In defence of the “ugly” dress

The uglier the better.

Every wardrobe should have at least one ugly dress. The long, loose kind, that hangs on your frame reminiscent of a scarecrow wearing your grandma’s faded nightgown. You know, for those days when you feel particularly lazy to rack your brains on what shirt goes with what skirt.

The ugly dress covers flab. The ugly dress allows you to overeat. The ugly dress allows you to run on the platform when you’re just about missing your train, without fear of ripping your skintight jeans, dropping a strap and having a minor wardrobe malfunction in the face of 100 creepy train travellers.

The ugly dress makes you look “prettier” than you really are. The ugly dress is so ugly that anything compared to it looks stunning. So, even if you feel like shit, when you put on your ugly dress, instantly you will feel better – after all you can’t be “uglier” than this dress can you?

The key to buying an “ugly” dress is to buy one that’s a few notches below you on the looks scale. By which I mean – a dress that won’t steal your thunder. When people see you, your dress won’t be the first thing they see. Instead, the focus will be on your face. That’s the best thing about the ugly dress – it’s completely missable.

The ugly dress comes in ugly colours. Like yellow ochre, mud brown, rusty red, algae green; earthy hues.  Extremely flattering especially when you darken your eyes with some kohl, and enhance your natural lip colour with a lip jelly that changes colour with your lip temperature and ph. The ugly dress is great for those fuss-free days when you aren’t in the mood to dress sharp, yet want to feel beautiful.

The ugly dress can also be made pretty. With silver jewellery and pretty sandals. Then, you can take the dress out for brunch. It can also be made sporty – with a pair of white converse sneakers, in which case you’re fully equipped to race against time to catch an about-to-depart train or flight.

So, the next time you’re out shopping, don’t let your eyes gravitate towards the shimmering pinks and delicate laces. Instead look out for the rugged, sensible cotton counter, with the ultra-ugly printed dresses.

Happy shopping. 🙂

 

 

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My first solo trip – A firsthand account by a self-confessed Shy Girl

For my 28th birthday, I took my first solo trip. Nothing too fancy; a nearby locale, a hostel, and one-way airfare paid with miles. I paid next to nothing to go on this fated “solo trip”. Saying it was full paisa vasool would be an understatement.

There was no four-poster bed, air-conditioned hallway, gilded elevator or picturesque pool. No bathtub filled with bubbles, no breakfast buffet, and definitely no flatscreen TV installed in the room. None of it.

It’s not that I am a fan of ‘simple living’ or anything, I’m no Gandhi. I love humongous breakfast spreads and springy-white mattresses, and ask anyone who has ever lived with me, how anal (bordering on control-freakishness) I am about cleanliness. To the point of clinical, hospital-like starchiness!

So, in addition to travelling solo, the fact that I was choosing to live in a backpackers’ hostel, was also a BIG deal for me.

I reached early – 7:30 in the morning, when the hostel was dead AF. They were partying all night, said the host. I nodded, looking around at the minimal arrangements. “Have I made a mistake?”, I asked myself. The pathways were mucky and slushy after a bout of heavy downpour, and the hostel was barely stirring, its inhabitants passed out.

I took my bags to the assigned dorm. Empty. I was the first and only occupant in the girls’ dorm for the day. Relieved, I dumped my bags, and inspected the loo. Not bad, I thought to myself – an attached bathroom was more than what I’d hoped for.

I settled down for a nap, a hundred thoughts racing through my head. My family was panicking – their daughter was travelling alone, that too to a place that’s been in-the-news-for-all-the-wrong-reasons. My friends were curious. And their incessant calls and messages were, to be honest, making me anxious. I decided to ignore all that, and get some sleep – the anticipation (read the pukey, restless feeling in the gut) had not let me sleep a wink the night before. And having a 5:25 a.m. flight hadn’t helped either.

