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Sathya Saran  (click here to know more about this blogger)

I watched the old man squatting on the floor of the compartment. He sat holding a stout stick, using it to balance himself when the Delhi Metro lurched at times while slowing to stop at a station. He was obviously from a village. His round glasses on a steel frame were a bit loose and kept slipping down his nose, his face was sunken and he had beside him a cloth bag of no certain shape. But it was his clothes that interested me. A white kurta with chikan embroidery worn over coloured pyjamas and a knitted sweater in brown completing the ensemble. The white kurta was rather nice. It fitted his shoulders well, and the embroidery was immaculate. Carefully done by a skilful wielder of needle and thread. I could not help staring. Of all the people in the compartment he was the most interestingly dressed. His clothes told me a story.


I guessed the kurta must be a hand-me-down perhaps as I feel buying one would be well beyond his means. A good well worked chikan kurta could not cost less than two thousand and he was surely not capable of the vanity that would spur such a purchase. I wondered about the sweater and the pyjamas… whether he had bought them. Maybe the sweater was knitted for him by a daughter or daughter-in-law. The young man in shirt and pants beside him could be his son… living here in Delhi or Gurgaon. And some village darji must have clattered away on his sewing machine to craft the pyjamas out of leftover cloth.


The train reached a stop which prompted the old man to get up. I noticed then that the kurta he was wearing was indeed rather nicely made and reached down to below his knees. The embroidery snaked all over and there were some unusual motifs on the arms and at the elbows. The story got more interesting, and I could almost see the old woman - his wife - bent over her needle as she plied her craft not for profit but for creating a garment for the old man with whom she had shared a life, sometimes happy sometimes perhaps bad. When the old man got off, there was nothing to look at so I returned to my book. The women in the compartment were boring; the men more so. The girls were all dressed in long-sleeved tops and sweaters with skinny pants and chappals or sneakers and the men wore nondescript western clothes. There was a lacklustre sameness about the way the girls were dressed and the clothes looked drab in color and cut. Yet come had made an effort to dress the look up with a hair clip or pretty shoes. But try as I might I could not find a story that interested me from any of them beyond the rudiments that said they were all being fashionable without any thought of individuality or style.


That is the clue about dressing well. Your clothes must tell a story. It can be a different story every time. Sometimes it could be a story on the origin of the garment. One of the favorite stories in my wardrobe is a black woollen coat dress I took off a nail in a godown in Jodhpur, which mostly sold embroidered bed covers and cushion covers. The off white and red details woven into the wool and the placement of the woven horizontal lines on the garment piqued my curiosity. I wondered what it was and was told it was an old goat herd's coat. The weave was no longer in use and this piece was old, worn and not in the best condition so it hung there for effect. Through the time I spent at the shop, my eyes kept going back to the garment. To me it looked like an Abraham and Thakore creation… beautifully planned and executed. Perhaps that was the timeless appeal of A &T I thought, the ability to hint at old forgotten stories. Finally I asked if I could look at it more closely and risking a sneezing fit caused by the dust it could harbour, tried it on. It fit as if cut for me. That was it — a few cords added to hold it together and it was mine. I will never know if I was gypped out of more money than was proper but to me the garment tells a story every time I wear it.


Other times the story could be of the wearer. Clothes in silks and cottons tell different stories, structured clothes that fit well tell a story different from a loose flowing outfit. The former could carry hints of aspirations, the other of graceful power. Some of our best designers are great storytellers. And it is the theme that runs through the different stories they tell with each collection that makes their signature distinguishable. Think how a Wendell story is different from a Rajesh Pratap's or a Ravi Bajaj's and you know what I mean. The same person wearing the different designers' creations by turn will whisper new stories with each change to those around her. This past year, most of our front line designers have completed silver jubilees in fashion. Suneet Varma and Abu-Sandeep are among those who have brought out commemorative volumes that hold a record of their work over the past twenty-five years. To many these are beautiful pictures showing details of breathtaking handwork or showcasing expertly crafted clothes in a variety of fine fabrics. To me they are a series of stories told in cloth, sometimes almost as fascinating as the stories whispered to me by the old man in the metro or the black woollen coat dress I own!

Sathya Saran
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21-JANUARY-2013 Lata Gwalani
It was a beautiful read. Very thought-provoking. My mind immediately started scanning my wardrobe...sadly except for my late sister's saree, I could not hear any stories. Now, I will look for stories in my clothes. Thanks for the new insight.
12-JANUARY-2013 Ruchi Singh
Really beautiful blog Sathya! Makes me more interested in dressing up well!
09-JANUARY-2013 Wendell Rodricks
Everyone must read 'Seeing through Clothes' by Anne Hollander
09-JANUARY-2013 Madhumita
A bit of a coincidence that only yesterday I saw this village woman, perched precariously on the pillion of a rickety two-wheeler, dressed in the most alluring 'odhni'- deep red with silver gota and some sort of sparkles - it too made me wonder - was it her Sunday best? Where was she headed? and so on....
09-JANUARY-2013 Pooja Bajaj
You can get in touch with Extra Mile Cafe (Facebook) for their styling packages where professional stylists guide you on your body type and what colors, fabrics suit you best etc
09-JANUARY-2013 Meher Castelino
Clothes definitely maketh the woman or man
08-JANUARY-2013 Harshita Soni
I'm a stylist's intern and I would love to see the black woollen coat ma'am.. do you have a picture?
08-JANUARY-2013 Jasmeen Dugal
Sathya, you sure have inspired me to get out of the work rut and work on my look :-)
08-JANUARY-2013 Tarana Mehendiratta
You write so well!
08-JANUARY-2013 Mandira Dattani
I love it. But it's a bit difficult for me... I dont know what is my individual style? Is it the accessories or the shoes? Or a certain print? Or just anything unusual?
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