The Saga of the Blouse…

It has been one of those Sundays that I will talk about for the next couple of months. Not only because it was a milestone birthday for one of my closest friends but also because I willingly watched a movie that I hated when it first released and have only watched once before, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun.

If you’re a 90s’ kid you are probably familiar with the hysteria that surrounded the movie. What I also faintly remember is the effect it had on the Indian sartorial scene. I remember parties where aunties would talk to each other about the outfits they were modeling after the fashion of the film. Back then, I just thought it was garish and loud. I still do. But that famous indigo-purple lehenga saree concoction that Madhuri Dixit gyrated in, caught my attention this time. Okay, maybe not the whole outfit, but definitely the blouse. With its wide back cut-out, three-quarters sleeves, and rich hue and gold embroidery, it was tough to take my eyes off it.

Which got me thinking about the humble blouse. For years, I’ve heard my mother crib about how difficult it was to get the right blouse tailored. While deceptively simple, it is that piece of garment that is almost unfailingly messed up. So, imagine the utter glee that I was filled with, to first see fashion editorials and runways featuring this staple accessory to the saree in the form of t-shirts, collared shirts, crop tops, racer backs, peplum tops and even bomber jackets. The discomfort of having to stand for measurements while a tailor measured you more intimately than you enjoy, seemed like it would become a thing of the past, as would the shoddy, unflattering blouses you would get after. I could actually imagine wearing a saree comfortably, more in keeping with who I am as a person.

Because when people talk about the resurgence of the saree then, isn’t this oft-less talked about garment the reason? Isn’t it the blouse (which has finally moved past its short, six-inch sleeves avatar with a scoop neck and hook closures), why we are now open, to wearing the saree more? In an earlier conversation with designer Sukhada Chavan, a #100sareepact follower mentioned that experimentation has led the way for sarees.

Blouses being substituted with crop tops and sweaters has increased wearability.

But this new vocabulary of blouses is not new. In the British era, with colonial influence, women teamed the saree with full-sleeved, loose fitting blouses and even cowl-neck styles. But we, as a people, became less experimental and more practical in our choice of blouse, until the late nineties and early noughties when bikini tops and tank tops or blouses with tie-back fasteners became all the rage (think Sushmita Sen from Main Hoon Na). Those didn’t capture our fashion-hungry souls and collective imagination, as strongly as today’s crop of blouses has though.

Is this really a trend? Or is this, just another time for experimentation? Will sarees become the born-again normal for the modern Indian woman or, will we continue to bring out the 6-yard beauties only for weddings and festivals? Whatever it is, for now, I remain thankful to the blouse for getting our sarees out of storage and kicking our brain cells into ‘think innovatively’ mode. And if this is what was needed for the saree to be reinvented, then all hail the modern blouse, less courtesy my neighbourhood tailor and more courtesy the Forever21 crop top collection.

And if this is what was needed for the saree to be reinvented, then all hail the modern blouse less courtesy, my neighborhood tailor and more courtesy, the Forever 21 crop top collection.

Tulika Nair

Tulika Nair is a content strategist and creator with almost a decade's experience in television , print & digital media and a focus on the fashion and luxury industry. She has combined her love for writing with a deep interest in fashion to unearth what fashion means to society, its aspiration , and its identity.

Latest posts by Tulika Nair (see all)