A Curious Army Wife

I joined this crazy tribe when I married into the Indian Army

Archive for the tag “Saree”

Bucket-list of Sarees that every Army wife should have!

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.

Solid colours

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.

Classy silks

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.

Floral-print saree

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.

Chikankari saree

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?

Maheshwari sarees

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.

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

Morni saree

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.

Kashmiri embroidary

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).

Mekhla Chador

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.

Akanksha Siwach
Blog: https://talesofthehiddentrails.wordpress.com
Instagram: @akankshasiwach

Saanya Bajaj Rawat
Blog: http://thatordinarycouple.com/
Instagram: @thatordinarycouple

Gunjan Mishra Upadyay
Blog: https://alazydesi.blogspot.com/
Instagram: @pink_pitari

Priyanka Mansotra
Instagram: @myeloquentwardrobe

Shruti Seth Gulati
Website: https://adahbespoke.com/
Instagram: @adah_bespoke_chikankari

Nupur Pradhan
Blog: https://tuggingmyluggage.com/
Instagram: @tuggingmyluggage

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: ChasingPixels.in

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

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.

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