What is 3 Ways or the Highway?

When considering a new purchase, it is important to set some ground rules. The rules apply to anything we add to our closet! As a reminder, the rules are as follows: (1) Style the item in question 3 unique ways. (2) 15 minutes to create each look (3) Weigh all the looks and the store/brand/cost and decide if the purchase is versatile enough to be worth it. Start the clocks.

Introduction

When attending an Indian event, I personally enjoy when people from all ethnicities (Indians included!) lean in and embrace the culture through their garb. Of course the question of appropriation versus appreciation comes up, and most people I know try to make good decisions and avoid embarrassing themselves in front of friends and family. The key lies in being fashionable and using this as a time to wear gorgeous fabrics and prints… while also keeping your chill, like you do this all the time and aren’t desperate for the opportunity. Desperation can read as appropriative. Furthermore, I am pretty tired of seeing tacky saris on Indians when attending Indian events. Just like any other section of the fashion industry, Indian fashion has a history of aesthetics and styles to reference - and there is absolutely both good taste and bad. Saris like this and this are abominations to the rich textiles of the subcontinent. It stops now.

This sari caught my eye as a great staple Indian outfit to add to your closet:

Slate blue sari to be evaluated

The Item 411

Source/Brand: Utsav Fashion. Utsav Fashion is one of the few Indian e-commerce sites that is reliable, has pretty decent options, and reasonable prices. Other stores like Pernia’s Pop Up and Ogaan are aggregated storefronts that sell designer clothing, which is beautiful, but out of the price range of most.

Cost: $53.65 + $18 for made to measure (which I would definitely recommend if you are outside India.) A fall needs to be put into the sari, which is extra fabric sewn to the sari to make it a little stiffer, thus ensuring easier pleating and adds a graceful drape in the final product, which Utsav Fashion takes care of for free.

Design: Out of all the saris I found online in a reasonable price range, this one stood out as the most simultaneously modern, classic, glamorous, and appropriate design, all in one. The slate grey/pewter shade and gold foil allows for seasonal and event (wedding sangeet, ceremony, or reception) versatility. The fabric is faux chiffon.

Upon receiving a sari, you may be intimidated by the large amount of fabric and not a seam in sight. Fear not — while tying a sari is an art, there are multiple ways and styles you can tie a sari and there are multiple videos on Youtube for each way. The differences in tying a sari come from regional fashion differences. There is no disrespectful end result.

So! Should I buy this?

"3 Ways or the Highway" Rules

Before adding items to our closet, each one has to go through these 3 rules:

  1. Style the item in question 3 unique ways (call me out if I cheat)
  2. 15 minutes to create each look
  3. Weigh all the looks and the store/brand/cost and decide if the purchase is versatile enough to be worth it.

Start the clocks.

Outfit 1

Thoughts while creating this outfit:

  • The motif on this sari is unmistakably Indian, in that it is more traditional than edgy. To offset this, my first idea was to pair it with a blouse that is more sexy than traditional, as a way to modernize the entire outfit.
  • The important thing here is to find a gold that is a match between the gold foil on the sari and with the blouse. The first couple of tops I picked where not a good match and looked extremely odd.
  • The second most important thing I was looking for was texture. This provides contrasting between a single weave textile, all on one layer - similar to matching prints by having a common color through the items you are trying to match.
  • The third thing I was looking for in a blouse was strappy straps. The print on this sari is somewhat traditional and the sari overall is a classic Indian outfit. Looking at inspirations from Priyanka Chopra at the Marrakech International Film Festival this year and one of my style icon, Rhea Kapoor’s, takes on Indian outfits, a skimpier blouse adds more mystery to conventional drape of the 5-9 yards of fabric.
  • The initial blouse I picked was way too thick in the straps — it reminded me of the tops I would end up with after spend hours negotiating (read: apoplectic arguing) with my mom where I would want to show all the skin and she would want me fully covered up. We’re adults now baby!! The blouse I ended up with had thin straps and a halter style to highlight the clavicles, collarbones, and shoulder blades in the back. And I am almost 30 years old so it is about time I stop running my clothes by my mom.
  • The earrings I finished the look with are traditional South Indian style gold round earrings. Ties back with the print of the sari and pushing the look into first “beautiful” rather than “suggestive” or “sexy”.

