Tue, 21 May, 2019

“There is a drape for every person...”

...believes Niketa Malhotra, a self professed sari enthusiast who is trying to bring back the many different styles of the sari and modernise it for today’s generation

Story: CHRISTINE | MACHADO | 14th October 2017, 07:35 Hrs

When one thinks about wearing a sari, one usually has to think about the fall, about getting a matching blouse and a petticoat. And if you don't wear one too often and aren't comfortable with it, a lot of times, one requires the help of someone else to help dress you up and even then you are always worried about the pleats coming out, the petticoat showing and you most certainly cannot run. Niketa Malhotra's story wasn't very different. "Until a year ago, I didn't know how to drape the sari in the regular style perfectly and each time I needed help and it was frustrating having to depend on someone else. I felt strangled," recalled Malhotra, at a talk on ‘Unravelling the Drapes - The many incarnations of the Unstitched Sari' which was held at Gallery Gitanjali, Panaji.
A workshop with renowned textile and sari scholar, Rta Kapur Chishti, changed that and since then she has rediscovered the joys of wearing saris and is experimenting with drapes and styles which suit her personality and give her the freedom that she craves.
Rta taught her that the sari can be worn end number of ways from a pair of shorts, a gown, a dress etc. With just a experimenting of the pleats and knots it is capable of reinvention. " This nugget of information hit and turned around the way I wear a sari," admits Niketa, who has now begun a 100 drapes challenge which involves wearing the 100 drapes of saris in India within the next year.
Going back in time to the traditional way of wearing the sari, Niketa pointed out that traditionally there was no concept of a blouse or a petticoat. " Traditionally the many tribes would wear the unstitched fabric according to the geographical location, their occupation and the weather. It never depended on anything else other than what was the practical thing. They adapted the sari to suit the work they did," says Niketa.
It was Jnandanandini Tagore who first introduced the concept of blouse and petticoat, says Niketa. "Jnandanandini was denied entry into a Bombay Club because here sari was transparent. So she went to the Parsis in Saurasthra, Gujarat where she learnt about their trade. Now as far as the Iranians go, when they sought refuge in India they wanted to soak up the culture of India including wearing Indian clothes. But they also wanted to stay true to their religion. So they would wear pants under the sari. Adapting this, Jnandanandini went back to Kolkatta and began to teach these drapes and how to wear a petticoat," says Niketa.
Niketa is also a huge fan of the Handloom saris which she believes needs to become popular once again. " The handloom cotton is perfect for our weather. It is also the most beautiful and important gift that India has given to the global fashion circuit. It is not just art and beauty but science in itself. It has a low threat count and thus provides higher thermal resistance. This means that if it is hot outside, you feel cool, and vice versa," she states. She adds that when you buy a handloom sari you are also impacting the livelihood of atleast 10-12 individuals right from farmers to spinners and weavers who are involved in the craft.
Niketa also believes that today more than ever it is important to woo youngsters on the beauty of the sari. "Youth today want to have self expression. They have questions about who we are and want to be different from the others. No one wants to go to a party and see someone else wearing the same top. That is why there is nothing better than a sari to help provide this creative expression not just in the way of dressing but also in the way you style it," she says.

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