A short nap later, I woke up, attacked by a severe bout of FOMO – I was on vacation, and here I was, holed up alone in a dark, dorm – I needed to go out and explore.

I walked around the hostel premises, inspecting the immediate surroundings, and then stepped out, retracing my steps through the slushy, mucky pathway that had lead me to the hostel that morning. I found my way to the beach, barely 5 minutes away. An old woman tried to sell me cigarettes. An Indian couple on a scooter asked me for directions. A few passerbys’ stared, curious.

It was a bright sunny day, and the sea didn’t disappoint. A friendly bluish-green, it lapped around playfully, laying at least some of my apprehensions to rest.

I attached myself to the Indian couple, and followed them to the only open shack – they were sweet enough to let me tag along. I found myself a separate table there, and pulled out the Murakami book I was reading, and ordered a beer to go with it. It was beautiful. The yellow sun, the noisy sea, the chilled beer, and the book. I looked at the view, calm and happy. Yes, this was worth it.

That afternoon, on my way back from the beach, appropriately lightheaded, I ran into the now awake fellow hostellers. Being the awkward, shy person that I was, obviously it was they who called out to me, introducing themselves enthusiastically.

After exchanging pleasantries, and discovering that at least 3 of us were from Bombay, different parts though – Bandra, Andheri and Borivli (+ cracking Borivli jokes – obviously), I decided to retreat once again to my room for a leisurely afternoon nap.

I woke up refreshed, showered, and wore a long, gathered skirt and a crop top – suitably boho. I stepped out in search of chai (my favourite) – there was none, and then decided to swap it for beer instead – there was plenty – Bira White even (surprisingly). We sat, talking, drinking, and that evening a bunch of us went to Anand for seafood. Which was so delicious that I came straight back and passed out before the clock struck 12.

So, there was no “bringing in my birthday” – 2 cans of beer, tons of rice and pomfret in coconut gravy had made sure of that.

The next morning was spent answering calls and birthday wishes, explaining to my friends that yes, I was in Goa, and yes, I was alone, and no, I was NOT joking, and yeah, it’s been great – if a little slow. And as I talked with all my friends, once again I began to doubt my decision – was being on my own, surrounded with strangers on my birthday a wise decision? I pondered over it in between calls that morning. Plus being low on cash in a card-agnostic place didn’t help. By afternoon, I was food-deprived (no cash), friend-deprived (most others had taken a cab to the beach), and was chanting to myself “What the hell was I thinking?”

However, as luck would have it, around 5 that evening, I heard a hostel-volunteer mention he was going to the supermarket. Wasn’t that where the ATM was? 

And so, I sat awkwardly behind him on the scooter, sideways, because I was wearing a long straight skirt that did not let me sit normally (I tried), holding onto his backpack with one hand, clutching a handle-like thing below my seat with the other. I had the ATM cards of two other people in my wallet, who also were low on cash – I wasn’t the only unprepared fool.

The scooter spluttered over speed breakers and narrow roads, the sky drizzled tiny raindrops on us, the hills rolled to one side, the green of the trees made more intense with the intermittent rain, pedestrians turned to look at us, other scooters with other people scuttled past us. It was beautiful.

The trip to the ATM was the defining moment of my trip; everything before was shrouded in doubt, and everything after – pure joy.

I got back to the hostel, a spring in my step, a smile on my face – I never knew a few thousands in cash in my wallet could make such a difference. I got myself a Bira and joined the backpackers’ in the common area.

That night we went Salsa dancing – I didn’t dance, the next morning we went out for breakfast and lunch. That evening I went, once again, to the beach. And that late evening, we simply spent sitting in the common area, chatting till the wee hours of the morning.

The conversations I had in those 3 days, if inspected in itself, were nothing groundbreaking, but together they made me feel painfully aware of how large the world is, and yet how small – we all have similar battles, fears, apprehensions, hopes and dreams. We may be from different countries, but we’re connected by NETFLIX (we all watch NARCOS). We could look different, and talk different, and dress different, but we are connected by our love for CHAI and Cheese Garlic Naan. And, there’s nothing quite as fun as getting together and teasing a young couple on the brink of romance – yeah, you heard me – the methods of pulling somebody’s leg remain same across geographies.

