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White Lady In A Sari – How Work Mates Reacted to Me in Traditional Indian Clothes

Can’t wait for the next Sari & Kurta day at work 🙂 or wedding or formal event… 🙂

“Angela, come with me, I want a photo,” said one of the executives at work today.  It was Sari & Kurta Day at work and I was dressed in a sand coloured sari with purple accents, my hair was pinned up and I was properly adorned with a bindi.  Today’s themed event at work was an idea that I pitched to H.R. just after Christmas time for the sole reason that I wanted to wear a sari and needed an excuse.  So there I was, thinking ahhh how sweet, she wants a photo of us together as we headed for the exit.  And then she added, “we are going out so I can snap a picture to show my family the white lady in a sari.”  Hmmm, okay, still sweet because I know she is sweet but it did make me stop for a moment when I realized that my colleague didn’t want a picture WITH me so much as OF me.  Maybe not even of ME but of a white lady in a sari.

Was it really such a novelty to see me in a sari?  Would I feel the same way if I saw one of my very traditional colleagues in tight Levis and a scooped neck t-shirt and heels?  Maybe!

I don’t know what it is about a sari that has me so coo coo crazy but I fell in love with wearing one the first time I tried on my first sari at Sanskruti Silks.  I felt beautiful and elegant and – I know I shouldn’t say it but – sexy as the designer draped sari after sari on me as I hunted for just the right one for me.  I had no idea how much saris cost when I first moved here and I didn’t yet have any friends when I went on my first shopping trip in preparation for a colleague’s wedding.  The sari I fell in love with and bought for the wedding was Rs. 15,000 and I didn’t understand until later just how crazy expensive that was.  But it was love at first sight and I didn’t care.  Just trying it on – even at the end of a long day after work when I stopped in for the blouse fittings – transformed me momentarily into something akin to an Indian princess.  Having it on made me feel like I’d been transported to another place in time.  I

It was at the very last blouse fitting that I spotted the sari that I wore to work today.  This one was much less expensive but I loved it just the same so I bought it and had a simpler blouse tailored for it too back in May of 2010.  At that time I was living out of a hotel and I remember I tried it on at night several times just for fun of it.  I love that sari and was thrilled beyond words that I would finally – almost 8 months later – have the opportunity to wear it out on the town.   Or to be really specific, out to work.

All dressed up and on my way out to work….

My only good friends who live nearby in Frazer Town are guys, neither of whom have girlfriends or wives.  So my choices for the sari draping today were either to fumble through a YouTube video and do it myself, go to a salon or ask my very cute housekeeper – who wears a sari everyday – to help me.  I went with the last option and she recruited the help of another maid from the building.  They brought a bundle of safety pins with them that we merged with my sari pins I bought a few days ago on Commercial Street here in Bangalore.  Man, was I happy to have their help!  Pathima and Maha tied and pulled and pinned me like pros until it was draped so it would stay on all day (something I could have never managed with just YouTube, I’m sure).  They selected my accessories for me and Maha even popped the bindi off her own forehead for me to wear.  I think it was as much fun for them as it was for me because they had never seen a white woman in a sari before and this was definitely something outside the norm from either of our day-to-day activities.

At work I am the only white face in either of the Indian offices of my company and for whatever reason I evoked a much different reaction from people by wearing a sari than any of my other female colleagues – all of whom had much more elegant and stunning saris and beads and hair styles than mine.  But it was the first time my work mates were seeing me in anything aside from my super anglo clothes so there was a certain novelty to it.  It was actually really nice and I was genuinely touched by the amount of sweet comments I received.  I suppose I would have the same reaction if one of my female Indian colleagues all of a sudden turned up to work in knee-high boots, stockings, a slim knee-length dress and a jean jacket.  I’m sure that I would stop and stare and comment, too…and probably want to take their photo!

When I first moved here I couldn’t really understand why women wanted to wear the same fashion and clothing style as their great- great- great- grandmothers.  I can promise you that my sixteen year old daughter wouldn’t be caught dead in some of my clothes and I am only 41 years old.  So for me, I see saris as such a unique thing.  They date back to 2800–1800 BC and are worn by everyone from super hip university girls and sweet little old ladies to housekeepers and the power women running companies in India.  It’s impossible not to feel feminine and pretty in a sari – at any age and no matter whom you are or what you do.