Outfit 2

Thoughts while creating this outfit:

  • After the first outfit, I was a bit strapped for ideas about other ways to style a sari. I had seen some people pair saris with blazers so I tried that and felt the black was too stark of a contrast with the grey/blue. It left the items feeling placed on one another rather than like a cohesive color palette. A blue blazer didn’t work either because most of the lighter blue blazers were cotton or linen, which detracted from the chiffon of the sari.
  • I looked to some other of my style inspirations like Sonam Kapoor in Indian clothes and loved her wearing a full blouse, like a top with puffed sleeves, under her sari rather than an addendum crop top.
  • Tried a couple cream and white tops but those had the same problem as the blazer with the lack of integration to the entire outfit palette. Instead I found a dull sea green silky mock neck top that looked gorgeous with the sari. I have seen this styling occasionally on one of my style icons, Reva Bhatt (@hybridhues) and it clearly worked again in this case.
  • Tried to pair the outfit with a gold choker necklace that would sit on top of the mock neck but it felt very busy so close to the pattern on the sari, and most of the work on the necklaces I found were too traditional. I thought of the classic Indian style icon Rekha and how she pulls off gorgeous heavy saris with bangles covering the only showing parts of her arms. It made the look feel updated.

Outfit 3

Thoughts while creating this outfit:

  • With the last outfit needing to be completely different from the first two, I thought about focusing on what was on top of the sari rather than below it. I had seen Sonam and Rhea Kapoor play a lot with jackets and dusters. In addition, Indian designer Masaba Gupta has a great sense of personal style, where I once saw blazers integrated with harem pants. I also have seen blogger Shereen have some great takes on saris.
  • I tried to find a heavy, fancy coat to put over the sari to dress it up and take it to the next level. It looked like a wizard’s outfit (don’t ask me how I know about wizard fashion) so I opted for the opposite — sheer outer layers with a slight tinge of color.
  • I really liked the boxiness of the see-through dusters I found online, which reminded me of some of the silhouettes I have seen in the brand SPACEBISKIT, a unisex label started in India.
  • I ended up with a slightly orange overcoat that instantly created a stunning color palette of blue against orange (complementary colors) and the gold furthering the warm tones of the entire outfit. In practice, I would again find an orange top with this, long sleeved, and wear this outfit during the cooler months when attending an event. This is a great mix of western and eastern fashions.
  • I finished it off by diving into the orange tones and finding orange stone earrings and a citrine gem. The translucent qualities of the stone in both pieces mirror the effect of the sheer but colored cover-up over the sari, making the entire look purposeful.

Final verdict

Seeing these outfits together:

  1. Versatility: I think the versatility for this sari has definitely been achieved. I surprised myself with the differences in outfits for what I initially perceived as a pretty stagnant items. Big kudos to the inspirations I named above for pushing the boundaries of Indian fashion and opening my eyes. In addition, there are multiple ways to tie a sari (all can be found online and on Youtube), which adds to the versatility of any sari piece one buys.
  2. Would I wear all the outfits created?: I would definitely wear all the outfits created above. The first I would wear to an Indian wedding reception, engagement party, or sangeet. The second I would wear to a daytime event in a cooler climate, maybe a mehendi (roll up the sleeves well or only get a little done) or brunch/lunch. And the third I would wear to a Diwali party or friend’s dinner if others were wearing Indian clothes.
  3. Is the price worth it?: This sari would get a lot of usage and price is quite good for the quality of the online store, the offer to get it stitched and sent, and then the outfits you could create with it.

I am buying this item!

P.S. Don’t forget to buy a petticoat to wear under the sari. It shouldn’t show so just buy a similar-ish color to one in the sari you are buying.