I don’t know, how, from doubting my decision, I went on to have such an enlightening experience. Maybe it was because I had spent the first day and a half adapting and understanding what living in a backpackers’ hostel meant. By the time I left, though, I was ready to take another trip solo.

When I left the hostel, it was with a heavy heart. I was consumed by feelings no words can describe. Let’s just say they were different from happy, sad, romantic or nostalgic. It felt like my heart was being squashed and torn and pulled apart from all sides – travelling solo aroused something in me, something akin to a hunger I didn’t know existed. It felt crazy.

And I? I felt alive.


Have any questions on travelling solo? E-mail me at schivany@gmail.com

 

 

 

How asking the right questions can change your life.

Don’t ask: “What should I do that people will be proud of me?”

Ask: “What should I do that I will be proud of me?”

Disclaimer: This may not be relevant to a lot of already self-aware people, but I’d like to share it with those who are still looking for answers.

 

We often, unknowingly, choose our goals and careers based on the perceptions of people around us: they could be friends, family, or simply the strangers on our social media feeds. We often view ourselves from the perspective of the world, rather than the perspective of ourselves, and this is one of the primary mistakes that lead us into making the wrong choices.

The better part of our life is often spent in trying to gain the approval of others.

We do this by enrolling ourselves in fancy-sounding colleges, travelling to fancy-sounding places, getting married in a fancy-sounding destination, and doing fancy-sounding things. We think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I did a scuba diving course off the Havelock islands?”, and so we do it, and then we wonder why it didn’t make us happy. Or we think, “Wouldn’t it be so cool if I worked at VOGUE?” and we do it, and then we wonder why it didn’t make us happy?  Or we think, “Wouldn’t it make me so happy if I won all these awards?” and then we win it, and after the momentary elation we wonder why it didn’t make us happy? And similarly there are a hundred things we do that sound amazing, and as a result make us, momentarily, feel super-proud of ourselves. However, after the initial phase of excitement, when we are back at home at the end of a long day or on a weekend, we feel a void – and we can’t understand what’s missing. We try and talk to others, but they often don’t understand – they either tell us that we are “overthinking”, or that we are “cribbing”, that we need “therapy”, we need to “meditate”, “workout”, “go out”, “get married”, “calm down”, “accept ourselves”, and a myriad other suggestions, that while sensible, may not be an accurate response to our predicament.

 So, how do we fight the nagging voice in our head?

It’s definitely not easy as most of us blame ourselves and over-critique ourselves by assuming we are in the wrong. That if people around us are going ooh and aah at our seemingly “cool” achievements, then we ought to be happy. That the dissent is in our heads.

While, we are in the wrong, the reason for it is often different from the ones above, and difficult to place, and stems from the inherent need in some of us to “appear” a certain way, rather than “be” a certain way.

Start by asking:

“What should I do, that will give my life purpose?”

“How should I be, that will make me happy?”

 

There is no easy way of arriving at the answers. We may take days, weeks or even months to come up with an answer. And even then, we may not be sure.

From starting a family, to teaching children, from social work, to lawyering, from travelling the world, to starting up, from aiming for CEO, to making art, every person has a different life problem to solve – and none of them should be looked down upon. If a person believes shattering the glass ceiling is what will give her a sense of achievement – she should do it. Or, if another person believes shattering the glass ceiling, while “cool”, is not for her: she’d prefer having a simple job while concentrating on her family – that’s great too.

The toughest part is eliminating all the noise, until our true purpose stares back at us.

And even after we’ve figured that out, it’s going to be tough. Easier than before, but still an uphill walk. Our families may want us to get married, our husbands may want us to devote more time to them, our friends may think we’re being childish, our boyfriends may think the path we’ve chosen is not how things should be, and even the random colleague at work may have an opinion.

