In olden times, Indian women often wear the saree all day, every day. Yes, even at home.
They had learnt and perfected the art of tying a saree quickly and neatly, and wear it comfortably as they go around finishing their daily household chores.
Such a 'feat' is almost difficult to imagine nowadays. You can hardly see any ladies clad in sarees, mopping their houses or stirring the boiling curry in a pot. In fact, somewhere down the line, saree-clad women have become some sort of an anamoly.
Welcome to the new era where saree has become an exclusive wear during special occasions, functions or festivals such as on Deepavali day, during weddings or even Bollywood-themed parties.
However, one woman is determined to break all this new era nonsense by proudly wearing a saree to work every single day. Yes, you heard us right. She wears a saree of her choice to work every day.
, Executive Producer of Vbuzz, an English talk show on Astro, has been in the workforce for the past 18 years and she never failed to regularly walk in to work in a saree.
She also records her saree adventures (or misadventures) on her Instagram page called @sareesandstories
, where she has over 25,000 followers.
spoke to Sumitra Selvaraj recently, to find out about her obsession on sarees and how she manages to wear a saree to work every single day.
It Started From A Habit
In a world where wearing a saree to work is deemed impractical, Sumitra stands out like a rather beautiful ‘sore thumb’, out to prove anyone who dares to even think that way wrong.
Her inspiration for such a bold move, she told us, came from no one else but her mother.
“My mother used to wear a saree to work every single day, back in the 1970s. She continued to do so through the 1990s. So, it wouldn’t be a surprise that I grew up associating the saree, as an office wear,” she said.
When Sumitra was ready to enter the working world, she was naturally attracted to wearing sarees to work.
“I entered the workforce in the 2000's, and I found myself being drawn to the idea of occasionally wearing a saree to work. What started as occasional attire, grew into something more full-fledged.
“Over the last decade and a half, the frequency of me wearing a saree to work had increased. Now, I wear a saree to work every single day,” she explained.
Although many Indian women love the idea of wearing a saree and immediately looking gorgeous in it, most of them avoid the hassle of wrapping themselves in five meters of sheer elegance, simply because it is so time consuming.
For the inexperienced, it would take at least 40 minutes, but for Sumitra, it only take a couple of minutes to tie a saree at most.
“Certain materials like heavy silk sarees are easier to tie as they fall smoothly. The starched cotton sarees, however, take maybe up to three to four minutes longer as it takes time to get it nicely smoothed down,” said Sumitra, who never felt uncomfortable when clad in sarees.
Perhaps a lot of you are thinking that Sumitra must do a lot of saree-shopping and spend tons of money while at it, as she wears a different saree to work every single day.
Well, a lot of you are wrong.
“ I don't buy sarees. I have an adequate number of sarees inherited from my grandmother. I also have my mother's old sarees that she used to wear to work in the 90's. I don't see the need to add to the collection at all,” she said.
Among Sumitra’s favourite kinds of sarees are cotton sarees.
“Cotton Sarees for comfort and crisp lines. I'm partial to Chettinad Cotton sarees because I like the corporate feel of starched cotton,” she said.
Sumitra is also not afraid to experiment when it comes to tying sarees.
Instead of the usual, fancy-designed saree blouses that are often paired with sarees, Sumitra was daring enough to pair her sarees with unconventional saree blouses such as cardigans, sweater, batik-print saree blouse and even polo shirts.
The Instagram Story
She posts her outfit of the day on her Instagram, @sareesandstories, with a little story to accompany her posts.
“@sareesandstories on Instagram was started in May 2016 just because I want to be able to share my saree of the day.
“I just wanted to show people that it is possible to wear a saree everyday, and to try and dispel the notion, especially here in Malaysia, that the saree is only meant for special occasions.
Then, she started adding little details about the saree she's wearing on every Instagram post.
"I began to share information about the different types of weaves and my thoughts and opinions associated with a woman clad in a saree.
“The page’s followers grew and here we are today,” she said.
Not only that, Sumitra is known to encourage her followers to wear sarees by ocassionally posting contests and challenges on her Instagram page.
One of her recent saree challenge was the #8SareesinOctober, where her followers need to wear a saree for eight separate days in October and snap a photo of themselves on the days they wear sarees. At the end of October, the followers have to put together a little collage on Instagram, or use the carousel function to show all the eight looks, complete with a caption.
She is set to reward a handloomed saree to the person with the post she liked the most.
Dealing With Unwanted Attention
Although Sumitra is trying her best to inspire other women, not everything is a bed of roses for her, especially when it comes to sexual harassment from men.
In a recent post on her Instagram, Sumitra shared how her saree-clad figure had been called "hot, sexy, a turn-on and a tease".
She said the attire seemed to inflame a multitude of men, such as a colleague at a previous workplace who ran his finger down her saree-blouse clad back as he passed her workstation.
“Why has the garment that clothes their mothers and grandmothers and aunts and wives and daughters been turned into the drape of their filthiest desires?”, she questioned on her Instagram post.
Despite that, Sumitra continues to wear her sarees proudly to work every single day and encourages other women to do so as well.
“You should wear what you want, when you want. I don't subscribe to societal notions that if you wear a saree, you have to be traditional or conservative or old-fashioned.
“I also don't believe that you have to act a certain was just because you wear a saree. It is a piece of clothing like any other, and at the end of the day it's your deeds that matter, not the way you dress,” she said.
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