The rocket science of saree blouses

Three reminders and two threats later the tailor finished with the saree blouses. There was a conference and a wedding coming up and the cut had been discussed in detail—formal longish sleeves and proper yoke for the conference and a deeper back and shorter sleeves for the wedding.


No, neither of them looked anything like this…… nor did I look anything like this in either of them 😦

We had selected the blouse pieces after much deliberation, steeping out into the sunlight with the salesman in tow, so that the white tubelight did not interfere with the perception of colour. One may not realize this but the universe hangs in balance on finding the exact matching shade of  the‘2×2’ cloth…. 

The blouses were silk so they needed a lining. Then they needed a twee loop with a tooch button to keep the bra strap from straying . Each blouse had 2 seams– one that could be let out by a few millimeters, but if you really let yourself go, then the next seam allowed you almost a one inch margin ! On either side ! Yay, joy 🙂

The saree pallu is to be discreetly pinned to the blouse by a small golden safety pin because Aunties having wardrobe malfunctions at the family wedding!! Tsk tsk !! It will never do.

For all this hooha over the saree blouse, most of us do not know that it was only as recently as the 1890s that lower caste women were finally allowed to cover their breasts. No idea what justification was given by an obviously patriarchal and exploitative society where high caste men would not allow a shadow of the low caste woman to touch but when the need arose, the actual bodies were fair game………

Can you imagine that lower caste women had to pay a BREAST TAX if they wanted to cover their upper bodies ?!! It is just insanely beyond belief what women have been subjected to through the ages……..


In case you are wondering, these drawings are not of the Nariman Point reclamation plan or the blueprint for the new chain of Metro Stations in Amchi Mumbai..……it is the Maser Tailor’s chart for measuring and cutting out your simple saree blouse or choli.

He ( and it is always a he) ( two films have been made with the title ‘Ladies’ Tailor’—one in Hindi and one in Telugu), so anyway, he has to have measured armholes, upper arm circumference, shoulders, bust, yoke circumference, sleeve length, neck depth and back depth. He will make – criss- cross on the back for some, add patches of the saree border for some, make bell sleeves, high collars for barristers, long yokes with side cuts for fashion, sleeveless ones for the young girls and also for the old ones who have not updated their mental body image of themselves and must inflict the loosely shaking upper arm flab on all and sundry………


Of course the world is changing and there is a huge variety of readymade blouses available now. And many of them seem to be more of an experiment in how many blouses can be made out of a handkerchief sized cloth ……but then again, less is more ……

Despite all the detailed measuring and stitching, some blouses will ride up above the (always) discoloured limp bra hooks, some will allow fatty bulges below the back border. Some will be bursting at the seams and make one realize in sympathy that perhaps getting the 104 satellites into one rocket was easier for ISRO….. 

If the pintucks are not made properly you get a sagging Madonna look with an un-pointy triangle at the wrong place. Then it could become a serious problem and in 1993 the entire nation wanted to know— Choli ke peeche kya hai ?!


While so much excitement is going on in the women’s lives, the good old middle class men attending the wedding (or even the conference) will wear RANDOM out-shirts in dull blue, faded brown or the reliable white. Some may even wear that particularly desi horror –the striped T shirt….. and you know what ??!

NO ONE will notice them or even care…….sigh….







2 thoughts on “The rocket science of saree blouses

  1. Oh, I used to be terribly bothered about blouses – nice looking blouses never fit me, and the ones that fit looked like they are used as rags.
    At 44, I have finally reached a point where I couldn’t care less. The colour of the blouse should somewhat match something in the saree (and I often cheat by buying a blouse that is near the cooler of the border, so anyway it looks contrasting), and it should be comfortable, that’s all I see.
    You know what? Nobody but you (meaning the wearer) notices the blouse – unless ofcourse the blouse shows more than hides, in which case…well. I realised that after most of my prime youth were spent obsessing over them.

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