Unfortunately, the one big negative thing about wearing a sari that I did notice this time was that I looked fat as hell in some of the photos due to the way Pathima and Maha draped my sari.  It really wasn’t their fault though because they are both so tiny and have such straight-up-and-down figures compared to mine.  I am massively tall and have a very curvy shape – super wide hips and junk in my trunk.  I think the girls didn’t really know how to drape it on my figure and so they draped it as they normally do for their body type.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still felt pretty and feminine all day but I was conscious that I looked a bit portly from the waist down.

Note to self: in the future sort out how to wear the sari best for my body type.

I remember having a conversation with a few of my male Indian buddies about how they felt about saris and they all unanimously agreed that the sari was ‘damn sexy’, as one of them said.  In fact, I know this to be true because the one Indian man I’ve dated adored me trying on saris and I was always happy to oblige.  Ooohhhh… and I receive daily reports from WordPress on the search terms that people type into Google to reach my blog and I’ve seen so many occurances of “blonde in saree” or “white woman wearing sari” or something similar so I know that Indian men have a bit of a fantasy about seeing us white girls wearing traditional attire — which I find to be just a bit pervy sometimes to be honest (but it does beat the one time someone clicked into my blog after typing in “naked Indian man butt goat sheep” hehe.  They found the naked man butt keywords from my Chennai road trip post).

I have truly come to appreciate and adore the sari.  More, of course, when I am actually the one wearing it but I do love people-watching Indian women wearing their saris.  It makes me smile every time I see a belly peek out to say hello, which is soooo taboo in the U.S. and Europe at work or church or anywhere formal or swish.  Just like bare legs and shoulders are generally taboo here, I guess.

My next mission?  Convince work to have Sari & Kurta Day every month on the day we hold our birthday cake cutting ceremony (like today) so I can wear one more often.  And since I won’t want to wear the same sari every other month and I only have two…this also implies a mandatory shopping trip for a new sari or two…and beads…and new jhumkas…!

XOXO Angela

© 2012 Angela Carson

I started Angela's Bangalore from my hotel room on the very first day I moved to India in 2011, while struck with jet lag! It was my very first blog, the country's very 1st luxury travel blog. Now I'm rocking YouTube as @ExpatAngela, hope you'll subscribe.

This article has 17 comments

  1. ankit rawal

    you looked beautiful and I am sorry i couldn’t say that in the office actually I had no words to describe how lovely you looked
    PS: I am not flirting these words are from the bottom of my heart

    ankit

  2. PencilGirl

    You look really pretty!! 😀 😀
    And you’re so right about the sari.. It’s totally sexy, but that kinda depends on how it’s draped.. There are like a gazillion ways to wear a sari. Different lengths of the sari too, which decides how it should be worn.
    I’ve been hoarding up saris (even stealing a few nice ones from grandmom and mom.. 😛 ) for a while now, but I’m yet to get blouses stitched for them.. And I kinda suck at draping the sari as well. 😡 But I practice draping them secretly sometimes. 😛
    As for shopping? Especially sari shopping? Sitting in a cozy little shop and going through dozens and dozens of beautiful, colourful fabrics without ever having to worry about it not being the right fit? 😀 😀 😀 And I need to go buy some pretty jhumkas too now.. 😀
    I loved this post! 🙂 🙂

    • angela_carson

      Oh I have missed your comments, Mythreyi! Hope the new year is kicking off nicely. I will never forget that you are the reason I went from writing just for my Mom and mates back home… 🙂

      Okay, so maybe we just found our something to do together finally? I would be so up for some sari and jhumka shopping — even if we didn’t really buy anything but just window shopped and made shop girls run around 🙂 hehe I’m so jealous you have so many saris! I want to come over to your place and play dress up one day. I can drape them around me for fun at home too (I also do this secretly — although not so secret now that we’ve just confessed it on the web) and it would be fun to try oodles and oodles of styles out in front of the mirror 🙂 There has to be one that doesn’t make my ass like a hippo replaced my back side! haha Big kiss and hug to you!!

  3. Preeti

    Hi Angela,
    I don’t exactly remember how I came across your blog , but have been hooked to it from the past few days.
    I simply love your writing.
    I moved to san diego recently about a month and half back from b’lore and have been missing India and b’lore terribly. The way you write about the place brings back so many memories that it literally transports me to b’lore for a little while 🙂

    I miss wearing a saree .:-( I used to wear it quite often to work especially if I had an important meeting and wanted to make an impression.

    While I have started loving it here , I still miss the dosas , the different colora and even the street dogs.

