[“#50 Halfway @100sareepact with a story on Kanchipuram & the genesis of the silk woven by the worm, then the weaver” – Via @MaudgalKadam on Twitter.com]
Some clothes are more than just materialistic items— they are keepsakes we associate with people, places and special occasions in our lives. One such raiment that has most memories wrapped in its folds is the alluring six-yard garment known as the saree.
The first time I donned a saree was when I was 5-years-old. I tenaciously persisted to wear it even though I was entirely too young, and my grandmother, whom I had seen effortlessly wearing the endless piece of cloth every single day, finally gave in.
Layer upon layer, she swaddled my tiny body with my mother’s translucent white dupatta, big enough to create the six-yard effect. She completed my traditional look with a bindi, colorful bangles, heels, and a purse. It was a proud moment that I will never forget because I felt grown-up and was thrilled to look just like my mother and grandmother. Not to mention, I loved the attention I got from my entire family.
Since then, I can literally count on my fingers the number of times I have worn a saree; a few weddings, my school’s farewell, graduation and my own wedding.
In this increasingly fast-paced life, my love affair with sarees died even before it fully blossomed. Losing ground to jeans and a t-shirt, sarees became the “special occasion wear.”
Bringing sarees to the forefront, Anju Mudgal Kadam, 47, a Bangalore-based media entrepreneur, communications consultant, journalist and filmmaker, initiated the #100sareepact on social media platforms with her friend Ally Matthan, 35, a perfumer and founder of Areev, a bath and skincare line, and Ally Matthan Fragrances.
On this starting this novel initiative, Kadam said: “Every saree has a memory based on an occasion, emotion or relationship. When you wear a saree, you have a saree glow, like a birthday glow.”
What Kadam said is true because every time I delve into the top section of my closet, where I hoard all my sarees, it feels like an act of personal archeology. Each saree brings back special memories that are kept nicely tucked away with each fold.
The #100sareepact campaign, which asks you to wear a saree twice a week and post a picture, narrating the story behind it, has motivated me to once again dig up my wardrobe.
“We were two regular urban Indian women yearning to wear our sarees,” stated on Kadam and Matthan’s website. “We spoke about how our precious sarees lie in our cupboards, unworn and unseen. A turn in the conversation led them to form the #100sareepact. We will wear our sarees a 100 times before the end of 2015. Essentially, like you, we are both storytellers and enjoy recounting histories and narratives woven into each of our sarees. Like you we’d like to bring elegant dressing and style back into our lives. We will stick to the pact. You get to wear it as often as you like. Repeats allowed, of course they are! It isn’t a showcase of how many sarees one has, it’s a chance to enjoy what we have already.”
The pact, started in March, promotes women living in India and in the Diaspora to wear sarees at least 100 times by the end of this year, has caught the attention of national media, working Indian women, homesick NRI women and even men.
“It started as a conversation between Ally and me,” Kadam said to Public Radio International. “We wanted to bring out the sarees from our closets—sarees that we were wearing only for occasions, and we wanted to bring them back into our everyday dressing. Social media amplified that message for us. We put it up — more to hold ourselves accountable — and people joined in.”
Now, three months old, the pact has become a rage with women worldwide chronicling the stories behind their chiffons, silks, cotton, designer, hand stitched, handloom sarees and more on social media.
The initiative also received international attention when Museo del Traje (National Museum of Clothes and Fashion) in Madrid chose to start its international women’s day academic conference, with a reference to the inspiration found in the #100sareepact movement. The conference highlighted India’s history through the evolution of the saree, starting from the Indus Valley civilization until now.
Sarees have also become a medium for networking, from which and Kadam and Matthan are fully leveraging, by initiating #sareedates, a platform where women — wearing sarees — discuss legacies and stories.
So, if you are contemplating to join the movement and are worried about not owning 100 sarees, fret not! Repeats are allowed.
“Of course they are! It isn’t a showcase of how many sarees one has; it’s a chance to enjoy what we have already,” Kadam and Matthan both said on their website.