Over the Diwali break my little sister sorted out her clothes. She made piles of clothes to discard and those to give away. I chose a few things I thought I could use. Afterwards we went to the Ambience mall and she donated the clothes to the H&M recycling drive.
I’m in the midst of sorting out my clothes too. Memories arise unbidden into my mind, as I sift through them. The skirt my sister said was perfect for a yoga instructor, that unbelievable bargain at a sale. The cozy sweat pants I reach for when Bangalore is cold and rainy, the sequined rose-gold skirt I look forward to wearing during the festive season.
Our evolution as individuals can be marked by changes in our sartorial choices.
Twenty years ago, in 1999, I was a senior at the American International School Dhaka. We had moved to Dhaka from the US and my clothes comprised of the usual teenager fare of jeans and tees bought at Nordstrom, Contempo Casuals, even Sears and Macys. In Bangladesh my mother bought yards and yards of handwoven jamdani saris. As my friends got ballgowns stitched for the senior prom, my mother and I scoured the markets looking for that perfect off-white chikankari fabric which the darzi transformed into a beautiful shalwar. Years later and many kgs lesser, that shalwar started to look like a bag on me, and I reluctantly decided to gave it away to a maid. But as I wistfully fingered the border of the dupatta – I had the tailor line the edges with the same chikankari fabric – I resolutely tucked it back into the depths of my trunk, where it remains to this day.
The years 2000-2004 were spent in a tiny hamlet in northern India. My college years were defined predominantly with a sense of displacement and a visceral rejection of surroundings I couldn’t/wouldn’t adapt to. I would not obey, I didn’t care about assimilation. I admired only the art. And so I drank in the colors of patiala salwars and got many stitched for myself. For graduation and other formal events, I, like the other girls, dived into my mother’s collection of beautiful saris. If there was a gene for being a clotheshorse, my mother would be its original carrier. She has trunks full of the most exquisite silks, the purest french chiffons, diaphanous cottons. I was allowed to borrow only certain saris – but to me those were the most beautiful threads to ever adorn my body.
Once I finished college and entered the corporate world, Company Policy started influencing my wardrobe. Highly forgetful formal shirts and pants. Unimaginative cuts, fits to shroud you in conformity. I felt trapped, and creatively stunted and my wardrobe was a reflection of that. When I decided that this life was no longer for me, I remember letting my younger sister have her pick of the clothes, while the remaining went to charity. It was as though by banishing those clothes from my armoire, I was emphasizing my decision to never return to the world of countless excel sheets.
The gap left by my work wear soon started filling with workout wear. I wore a lot of track pants before I realized that I like black tights the most. Not the moisture wicking, dri-fit variety, but of the more unpretentious cotton kind. During my daily practice/teaching, I don’t want to be distracted by flashes of colors or eye catching designs.
As I continue to go through my cupboards, I realize my wardrobe is now an amalgamation of all the influences in my life. Long basic dresses that my sister no longer feels she identifies with, a beautiful hand-stitched tie-dyed skirt picked up at a garage sale, a salwar-kameez stitched by the tailor my friend discovered when she was 17. Bargains found in the racks of Forever21 sales. Fabrics sourced from artisans at craft fairs, material from Pune’s vibrant Lakshmi Road, whatever catches my fancy at Malkha. My kurtas are long, flowing and light. My collection of 100-odd saris, enviable.
Clothes are perhaps our first form of expression. Even those of us who aren’t interested in what we wear make a decision about what to wear – and that decision is an expression in and of itself. Our cultures define the tone of festive clothing, clothes for mourning, clothes for the bourgeoisie and those of modest means, those in a penitentiary and for heads of state. Clothes you’d wear to a wedding and those you would wear to the Seychelles. Clothes to wear to the cinema, to the opera and for the weekly Netflix and chill.
Perhaps the only statement more powerful than choosing what to wear is choosing not to wear anything at all.
[WORDS DO MATTER! This post is written for the 3rd edition of #WordsMatter linkup hosted by Corinne, Parul and Shalini. The prompt for this edition of #WordsMatter linkup is ‘20 years ago’]
I received this tag from Reema from The Write World (https://reemadsouza.com/). It’s my pleasure to pass on this tag to Anamika Agnihotri at https://thebespectacledmother.com/. There are 29 of us on this Blog Hop and it is spread over 3 days – 1, 2, 3 November 2019. Do follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop, you’ll love our musings!
