Army wife

Attack of the Saree Brigade

Yesterday, I came across an article in Hindustan Times about two women in Bangalore starting off a saree revolution of sorts by pledging to wear at least 100 sarees this year. After reading it, I felt happy and optimistic — so there are people like me who love wearing sarees! So there are people who appreciate a good weave! So there are women who feel special in a good drape! Yippie!

A gorgeous Maheshwari Saree, I want I want. :P Source: Pinterest
A gorgeous Maheshwari Saree, I want I want. 😛 Source: Pinterest

I personally love wearing sarees and am astounded at the response the #100sareepact has received. So many sarees ‘coming out of the closet’ (pun 100% intended) and becoming a part of the graceful-selfie club was nice. From the way I see it, those are the tales of women who have no obligation of wearing a saree (mostly in urban India), but do it willing for whatever reason.

It took me years to master the art of draping it properly, but I was a pro by the time I got married to Major Sa’ab. And then my putti-parade* started.

I used to wear saree to office on all major festivals (regardless of whether I celebrate it or was even remotely associated with it) and my colleagues would ask me, “Kya baat hai, shaadi ka rishta aya hai kya?” Duh!

But when I joined my husband at his Unit, I realised that it’s not just the men who wear the uniform, but their wives have to wear sarees to all functions and parties as the unofficial uniform. And the frequency of those parties was maddening.

The day I entered the Army as a new bride, I was told that there is a big reunion function after two weeks. It was a 3-4 day celebration of all past and present officers of Major Sa’ab’s Unit and there were at least 2 functions daily. Dress code — saree.

I was new to the Army culture and I rather liked the idea of getting this opportunity to flaunt my collection of sarees that I had been buying for 4-5 years. But the putti-parade* part began when almost every time I would have to change into a new saree in just 15 minutes. It seemed an impossible task at that time, and I gradually resented wearing saree at all.

My love for cotton and silk sarees has not faded though. But now I can drape a saree in flat 5 minutes, and need just one safety-pin (on the shoulder) to hold it together. I have attended so many fauji functions and parties in a saree, that I must have surpassed the #100sareepact – as have thousands of other Army wives.

But the sad part is that not many wear it happily. Some Army wives crib a lot about having to drape a saree, and I would sometimes join them in this anti-saree rant.

It dawned on me that the joy of wearing a saree loses its charm the moment it is made mandatory.

Is saree really the only appropriate outfit for women, or are we just playing safe? Photo Credit:
Is saree really the only appropriate outfit for women, or are we just playing safe? Photo Credit:

Women who live in conservative sasurals would agree. When there is this ‘wear a saree all the time’ dagger hanging over your head, then the six-yard fabric too suffers along with the woman.

Similarly Army’s unsaid rule of wearing a saree at ALL FUNCTIONS is taken in a sasural-diktat manner by the ladies. I get it if a lady has to wear a saree to a formal dinner party, Family Welfare function, or in the Officer’s Mess. It is a smart formal attire that looks good on every shape and age. But insistence on wearing it to a Ball party or a Polo/Golf match is dragging it a bit too far.

Some of us like to flaunt a well-tailored Salwar-Kameez, a stylish pair of trousers with a shirt/kurti or some nice western dresses. Hamari guhaar suno!

I find some stations have a relaxed approach to the way ladies dress up, so that’s a positive sign I guess. I know it will take a long time for the Army to open up to the spirit of an independent woman, and leave the choice of dress to her. Whenever it happens, I am sure the girls would eagerly wait for the ‘saree-wala’ function and happily drape this Indian outfit.

Having said that, let me boast about the incredibly stylish Army wives and their stash of sarees…but all that in the next post.

Meanwhile Fauji biwiyon, show some love to the awesome #100sareepact krantikaris (Krantisaris?) Anju Kadam and Ally Matthan on their website, Facebook page and twitter to share your own saree stories.

*Patti Parade is a kind of punishment Army officers go through during their training in which they have to wear all their uniforms one after the other in a small time bracket.


7 thoughts on “Attack of the Saree Brigade”

  1. Awesome, really, this post – for you’ve got all the perspectives in 🙂 I’ve been following the #100SareePact, or whatever hashtag thing that is, and am delighted by the sarees coming out of the closet (LOL- @your pun intended – mine too!) As you say, when you wear one, without compulsion and enjoy it, then it matters 🙂 The Services however, is a Saas still, a strict one at that, esp. the Army, I guess. The Navy has it a bit better, I think. Especially with the younger lot being more independent and firm about their choice in most parties – except of course the formally dictated dress code wala types 🙂
    I love wearing it too, but having had to do it for the sake of it being mandatory in my worksphere – a school- has taken the charm off a bit, and we do long for days when we can wear a salwar (when the kids do not attend school, the only teachers attend wala days 😀 )

    1. Oh yes, I have an uncle and some friends in the Navy and judging from their facebook pictures, they have the liberty of experimenting with their wardrobe.
      There have been times when I’ve met a particular lady at a function (clad in saree) and then when I see her somewhere else in the evening in jeans or gym-wear, I don’t recognise her! 😛

  2. I agree. Any attire forced on one becomes a burden and a cross to bear. Especially sasural – diktat manner :-)…I can’t bring myself to wear clothes in the colour of my school uniform ! I hope we all will continue to enjoy our sarees because WE WANT to wear them and tell our stories. The #100sareepact ( ) is a place where we have found our voice to express our opinions and celebrate stories of our lives. And for those who don’t wish to wear the saree, hey, every saree story teller needs an audience too ! Thank you for the shout out. Fauji biwiyon, waiting to hear your stories.

    @Usha I’m sure you have (saree) stories to tell too. Every teacher does.

    1. Everyone needs a little push and #100sareepact is just that! I hope it inspires women like us to wear it more often and drives young girls to raid their mother’s cupboards. 🙂

  3. I love sarees as well, though I haven’t worn them often enough yet, so they still drive me to frustration when I’m trying to drape them. I didn’t know wearing the saree was mandatory at all Army functions. Hopefully they’ll loosen up soon 🙂 But I’m glad the #100SareePact has brought out everyone’s sarees!

  4. Haha.. I immediately relate to all that you write. And this one…exactly what all of us army wives want to say and hear!

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