Vidya Balan said of the saree, “It’s the sexiest garment ever. It shows the right amount, covers the right amount and is extremely versatile”. Nothing against the one-off woman reading this who isn’t comfortable with the nine-yard wonder, but it’s safe to say that most of us would be in consensus about our saree-love.
As Indian women, our love for the saree comes from seeing our mothers in it. So much so, that most of us as little girls would have at some point in time made ourselves a proxy-saree out of a dupatta and walked around in it in an attempt to copy our mothers. The saree has come a long in the last few years what with everyone from Victoria Beckham to Gisele Bundchen rocking it on the red carpet.
On that note, here’s a lady from USA who too has fallen in love with the quintessential Indian garment. Stacy Jacobs may not be a household name, but if you come across her Instagram profile, you’ll find it pretty difficult to look away.
We spoke to this saree-enthusiast’s long distance affair with Indian handloom, and here’s what we learned:
Suburban American woman meets Indian culture
Stacy describes herself as a middle aged American woman who works with mental-health and focuses on building support communities for at-risk groups, apart from being a professional writer, she’s also a competitive Bridge player.
She graduated from Knox College and it was here that she became friends with a lot of Indian and Pakistani people, and was introduced to late nights full of spicy keema and Bridge. Her passion for Bridge lead to her entry in the US women’s team which participated in the 2015 World Bridge Championship, in Chennai.
It was on this trip that Stacy fell in love with Indian handloom and colours. Malini Ramani’s “beachy glam silks” along with Rohit & Rahul’s “architectural details” and Anamika Khanna’s “breathtaking, fragile formal wear” worked their magic on her. But once she returned home, Stacy found almost no place to buy Indian fashion.
On Wednesdays we wear pink. It’s the only line of dialogue I know from the movie Mean Girls. So let’s talk about that for a moment. Mean girls. I know a BUNCH, and I bet you do as well. When I was a kid I actually thought that girls would stop being mean when they grew up. Nobody ever made a movie called Mean Women, right? Yeah. Not so much. One thing I’ve noticed during the months since I began wearing my #protestsaree is that my #whiteprivilege extends to fashion critique. I’ve been seen in some truly hapless drapes, but do the best I can. I learned everything I know about how to drape by watching YouTube videos (shout out to Vishnu Priya!! ____ She’s amazing) and the comments made there were really difficult to read and highly intimidating. Here’s a lady trying to share her knowledge and people write very nasty things. It’s sad. I’ve reached out to girls who draped in a really cool or different way and except for my idol Sumitra @sareesandstories nobody seems to want to reply, much less share draping tricks. Here’s the thing, ladies. We are not made less when we help another. Think about that. You are not less fashionable or hip if you teach me to (do makeup, curl hair, buy jeans, drape a saree). You will not lose standing by helping another. Today and #alwaysingratitude for all of us on this journey together. Thank you for welcoming my point of view and for supporting my choice to adopt the saree for my mission. How gorgeous is this pink linen saree by @ekaco from the collection curated by @parisera_diaries This is light and airy linen that I will be carful not to wear out. Loving the blouse from my dear friends @manjha.shop and of course, always and forever @tieks #bekind #bestrong #befearless #benice #sareelove #sareenotsorry #iwearhandloom #makeinindia #didyougetthatinindia (yes, check out @Parisera online and @manjha.shop on #etsy) #diversitymatters
Though she fell in love with Indian fashion, she consciously stayed away from the saree for fear of draping it incorrectly and being viewed as disrespectful. It was a gorgeous handloom saree with fish motif all over, that changed everything.
Stacy soon stumbled upon fashion designers Mayank Anand and Shraddha Nigam who had stores online and the shopping spree began.
