of her everyday life she knew she had to make it into something that suits her well. “Wearing a sari didn’t mean I was signing up to look like my mother or aunt after having dressed almost like a punk all my life,” she adds.

Taking up the cause of the sari, she finds herself mostly at talks and meetings where women want to know about sari draping styles. “At such workshops I first urge women to abandon the thought about the sari being a cumbersome piece of clothing. Next I tell them to avoid the petticoat, hearing which the jaws drop, then finally when I say a matching blouse isn’t a must, the crowd claps,” adds Ashwini. Her argument is: wearing a sari shouldn’t change your personality.

Drape it like Ashwini Narayan

However, this was not how the lady was when she was planning her wedding trousseau. She recollects arguing and fighting with her mother to replace the ‘grand count’ of two saris with something that she would wear more often later. “The two saris were absolutely unavoidable even when I wasn’t too keen on them. I bargained with my mother to allow me to cut the banarasi sari and turn it into long jacket that I can wear for my wedding. Since I had my way in everything else, my mother put her foot down on this decision. So I was practically forced to wear a sari for my wedding and reception.”

So how did the switch happen? Ashwini says it wasn’t really a tough choice that was thought of for long, nor was it a decision taken over many months. For her, wearing a sari actually stems from a thought where “I and my husband were partying at a friend’s place. Over drinks and snacks we were discussing the influx of Chinese goods into our country. So, we decided we will embrace Indian products consciously.”

The innocuous conversation that evening with friends was the turning point. She decided to extend the idea of embracing home-grown brands to her wardrobe. But, getting western dresses by Indian brands was not so common. “So I transitioned to the sari. At the same time, I wanted to dress up eclectically and hence my experiments began,” says Ashwini.

She worked on making the sari look good on her, found her groove and finally owned it. “To make it a sustainable lifestyle choice, I worked with things that made me complete. I learnt a lot about the fabrics and drapes from Rita Kapoor Chisti’s Saris Tradition and Beyond. From there on there was no looking back for me,” she adds.

Ashwini is also big on local weaves and even though she wants to, she abstains from being an impulsive buyer. “I repeat my saris, that is the best ode I can give to the weaver,” she says.

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Printable version | May 4, 2021 3:46:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/ashwini-narayan-sari-drape-indian-textile-saree-master-weaver-handloom-rita-kapoor-chisti-saris-tradition-and-beyond/article26428491.ece

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