Not that I am clumsy, but certain outfits make me feel like I am walking on stilts. It’s not the shoes, but it is the clothing that makes me and my family nervous.
Although now living in Australia, I originally hail from the little island of Sri Lanka. Our traditional garb is a saree. We don’t wear it everyday, but required to wear it for most traditional events, such as weddings and engagement parties etc.
The first time a girl wears a saree is on her coming of age ceremony. However, she then goes on to wear other half hearted versions of the saree. I guess, I should explain what a saree is first.
This amazing outfit, has no zips or buttons, just held together with a few pins and a lot of hope. Have you seen the advertisements for couch covers? On the ad you see a well made couch, with pleats and bows. And you think amazing, this will give my dead couch the face lift. And you order the couch cover in. And voila you open the online order delivery package, and what do you find, well in fact, just a really great long piece of material. The pleats and bows are up to you or you could just throw it over the couch or throw the couch itself. Some are talented and after the initial disappointment of seeing a long piece of material they can make something of it. However not everyone is that talented or successful. Well it is the same with a saree. It is just a piece of material that is 6 yards long.
You wear a blouse that is really tight. Really tight, sleeves the body, and all over. It’s like wearing a swim suit made out of cotton. By the time you get in to the blouse you are out of breath. This is the Indian version of the Victorian era Bodice.
Then comes the underskirt. This skirt does not have an elastic, noo… it has a rope/cord. Which once again is used to tie it really tight. Now that your boobs are squished and a cord that has stopped circulation around your waist line, you now start draping the six yard material by tucking one end of it into the skirt. The more advanced you are, you use less pins to form the shape above. It is harder than you think or it looks. Although for most of my country folk it comes rather naturally. Then again for most, gardening comes very naturally while I manage to kill even a cactus.
I have to admit the saree does make most look very graceful and elegant.
Front on, in this picture you can’t see any body. But, don’t be fooled. There is a massive gap between the blouse and where the skirt starts. So from side on there is a great view of the woman’s midriff. So to assume that this is a graceful and conservative garb is not entirely correct. However, the elders of the society will not accept you rocking up in a pair of pants and a top that covers the midriff.
Coming back to when do we start to wear the saree. Traditionally the first day would be on your coming of age ceremony. But then after that you are not required to wear it until you are in your late teens. As I said there are half hearted saree like garb that are acceptable by the society.
Which is pretty much an elaborate skirt and a shawl that pretends to be half a saree. But at this age you are not rebelling. Because this is a new experience. And this is just dressing up to be half an adult. Remember helping dad to wash the car. Yep, the novelty wears off. But to begin with you are very excited, then by the time you are old enough to actually help, you are no where to be seen. Well not for everyone. Many love wearing the saree. I am still waiting for that day.
Sarees are one size fits all. And I think that is one of the problems for me. I am even short for an average Sri Lankan or Indian. And so a lot has to be tucked into my skirt. And you have to also walk very lady like. When growing up, when my mum couldn’t find me, all she had to do was look up a tree. And she would find me quite comfortably perched on a branch, reading a book and munching on the fruits.
I wouldn’t call myself a complete tomboy. I like getting a pedicure, buy shoes and handbags. But, find pants in winter and shorts in summer as a very practical garb. High heels is not that practical but they do make me look a bit taller. So when I wear a high heel with a saree the outcome can be very interesting. My mum is the only one who can successfully drape me. When I say successfully, I mean with minimum scene. I walk in like a wound up robotic doll and take a seat and hope to never get up again. Unless I am walking, I look very graceful. What annoys me most now is some our international relatives have taken to wearing the saree for our functions. And seem to be walking around, as if they have been wearing it all their life.
Mum and I went to Japan last year. “When in Rome”…. Decided we should try wearing the Kimono.
I was really excited. There are places where you can hire these outfits and they drape it for you and you can hang on to them for the rest of the day. You can walk around that little city area. So you get the whole experience. Same deal. Traditional outfits for women were designed to restrict their breathing. Or, it was like breast check, this was more like rib check. By the time I came down those steep stairs and out the door, I had realised that these type of garbs looks nice on other women or on a manikin rather than on me. Once again my mum walked around as if she has been wearing this all her life.
I think this hippo has learnt it’s lesson and quite happy with her pants.