I like your unique take on the prompt. My father’s family is from Dhaka and my grandmother had some exquisite collection of Jaamdaani. I also have inherited a couple of them. I wish to visit Dhaka soon.
Oh I would love to go back and visit Dhaka…and pick up a few beautiful weaves while I’m there 🙂
This is quite an unusual take on the prompt. I loved reading your journey as expressed through the medium of clothes. The line which saw me nodding my head in agreement is ‘Even those of us who aren’t interested in what we wear make a decision about what to wear’ because I am that person who isn’t ever interested in clothes or dressing up but nevertheless I do my share of choosing.
Thank you for reading Anamika!
Yikes! Clothes are such difficult decisions I tell you! I have always had problems maintaining a wardrobe. It is a pet peeve of mine. I put on and lose weight pretty much in phases, so clothes are on the side of what fits me and what is easy to grab and wear on the way out. I dream of a time when I can actually plan an outfit and look elegant in it every single time! A very interesting take on the prompt!
Most women share the ‘weighty’ issues!
Clothes do hold a lot of memories. I have a few clothes that I’ve outgrown but I still have a few of them because too many memories are associated with them. Enjoyed reading your experiences through the 20 years.
Wow, so many beautiful sarees ? and lovely memories associated with them.
How our clothing choices and styles change over a period of time. Interesting to know your life and times through clothes.
I am very bad with clothes. I dont like to experiment. My wardrobe consists of predominantly Jeans, Tshirts and Tops. In fact, these are what I wear almost everywhere.
Enjoyed reading your different take on this month’s prompt, Pragya!
[…] Balaka who blogs at Trina Looks Back. It’s my pleasure to pass on this tag to Pragya who blogs at Yoga with Pragya. There are 29 of us on this Blog Hop and it will be spread over 3 days – 1st, 2nd and 3rd […]
This is such an interesting sartorial journey. I love how wonderfully you carry all different types of clothes – saris, dresses and even that tiding gear. I never gave much thought to clothes till I realised that they could be such great mood uplifters. I’ve realised I feel good when I dress up well.
Nice take on the prompt. I have a shelf full of clothes that I know I will never give away. Because all of them are linked to memories. Each one of them tells a story. My wedding saree, my daughter’s christening dress, my husband’s favourite shirt, the blouse that my daughters saved their pocket money to buy me when they were in school….
I liked your take on the prompt. It was very interesting.
Ah I enjoyed reading this and getting to know you better, Pragya. While your theme was clothes, I loved the little insights into your life and how you seem to have carved a life that is you! I’m so curious too about your 4 year stay in hamlet. The subject of another post, perhaps? I’d love to read it.
Thanks for reading Corinne. Yes – I do hope to gather my thoughts about those 4 years and put into a blog.
That’s a lovely post, Pragya. Good to know you more through this post. I love my clothes – from sarees to skirts and jeans to yoga pants. The only thing I look for is comfort. Your post made me smile and think at most times. It reminded me that as we go through life, our clothes change but we do find a style. Don’t we?
Great pictures and I would love to own a Jamdaani one day.
Thanks for reading parul!
Oh what a unique take on the prompt! I so loved reading and getting to know you better, Pragya. Write a post on the hamlet stay okay?
Thanks for reading Shalini. Will do!
Wow! I enjoyed reading about your experiences at every stage of your life. Coming to clothing My favorite from the one’s you posted was your mom’s Yellow and green saree.
Thanks for reading Keerthi!
Now this is an amazing way to regress into twenty years past-loved the travel through the clothes and why they were picked up. Your clothes reflect the travel in your life and thats pretty incredible.
I am envious of the 100 saree collection and the Jamdaanis sounds exquisite-nope I dont own any to date. Need to rectify that as I love the lightness of that green thing you are wearing. BTW you look gorgeous in a saree and I hope you wear them most often Pragya.
I enjoyed the way you wove the clothing through the thread of your life story. ?