Six Yards of Style with Tejdeep Kaur Menon, Priya Rajiv, Sridevi Jasti and Padma Somireddy

When you think of sarees, grace, tradition, and beauty are the first words that cross your mind. An evergreen Indian staple, they have the ability to add instant class and elegance. Being one of the oldest forms of clothing on the planet, the history of sarees goes back generations, which is partly why the garment holds so much cultural significance. Be it a stunning Banarasi or a shimmering silk, the different handlooms and styles of draping that one can experiment with makes the saree versatile and appropriate for any occasion. Saree draping is even considered an art, requiring a lot of practice and patience. But what the garment adds is incomparable – whether draped traditionally or with a twist. We chatted with some of Hyderabad’s very own saree enthusiasts to find out what makes a saree their favourite piece of clothing. Take a look!    - Rubaina

Tejdeep Kaur Menon

Apoet by passion and a police officer by profession, Tejdeep Kaur Menon is a very busy lady. However, helming the Telangana State Special Protection Force and the Government Printing and Stationary Departments does not stop Tejdeep from finding some time amidst all the chaos to focus on things that bring her happiness – sarees being among the top three. “I remember clearly that I wore my first saree for the invigilation ceremony of the St. Francis Junior College, and I felt extremely comfortable in it. For some reason, it did not feel like a new thing at all.” She explained that like most girls, her first saree was a hand-me-down from her mother – a stunning Narayanpet silk saree. “My mother and mother-in-law have always been saree enthusiasts. I still remember, growing up I used to watch my mother drape her sarees beautifully. The memory still lingers. All my favourite sarees are those given to me by my husband, my mother-in-law, and my own mother.”

Although she finds it hard to experiment due to her position and conservative background, which encouraged a more traditional style of draping, she loves to play around with the weaves and handlooms. “I especially enjoy wearing cross-cultural sarees, which is a mixture of unusual weaves, such as my Kanjeevaram saree which has gota patti work on it, from Rajasthan, or my silks from Pochampally, which have Kashidakari embroidery on them.” Tejdeep revealed that she doesn’t have one favourite weave but loves handloom, handwork, and embroidery in general. “I have many Oriya weaves, Sambalpuri and Bomkai weaves which I have sent to Kashmir and got specially embroidered.” She concludes by saying, “What I love most about a saree is that it makes you feel like a complete woman. It helps add that grace and charm which no other garment does. I also enjoy the fact that a saree can be accessorised with different kinds of jewellery, right from a maatha tika to a jhumar or kamarband, which are difficult to pull off with other forms of clothing.”

Padma Somireddy

 

Very few have the fortune of pursuing exactly what their heart desires professionally. But Padma Somireddy, founder and chief designer of Divine Designs, is an achiever who decided to step out of her successful IT career to explore her passion: interior design. She believes people should be confident and engage in the fields that bring them joy, explaining, “Your education skills don’t have to define you. Organisation, communication skills, dedication, and management style play a bigger role than education, when managing a company.” Her attention to detail and extraordinary sense of style have helped her accomplish numerous projects with flying colours. On the family front, Padma is blessed with two sons and a loving husband. A fitness enthusiast and a classical dancer, Padma aims to enter the fashion industry as well.

Known for her keen sense of style and stunning collection of sarees, Padma could easily be considered a connoisseur in the world of sarees. When asked about her favourite handlooms, she revealed, “My favourites are Gadwal, which originate in the Gadwal region; Kanjeevaram silk, which is from Kanchipuram; and Patola weave, which is from Patan, Gujarat. I love to wear the modern sarees with silver jewellery."

She went on about her love for sarees – especially handlooms – adding, I believe that however you wear a saree, it adds grace and elegance to your look. It is the perfect outfit for any occasion, especially for an Indian woman. I feel like a completely transformed person the minute I drape the beautiful material on myself.” Padma has also been known to experiment with her style quite often, changing the drape based on the events she attends. “Some styles really make you stand out in a crowd, while the right blouse can be a complete game-changer. Always try to mix-and-match as it can bring you amazing results," she says.

Like everyone else, Padma has a favourite saree that she treasures the most. “My mother’s Banarasi wedding saree, which is now almost 60 years old, has to be my most treasured saree. I absolutely love the colour and the border which is made of real silver. There are a few more sarees in my collection that I love, but this is the one I adore the most.”

Priya Rajiv

An image and etiquette consultant, co-founder of Chatterati, and a consultant with Concern India Foundation, Priya Rajiv has her hands full. But one thing Priya always finds time for is to drape her sarees perfectly. Although she wore her first saree for a school farewell, Priya fell in love with the attire when she was older and began working for Kingfisher Airlines, when she began wearing them regularly.

Although she prefers to stick to the traditional way of draping her sarees, Priya often experiments with the blouses, mixing and matching them to create a fresh and chic look. Her mother and mother-in-law have always been saree connoisseurs, and are also well-known for their personal collections. Priya drew inspiration from the two, and when asked about her most treasured sarees, she said, “The first one was a Kanjeevaram my parents gave me, and the second one is a beautiful linen silk that was gifted to me by my husband.” She then talked about the beauty of thesaree, adding, “It truly complements any body type, making absolutely anyone look elegant and regal. I believe that there is a saree for every single occasion.”

You will often see Priya adorning a beautiful saree, emanating the spirit of a confident Indian woman.

Sridevi Jasti

As a holistic nutritionist who works with organic and natural foods, Sridevi Jasti’s interest has always been in nature and natural things that nourish our mind, body and soul, as well as our planet. From a young age, Sridevi has been promoting the natural way of life, which is another reason she took a liking to sarees. “I think sarees can make any kind of body shape look good. Whatever culture, size, or colour, a saree can complement you. Her take on sarees is unique, as she focuses more on the fabric’s feel and the impact it may have on the body. “Initially, I didn’t realise the effect that fabric has on us. Now that I am older and have experienced the art form that is a saree, I understand that handmade fabrics such as cottons are extremely comfortable, whereas artificial ones poke and itch, leaving you uneasy. That’s when it hit me that handmade materials allow my body to breathe and made me feel good when I had them on.”

Sridevi recalled buying her first saree at the age of 18 – a yellow Kanchi cotton which she got from Madras, which caused some controversy as young girls were rarely ever seen donning handlooms. “Although handlooms have now picked up and are considered trendy for any age, when I was 18, young girls wearing thick cotton was an unusual sight. But I loved my saree. I was well-known in my college for wearing those kinds of weaves.”

When asked about her favourite handloom, Sridevi explained, “I absolutely cannot pick one! I love all the handlooms and there are so many beautiful weaves to pick from!
I feel like it would be unfair to the artist to pick only one.” When it comes to draping, she likes to stick to the traditional way, but always experiments with the blouses. “I like to change up the top, especially recently. You don’t even have to stick to just blouses, because there are so many options today. You could even style your saree with a crop top!” The one thing Sridevi is fussy about though, is her underskirt. “The comfort of a saree depends on the fabric, but also on what you wear underneath. The tightness, fit, and length of the underskirt really matters. Since I am tall, I have a hard time finding ready-made skirts that fit me well, so it takes away from the enjoyment of it all. The ultimate goal is to be comfortable.”

For Sridevi, this traditional attire holds a connection to her work, mainly her brand – Vibrant Living Foods by Sridevi Jasti, which offers organic and healthy food. “Nature and organic things have always sparked my interest, and in that way, a saree is handcrafted and specially made, just like my food. That touch of homeliness and comfort that comes with my food is what makes me relate it with the sarees and my love for natural, unadulterated products.”