A Cotton Saree Gift from My Grandma-in-Law

This is not the first saree I have ever worn. I wore a fashion/designer saree to my undergraduate graduation in December 2016. It was a pretty faux georgette saree with heavy embroidery; the fabric, on the other hand, left me unimpressed and uninspired.

After that, I began looking at pictures of traditional-looking sarees from south India: Kanchipuram and other silks, cotton, even linen. I realized I wanted a genuine Telugu saree that was not a designer saree, but a wearable cotton one. As a non-Indian, it was easy to pursue flashy designer sarees. It was more difficult to accept that the better choice was a saree with more conservative designs that many Telugu women wear for work or everyday tasks. Admittingly, I suppose I sought a south Indian identity, in the hopes to be more accepted by my already-accepting in-laws. Superficially, I wanted to get my hands on some beautiful fabrics. Anvesh however never asked me to wear a saree, a bindi, practice Hinduism, or acquire any trait that would even partially transform me into a traditional Indian wife.

I asked my husband, Anvesh, to ask his grandmother, Kasturi, who lives in Telangana state, if she would be willing to find a good cotton saree for me to wear. I was nervous to ask because I did not want to inconvenience her. My dear Grandmother-in-law wasted no time beginning her search. She took her neighborhood friend (my husband’s “aunty”) along. She settled on a green saree that is mostly cotton and a little silk, has a golden border, and a pallu having a combination of violet and blue shades. Accompanying the saree was a packet of turmeric and kumkuma (red powder).

The Blouse

The saree arrived about 2 weeks before my 24th birthday. The green multi-color saree came with a separate unstitched blouse piece. I handed the blouse fabric to Himani, a talented seamstress in San Antonio who has stitched blouses for me before. I was concerned that with the fabric that was provided, sized for a slim woman, would not be sufficient for my measurements. My biggest concern was for the sleeves – I believed it would not be possible to stitch 3/4 sleeves with the little amount of fabric. Himani, as I expected, did a great job at utilizing all the fabric and included a strap onto the neck of the blouse to hold my bra strap in place. She gave me the blouse exactly how I wanted it.

Practicing the Drape of the Saree

I have watched an endless number of Youtube tutorials,  have had hours of practice, and I still mess up the saree every other time. On the instances that I do drape it correctly, it can be considered acceptable, but not good. The pleats are messy and not aligned to one another. And I don’t even know how to pin or pleat the pallu! My husband typically helps me to pin the pallu. 

The Completed Look

I applied a full face of makeup prior to putting on the saree. I did a smokey eye, contouring on my cheeks, and wore red lipstick. I found the combination of a red lip and green saree was a perfect fit for the holidays and reminiscent of a Christmas tree. I did the skirt pleats as neatly as I could and pinned tightly the loose fabric around my hips. My husband pinned the top of the pallu to my blouse and let the rest flow loosely.

The photos were taken with Nikon D-3400. In person, the saree is a true green and matte, but on camera, the saree has a stunning satin-y sheen and a blue-green shade. This cotton saree is the first of many. Next year I will ask my Grandma-in-law to buy me more. Before I do that, I better get her response to these photos and hear her thoughts on how I wore it and how I looked in the saree!

I wish you all a blessed Christmas and hope you can spend the holidays with friends and loved ones. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Kimberly Price is a graduate of The University of Texas at San Antonio, where she studied communication/public relations and business administration. She currently works as a Marketing Coordinator. 

Kimberly resides in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband, Anvesh.

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