    • angela_carson

      That is sooo sweet…thank you so much! And what a coincidence! Before I moved to Europe last time I lived in San Diego. Moved away last time in 2003. I lived in Tierasanta. I’m a pilot and flew tons out of Montgomery field. Partied downtown out Ole Madrid and Bitter End (I’m sure those spots must be gone by now). And loved dinners in La Jolla. HAVE FUN! Are you American or Indian? Am very curious about my opposite twin now 🙂 -ange

      • Preeti

        I’m Indian. I live in Rancho bernardo and I have moved here with my hubby and son. I sometimes feel there are no people here since I hardly see anyone outside. I had come here before my wedding for about 8 months but that time I do not remember missing India this much. I guess it gets harder to adapt as we grow older. 🙂
        Btw I love your saree but amp not very happy at the way it was draped. Next time just pop over to your any neighbouring salon and they can help you with your saree 🙂

  4. Bibi

    Rocking that sari Angela!
    I don’t think you look like you have a ‘junky trunk’ at all. You look quite elegant in that sari.
    I however, am errr…..ummmm…… a bit on the ‘buxom’ side & am quite short waisted…so you either see ‘bum cleavage’ or ‘boob cleavage’ (or sometimes even both!) when I’ve worn a sari.
    Tragic really.

  5. arindam

    In Bangalore, to have the different/local Sari buying experience, you have to travel to Chikpet. Get the right shop name from your colleagues (or drop me a mail). It’s old Bangalore, narrow alleys to go to the shop. Small shop, not a boutique show room, but the choices are more. By the way, people do sit on the mattresses covering the entire floor, to choose among the heaps of saris being displayed by the salesperson.

    • angela_carson

      I know this will sound prissy but I like the boutiques in part because they are air conditioned. I know that I can find much less expensive saris and enjoy a more local experience like you are suggesting away from Sanskruti Silks … like in some villages in Tamil Nadu. Will have to try it some time 🙂

  6. arindam

    Chikpet is in Bangalore, shops are air-conditioned, but more crowded.

  7. Boston student

    Angela, if you’re looking to try out kitchy, edgy saris, definitely check out Play Clan (they call themselves the Clan). I don’t know if they’re in Bangalore, but they’re definitely in Chennai and Kochi. They have the most gorgeous, kitschy saris ever.

    Also, you DO NOT look fat in that sari! rock those 6 yards!

    • AngelaCarson

      Thanks for the “not fat” comment, very kind of you  🙂  I don’t know what Kitchy means though… but my dear friend is the owner of Sanskruti Silks, who I trust 100% to design the most fabulous blouses for me.  The photo of me on the website banner is of me in a saree but it doesn’t really look like it because the blouse is a really unique off-the-shoulder blouse she designed just for me 🙂  (you can see it here a bit better: http://angelasbangalore.com/wp-content/gallery/2012-party/angela-carson-bangalore-india-photo-shoot-robert-naorem-team-hair-makeup-sanskruti-silk-white-woman-wearing-saree-sari-hemanth.jpg )  Try them out!!  –angela

      • Boston student

        Hot blouse! And kitschy just means an arty, dramatic, almost folksy aesthetic – but it’s more for young hipsters than for classy career women. Play Clan experiments with graphics and folk art on saris, which are really cool but not traditional.

        I think my mom does shop at Sanskruti sometimes actually – I really want to get my generation of young Indian women back into the sari. It was made to be a sensual, sexy garment and I love that you don’t shy away from experimenting with it. The sari has to be experimented with if it’s going to survive, otherwise it’s going to be India’s kimono.

        [/rant]

        Btw I just discovered your blog, it’s great. I’m amazed that you came to this really difficult city (I love Bangalore, but as an outsider I would’ve been scared away) and only took one year to mesh into it. Not something I would’ve been able to do.

        • AngelaCarson

          That is really such a sweet comment. And I agree that innovations would be a great thing for the blouses or draping because having the same pattern of ANYTHING just like your mom isn’t normally cool 😉  I love them, so sexy and so sensual…every woman looks gorgeous in a saree.  And I will never remember a fellow writer friend of mine commenting on one of my first blogs about wearing a saree, when I commented how strange it was for me that a teen would wear something that her grandmother was wearings… my friend told me that it was true but what a pleasure it was to walk into any shop in any city and know that the garment you were buying would fit and be fabulous.  I always remember that…especially when I’m out shopping for “western” dresses and my ass is too big for something I really want to wear!  I think, “if this were a sari I wouldn’t be having this problem” 🙂  

          Thanks again for your very kind words.  Do you blog or write?  The /rant makes me think you might.  –angela

          • Boston student

            Haha I don’t blog anymore because I got paranoid that future employers would find my crazy musings, but if I start again I’ll let you know. Meanwhile I’ll just keep following your blog!

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