“Iss wale function me kya pehenna hai?“
“Mujhe bhi samajh nahin aa raha hai yaar. Ek kaam karte hain, let’s go for a saree. Safestest!”
How many times have you had this conversation with a fellow Army/IAF/Navy wife?
WHEN IN DOUBT, DRAPE A SAREE — this line should be tattooed by all of us because we live by this commandment so often — call it the army wife equivalent of “SERVICE BEFORE SELF…” motto of our brave men.
If you are marrying an Army/Navy/Air Force officer, then you, my girl, will need a major wardrobe overhauling.
Till now if you owned 4-5 sarees then simply multiply it by 10 — yes, you WILL need those many sarees to survive the fauji ‘socialising’ and ‘welfaring’ spree.
Why would you have to drape a saree to every second function? I can’t waste my time explaining that. If you are a new bride, some senior officer’s wife will brief you about it. If you have already been briefed, then why should I bother… haha.
And if you are non-fauji person who stumbled upon this blog, then all I can tell you is that sarees are the formal attire in which army wives are supposed to attend functions and parties (and we do that in wholesale).
I am writing this gyan-bhara piece to tell you what kind of sarees you should have in your wardrobe, so that you always have the ‘appropriate saree’ for every occasion.
Stock up now
Here’s a sneak peek into the army wives whose pics are featured in this blog post. Check out their details at the end of the post.
Get plain sarees in every possible colour. Material of the fabric (chiffon, silk, cotton) is irrelevant. Red, black, blue, white, yellow, green, orange, pink and purple are must-haves. Beige, magenta, brown, gray, peach, and violet are optional. 😀
You will need those especially for themed Ladies’ Meets. For eg, Blue for monsoon theme, green for teej or go green theme, red for Valentine’s Day theme, etc. It also goes great with printed blouses on occasions like Polo matches or welfare functions.
A Tiranga saree
At least once in your first few years as an army wife, you will attend a Ladies Meet in Jan/Aug with a patriotic theme. So, orange, white and green colours in a single saree will save the day.
Black & White / Black & Red saree
Keep these two sarees ready (preferrably in chiffon and silk). Black and red will come in handy for, say, ‘casino’ theme, while the black and white saree will be useful for a theme with the same name.
Invest in some good silk sarees that look classy on formal occasions like mess parties and events like Raising Days/Jubilees. Your first occasion to wear a silk saree could come as early as your dinning-in function in the mess.
Silks, especially Kanjeevaram, Bangalore Silk, Paithani, Mysore Silks, Chanderi, Maheshwari etc, in broad and narrow borders, look fabulous. Silks work out best during outdoor winter parties too as they’ll give you better protection against the cold.
These sarees will make an annual appearance at the famous ‘Garden Party’ in your station. My understanding of the Garden Party is (and I could be wrong) that the wife of seniormost officer in your city — GOC-in-C, Brigade Commander, Corp Commander, Academy’s Commandant etc — will host a party in their sprawling gardens once in year. Gardens look best during the spring. So expect an invitation to it in February or March. It’s a mega party for all ladies of that particular city/cantonment/academy.
Spring me ho raha hai, garden venue hai… toh theme floral hi rahega na! Flowy Georgette or Chiffons, in pastels and floral prints are the sarees you would see in abundance at that time. Start buying woman!
Rajasthan ke rang (Lehriya, Bandhej)
A military wife, specially Army and Air Force spouse, would have far more Lehriya and Bandhej sarees than even a native Rajasthani woman.
No, I am not kidding.
They come in bright colours, hug all body shapes beautifully, can be paired with a simple blouse for a small event, or a stylist blouse for a formal event. It’s so versatile, that we fauji biwis end up buying a bunch.
If you don’t have a saree from the land of nawabs and kebabs, then it’s time to go shopping. One tenure in Uttar Pradesh will rectify this problem. If not, watch out for a handloom and handicraft exhibition in your city, where craftsmen from UP will definitely have a stall.
Your bridal saree
Yes, chances are you will use it at least once in your life as a fauji biwi (other than at your own shaadi, of course). I have seen many women who have draped elegant sarees at their weddings and often wear it again at formal functions like Jubilees and Raising Day events. If you are lucky, you might even attend a ‘Bridal’ themed Ladies’ Meet.
I curse my stupidity at having bought a very heavy red and gold kanjivaram saree, that I can’t even wear at someone else’ wedding (because people would know instantly that it’s my wedding saree… ufff, the saree politics).
I carry it around like dead weight. Should I just sell it off and use that money for a foreign trip? Or keep it for my future bahu as heirloom?
One long or short posting in Mhow (even a 2-3 days visit) will take care of this segment. These sarees, a speciality of Madhya Pradesh, are lightweight silks in stylish patterns and colours.
NOW WE ARE TALKING! This saree is an extremely stylist piece of fabric that is sold exclusively in Jodhpur by Bhatia Dyes. It is a beautiful saree with shades of green and blue — kind of like a morni (I assume the name struck because the colours of the saree resemble peacock feathers, but the fact is that a morni does not have those feathers. It should actually be called MORE saree).
Just FYI, Bhatia ji makes shaded sarees in other colours as well, but Morni Saree is his bestseller.
Again, this kind of needlework is common on suits, shawls, and carpets. So if you come across this embrioidary on a silk or woolen saree (most probably during a J&K tenure) then don’t hesitate to loosen the strings of your purse (okay, this phrase is so outdated, instead I am going to say don’t hesitate to swipe that debit/credit card).
It’s a skirt and a dupatta, combined together to be draped like a saree. With beautiful colours, asthetically designed borders, and extremely comfortable to wear, Mekhla Chador is your “lemme wear something that stands out” saree. Buy the authentic ones from Assam though — preferably in silk.
The Versatile White Saree
It could be the classic Kerala saree aka Kasavu. It could be a plain white ( rather off white) Tussar. It could be anything — from chikankari to net work, from Dhakai to a Paithani — but nothing will match the grace and elegance of a white saree. Traditionally it is not considered good to wear white sarees — associated with widows — but hey, aren’t we way past that stage of following useless customs? Go for it. And flaunt it with a stylish blouse.
That’s it ladies. This is your ‘essentials’ list. There are so many more sarees in our beautiful country that you must definitely buy whenever possible. If you are buying for region-specific sarees, then please do buy from handloom weavers and craftsmen who put in a lot of effort to bring something unique to the market. No offence to powerloom lobby but I would personally prefer to pay a little extra to the hardworking weavers of our country.
Banarasi, Chanderi, Taant, Balucheri, Kosa, Kantha, Sambalpuri, Pochampalli, Kalamkari, Narayanpet, Patola, Kota Doria, Phukari, Mangalgiri and Manipuri silk are some types of sarees that you must think of buying — depending on your taste — in addition to the ones I have described.
Now the roll of honour!
Do check out the blog/website/instagram pages of the lovely ladies in the images.
Saanya Bajaj Rawat
Gunjan Mishra Upadyay
Shruti Seth Gulati