And we may, at our weaker moments, succumb to the pressure: After all if everybody feels something is wrong with our paths, there must be, right? Wrong. This feeling is dangerous because it leads us to over-critiquing ourselves to the point where we can’t decipher which way is up. Where life seems to be a constant rumble, and we seem to be drowning unaware of the surface.

In these moments, what we need to understand is not everybody is built like us, and so, not everybody can understand the pulse of what we feel. What is just a “job” for the next person, is a “life purpose” for us. Sure, it may seem like a first world problem, and it probably is. For somebody fighting for her survival, her life purpose is obviously different. But for us, who have luckily gotten the basics sorted, we need to do what we can to contribute to the world in a way that makes us sleep better at night. And the definition of this “contribution” is different for all.

A 10-year-reunion at my school where everybody from my batch shared their stories, helped me clarify and arrange a lot of thoughts in my head. It helped me understand the meaning of doing something one genuinely loves, and it’s often not what you think you love – which is often the idea of a certain profession rather than the profession itself – but what you actually do – the difference is massive and often requires a lot of work to decipher.

I am just starting to ask myself the right questions. And little by little, beginning to answer them. However, what I am learning in this process is that I will have to muster all of my strength and go against the wills of a lot of people: to be honest, it’s scary. But I do pray, I don’t give up, and that I continue fighting for what I believe in.

I hope you can too.

 

 

 

Dear Designers – Here’s some inspiration for 2017.

Hello People-who-want-to-design-something-but-don’t-know-what,

I’ve been in your boat. A boat lost in the Pinterest sea. So many pretty ideas. But which one to choose?

I have been attempting to design a few Indian outfits to wear to weddings – since everybody has suddenly decided to get married in the first half of 2017. And while my Masterji like all Masterjis is being a bit of a tantrum queen, a glimpse at his creations sort of makes it worth the wait.

Since frills and ruffles are going to be big in 2017, why not incorporate these elements into your Indian outfit?

2017 Trends | Inspiration for Fashion Designers | Fashion Design Ideas | Fashion Week Inspo | Pinterest Fashion Ideas | Design your dream saree and lehenga blouse | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

A little layer here, a flounce there, and you’ve got a lehenga that transcends cultures.

2017 Trends | Inspiration for Fashion Designers | Fashion Design Ideas | Fashion Week Inspo | Pinterest Fashion Ideas | Design your dream saree and lehenga | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan | Bridal Trends | Wedding Fashion Ideas

Embroideries on dresses are back. Especially the interplay of embellishment with sheers and overlaying it on strategically placed opaques.

Embroideries | Filling Stitch | Satin Stitch | Colourful Embroidery on Black | 2017 Trends | Inspiration for Fashion Designers | Fashion Design Ideas | Fashion Week Inspo | Pinterest Fashion Ideas | Design your dream saree and lehenga | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan | Bridal Trends | Wedding Fashion Ideas

Mixed textures are the rage, be it in the form of applique, or pairing contrasting fabrics together.

Fabrics | Mixed Textures | Embroideries | Embellishments | Indianwear | Indian Designers | 2017 Trends | Inspiration for Fashion Designers | Fashion Design Ideas | Fashion Week Inspo | Pinterest Fashion Ideas | Design your dream saree and lehenga | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan | Bridal Trends | Wedding Fashion Ideas

The off-shoulder trend ruled the western world. And while Manish Malhotra and Payal Singhal have brought it to India, a lot of scope for experimentation still remains.

Off-shoulder | Cold shoulder | Shoulder show | Frills | Indian off shoulder blouses | Saree Blouse Inspiration | Ethnicwear | Traditional clothes | Embellished blouses | Manish Malhotra |  Indianwear | Indian Designers | 2017 Trends | Inspiration for Fashion Designers | Fashion Design Ideas | Fashion Week Inspo | Pinterest Fashion Ideas | Design your dream saree and lehenga | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan | Bridal Trends | Wedding Fashion Ideas

There’s tons of inspiration out there. But sometimes, you need someone to put it all in order.