Today’s #protestsaree is a textile of extraordinary beauty. It came to me by way of London and I recognize the power of love and art and culture and history that are shared so generously with me by the artist @abdulraufkhatri82 and @thefareastartstudio . I drape my #whiteprivilege in this stunning textile and wear it proudly in middle America today to proclaim and affirm that #istandwithrefugeesandmuslims #istandwithbrownpeople #istandwithlgbtqpeople and I stand against terrorism and hatred and bigotry in this land and every land. I stand up and speak out because I can. Is there something you can do to push back the tides of fear and hatred? Do that. And keep doing it. #makechange #makeinindia #sareelove #sareenotsorry #sareeonmovement #keepcalmandsareeon #didyougetthatinindia (via LHR) #diversitymatters #alwaysingratitude (photo by George. He’s getting so good!) #ajrakh #designerayushkejriwal #abdulraufkhatri #
From draping the saree to making it a symbol of diversity
Stacy started taking early morning YouTube tutorials and a “closet saree-wearer” was born. Describing her struggle, Stacy says, “it is very difficult to stuff an entire saree into the waist of a pair of boyfriend jeans”.
Soon however, the love for the fabric changed to “showing care and concern for the terrible things happening in America”. With her deliberately ‘different’ clothes she hoped her “sloppy petticoats and messy pallu pleats, showing more belly than she’d like and tripping over her pleats sometimes” would help make a statement about acceptance and diversity in Trump’s America.
Then comes the time that a #protestsaree is so much more. Like this exotic and compelling #ajrakh that just arrived from my favorite @ethicus.in It is comforting and soft, as I have come to expect from @ethicus.in. It is richly and deeply printed in madder and indigo with golden threads peeking through the border. This is a saree of great beauty and sophistication and I will endeavor to wear it well. I’m wearing it with a simple, beautifully crafted black blouse made for me by my dear friends at @manjha.shop Thank you ever so much, Team Ethicus and Manjha. #alwaysingratitude #sareelove #saree #sareenotsorry #keepcalmandsareeon #didyougetthatinindia (yes. All the best textiles come from India.) #bekind #bestrong #befearless #positivitylastslonger Photo by Joanna @twopeople_andapuppy Awesome hair by Melissa @levatosalon
On how peers perceive her choice of wardrobe
Stacy does admit that she “thinks most people consider her to be a bit of a nutter”. It was the women of colour (often strangers) who showed her love. At a coffee shop, she was asked by a young brown girl if it was a saree that she was wearing and the encounter ended in a hug. Recounting a past experience, she says: “a woman caught hold of me at the train platform and complimented me on draping the saree a lot better than she herself did.”
Now, while those compliments keep Stacy going, it is the conversation with white people regarding her attire that gives her the drive to continue with her passion. She waits for people to ask, “why are you wearing THAT?” just so that it gives her an opportunity to let them know that she “stands with brown people, immigrants, gay people, refugees and Muslims. That I believe borders are only for sarees.”
Stacy loves cotton sarees, with the Bengali jamdani being her favourite. According to her, what sets the saree apart from other clothes, is the way it “flatters a woman’s body, unlike Western fashion which is made for the form”.
With great pride and enormous gratitude I am wearing the most magnificent pure tussar silk tribal saree from Odisha. This extraordinary hand-woven treasure speaks of the dolabedi, the Lords in Odisha’s famed temples preparing for a stroll. It came to me from the energetic and tenacious @utkalamrita and I am humbled by the artistry and skill demonstrated so beautifully. Today and #alwaysingratitude for the privilege of being a small part of the global initiative to celebrate handloom textiles. During this #fashion_rev week, take a few minutes and ask yourself #whomademyclothes If the answer is the name of a corporation, please consider changing things up. This #protestsaree stands for the rights of artisans and weavers to earn a living wage practicing their centuries-old craft and the obligation of consumers to be ever vigilant. #iwearhandloom #makeinindia #didyougetthatinindia (I did!) #sareelove #sareenotsorry #keepcalmandsareeon #sareeonmovement
In a world which is increasingly becoming intolerant of diversity, cultures, religion, race or colour – this powerful and yet subtle statement against such hateful rhetoric, gives us hope. Take that, Trump. Ban that, if you will.