In this blog post, Bhavana, a community member reflects on how she used her free time during COVID-19 to declutter Saris that don’t bring her joy and form a stronger emotional attachment with the ones that do. We hope you can take these learnings and apply them to not just saris, but other garments as well.
The advent of COVID-19 has made some of us busier than before — working from home, studying extra, finishing projects, managing domestic duties, or taking care of children. But even amidst this busy-ness, we also seem to have some time on our side. I have experienced phases where I don’t know what to do. And I understand this comes from a place of privilege.
After some contemplation, I have realized these phases are windows of opportunities to think and act through our clothing choices. And the sari — an unstitched garment that’s essentially cotton, silk, silk-cotton (or natural yarn) length draped in many ways around the body, traditionally worn by women from South Asia — holds a special place for me because of the way it’s intertwined with my childhood. Thus, re-establishing a mindful connection with my saris has been a natural place to start.
Here are 7 ways you can do this too, over your chosen time period. I have sprinkled these tips with affirmations by Access Consciousness Facilitator and Energy Healer Savita Khurana, who I spoke to while decluttering my saris. Affirmations are auto-suggestions that use positive and love-filled words that go into your subconscious mind. They help change your pattern of thinking and push you to take daily action. Khurana believes that getting into the spiritual realm during the decluttering process helps. And suggests you write them down with awareness a few times before you begin the minimization process. Because letting go of something you love deeply can be tough. It can bring feelings of resistance and denial to the surface along with joy, nostalgia, and memories.
Step One — Focus on taking stock of your saris.
Count them responsibly. Then thank the number. Say ‘I am grateful for these (x) garments for having served (or serving) me.’ Accept any shock and guilt that comes after you count your saris. Breathe into it.
Step Two — Begin the declutter process.
Say “I let go of all the energies that no longer serve me.” This is like locking in your action with determination.
Step Three — Take out all your saris and segregate them into piles.
These piles can be three or more such as Daily, Occasional, Special, Never. Make your own categories. Some other considerations can be fabric type or the state of the garment.
Step Four — Color-code your ‘Daily’ pile.
Roll and keep them in full view. You may not wear these every day, but try to increase that frequency. Shed your discomfort by following influencers who affirm your sensibilities and body type, taking support from friends and family, and wear them at least once a week at home.
Step Five — Count your ‘Occasional’ saris.
Think through at least two looks (blouse, jewelry, shoes and the works) with each. Write the ideas down on a tag and tuck it in with each sari. This will save time when you are in a rush to dress up next time.
Step Six — Check, refold or roll, and store your ‘Special’ ones.
Add small handwritten story notes. Get creative and make the notes fun, quirky and interesting with art or doodles. While storing these saris, you can avoid using naphthalene balls and instead sprinkle dry Neem leaves — Neem wards off insects and stale smell. Or use dry flowers. Keep this in cloth pouches or in corners away from saris though.
Step Seven — Put away all your ‘Never’ saris.
They can be up for donation, swaps, or upcycling. Thank them and say ‘Find a new home or a wearer for this garment who will use it joyfully.’ Tuck them with love into a carton or bundle them up in an old bed sheet or sari.
Some ideas for your creative soul.
Here is what I did with my Daily, Occasional, Special and Never piles.
First, I rolled my Kanchipurams, Odisha silks and other special saris from my trousseau into old cotton saris that I never wore. Next, I located a tailor in my area and got my old, ill-fitted blouses altered to look better. This upped my sari looks a lot. Then I borrowed a few neutral-colored (black, grey, maroon, beige, white, navy, charcoal) granny blouses from my Amma’s (mother’s) wardrobe. And bought block-printed and quirky scrap or leftover yardages from textile shops at nominal costs. Got both tailored and altered to my taste. Finally, for the saris I did not have or could not find any blouses; I chose a bunch of body-con tops and boxy shirts to mix-and-match when needed.
I Instagram-med my way out of ‘style blocks’ — followed influencers like @winnynarayan, @sareesandstories, @sareepilla, @thebohobaalika, @life_in_a_saree.
Renting, swapping, and reselling
A few concepts that I came across were The Sareal Pact (by Payal Talreja and Anapoorni Trichur ); The Sari Library (by Ahmedabad-based architect and designer Vandana Agrawal of NGO Gramshree, which rents out occasional-wear saris); Your Sari for Dignity (campaign by Goonj founders Anshu and Meenakshi Gupta) and Singapore-based The Timeless Appeal of the Indian Sari (by Sarita Alurkar-Sriram and Sudha Kanago). I also kept track of donation and CSR events — sari sale organized by Sahapedia, a New Delhi-based open online encyclopedia on art, culture and history of India, and Mission One Crore: Pledge a saree, Pledge a Smile by e-commerce platform LimeRoad in association with Facebook & Goonj.
Redesigning, repurposing, and upcycling
This was and has been a spiritual, mindful, and tangible experience. I realized that the majority of my clothing needs were dictated by mundane activities. So, I needed more free-flowing and versatile clothing, but not necessarily branded, new or even specific. This made me multiply my underused sari fabric (5.5 meters each) and repurpose each sari into two to three styles. I made geometric and patchworked wrap skirts, cocoon dresses, tunics, kaftans, stoles, pyjamas, drop-crotch pants, and the like to suit my regular activities. While doing this I kept my geography, climate and anatomy in mind. I mixed-and-matched these upcycled styles with my wardrobe basics and classics to recreate new looks. It greatly reduced the number of on-the-whim and so-called-needed clothes I bought and used regularly.
Going beyond saris and yourself.
You can apply the same strategies on restyling, redraping, resuing, to reduce your other garment types or categories like shirts, skirts, pants, jeans, and the like, or help someone reduce their saris. This process made me realize sari nostalgia could be detrimental at times and I learned to let go. Thanks to decluttering my old saris, my clothing wardrobe is a lot more manageable than before. And I know exactly what I need, not want or desire.
This article has been written by Sathya Bhavana Datta, Fashion Editor and Founder of Revastra, an Indian Slow & Spiritual Fashion Research Lab. It connects Indian unstitched clothing and its excess with spirituality to build slow fashion stories, workshops and products. Photo credits for all creatives: Revastra.
SUSS is a community to move the needle on sustainable fashion in India. You can learn more about us here.