Someone like me. 😉

Have a fun weekend.

 

 

10 incredibly weird things about me that (debatably) make me an unlikeable person.

  1. Me to myself – “Thank God It’s a No-Plan Friday. What? There’s a plan? Oh no, why is life so tough?”
  2. I wish she cancels I wish she cancels I wish she cancels – Oh THANK GOD she cancelled! Now, I can happily be boring at home.
  3. I am ignoring your call not because I dislike you, disrespect you or mean to be rude. It’s just that I am going through something at the moment and I need all the time I can get to heal myself. At other times (that is the times that I haven’t “ignored” your call), I am genuinely busy and may have missed your call, made a mental note to call back, and then forgotten. Again, (debatably) unforgivable.
  4. How can people not like sleeping early? *genuine wonder* I sleep at 10:30 p.m.
  5. As long as I get the luxury of sleeping on time and waking on time and getting a mug of tea first thing in the morning, I will be sane.
  6. The only alcohol I drink is beer, and not because it’s alcohol, but because it’s beer. And I genuinely like the taste. I wouldn’t even mind  if beer didn’t make me high. In fact, it would be better as I could drink a lot more.
  7.  The reason I choose one plan over the other is not because I like one person over the other, but because I choose the plan where I know nobody including me is going to “overstay their welcome” or drag the party till the point where it’s-so-boring-that-we-can’t-stand-it-so-we-end-it. Instead, end it while it’s still fun; like you know how they say, “Quit while you’ve still got a reputation?” Well… something like that.
  8. A lot of my free time goes in devising ways I can: a) fire my maid b) ask for a raise c) think about what business I could start d) design a few perfect outfits e)Not actually doing any of the above (maybe just ‘d’)
  9. I wake up really early so that I can freshen up and have my first mug of tea while watching a random episode on Netflix – I don’t have to complete the episode – I just have to complete my tea. While watching something.
  10. I crib and I crib and I crib not because my life sucks, but because I am cleansing every shred of negativity within me (and dumping it on you) so that I can be happy. Again (debatably) selfish. You care for me after all? Don’t you? 😉

 

P.S: If you like this article, please click ‘Follow’ and do remember to ‘Like’ Chai High on Facebook. 🙂

P.P.S: This is supposed to be a style blog, but I like to digress once in a while. It’s a blog NOT a brand, for God’s sake.

P.P.S: I also spend a lot of time staying disillusioned with capitalism, advertising and selling people things they don’t want (despite or especially due to the fact that I have spent all of my career doing exactly that).

 

 

What a shopping trip is like when you’re broke.

Today I stepped out for a run. But ended up going to Forever 21 instead. (Don’t say it – I know – it’s silly). It started off quite ordinarily. After watching quarter an episode of The Good Wife on Netflix and downing two mugs of tea, I suddenly realised that if I didn’t step outside now, it would be too late. Daylight would’ve disappeared. So I changed into my sneakers and shorts, almost didn’t take my wallet (which on second thoughts would’ve been much smarter) and bounced outdoors.

Once I was actually out on the street, I got this sudden itch to spend money – which is surprising as I am literally in debt with most of my recent purchases being on a credit card. However, I thought – a few steps in the crisp, fresh November air may inspire me to stick to the healthier original plan. So I continued walking towards the park. The itch, sadly, was a stubborn one. I couldn’t walk it off. And by the time I reached the corner, I found myself hailing an autorickshaw – “Bhaiya, Infinity Malad?” And fate decided to take me on with a slight nod to the affirmative.

I sat in the rickety rickshaw, my thoughts racing. What do I do once I reached Forever 21? Shop or just browse? What if I actually liked something? