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Posted at: Feb 17, 2018, 3:06 AM; last updated: Feb 17, 2018, 3:06 AM (IST)

The six-yard debate

You may or may not agree with Sabysachi’s latest comment shaming Indian women for not knowing how to drape a saree, but there’s no denying that saree is increasingly missing from daily wardrobes. So how do we make the garment more comfortable? Gen next designers speak up

Manpriya Singh

Last Sunday morning, the fashion fraternity woke up to ace designer Sabyasachi shaming Indian women who do not know how to drape a saree! “If you tell me you don’t know how to drape a saree, I’d say shame on you.” India’s ace designer chose to be unforgiving about his take on the poster garment of Indian women. “Wars have been fought in a saree; grandmothers have slept in a saree and have woken up without any folds in it.” His reasoning filled in the leftover gaps and social media found something to troll about. It somehow always does. 

Coming back to the grandmothers (their generation we mean), it wasn’t introduced to devastating retailers like Mango, Zara or gym-wear and lifestyle shoes. And all thanks to Satya Paul, the blouses have gone sensual, the prints cocktail and well, the occasion rare.  Is anyone to be blamed here? And since the drape has to be perfect and the fall absolutely even, there’s no denying  that it seems impractical to cook, work or run chores in a saree. “It’s a relationship of misunderstanding. It’s easy to wear a saree,” he further reasoned. Well, easy it might be but intimidating it still sounds. The young crop of designers shares their take on how to bring the saree back into daily wardrobes. 

Saree, re-interpreted

Not that the design fraternity hasn’t done their bit to reinterpret the silhouette; it was during the nineties that designer Satya Paul decided to update the saree as Indians knew it — from the Kanjeevarams or cottons to soirees.  Edgy designers like Gaurav Gupta have already taken pre-draped sarees to the next level.  New terms like saree-gown, half-sarees and lehenga-sarees have found their way to fashion jargon. Nor do the playful flirty versions (Masaba Gupta features in the credit role) with cartoons, in neon colours, in denim fabric, meet raised brows anymore.

Even though Kangana Ranaut may have nailed the airport look with a saree and black shoes or lately we may have had Pune woman Shital Rane-Mahajan set a new record by skydiving while sporting a colourful pink and purple saree, the garment somehow still refuses to budge beyond the high school farewells for younger women.  “It’s not just the drape that makes sarees uncomfortable, it’s also the fact that over the years we have strongly come to associate saree with something elegant, dressy and elaborate. A saree can’t be combined with shoes or out of bed hair, which makes it an unpopular choice with most youngsters these days,” Mehak Arora, a former student with INIFD opines. She isn’t the only one to not know how to drape a saree. There’s no denying that she takes assistance whenever she chooses to wear it. 

Comfort first

Is it any wonder then that saree-draping makes it to the list of standard services available at beauty salons? Designer Mohanpreet Kaur, who runs the online label, The Runway Couture, feels, “Once tied, saree is already fairly comfortable. But most young girls do have a mental block about draping. So if we were to actually reduce the six metres of fabrics to may be four meters and have a straight pin up version of it, it would go places.”  

Then there’s yet another proposal. Kanika Dogra, former fashion student at University’s Institute of Fashion Technology, tosses a few options. “We can have saree culottes. If we can reduce the length of the saree and make it acceptable and fashionable, it would be far more comfortable.” 

Designer Shikha Ghalsasi, who showcased at Lakme Fashion Week A/W 2017, opines, “It’s not necessary to be stuck in the 18th century when to comes to what to wear. Eventually, women will wear what suits them and their lifestyle. These days women have lesser and lesser time for grooming. As designers, it is up to us to modernise and popularize sarees and give comfortable options to women, but eventually if they feel comfortable in a jeans and kurta, it is absolutely their choice.” True that! 

Meanwhile, he clears the air 

  • In an era of fierce feminism, any remark on what to wear, eat and how to be is likely to be scrutinised thread-bare and criticised no end. Responding to the furore over social media, a day later, Sabyasachi clarifies, “I would take the same stand on men’s national clothing too. I have not made any statement on a woman’s choice on what she wishes to wear, which is always her own prerogative.” 
  • He added, “Allow me to sincerely apologise for the words that I used while answering impromptu questions at a conference at Harvard. I am sorry that I used the word ‘shame’ in reference to some women’s inability to wear a saree. I truly regret that the way in which I tried to make a point about the saree enabled it to be interpreted as misogynistic, patriarchal and non-inclusive - this was certainly not my intention,” he wrote.

manpriya@tribunemail.com

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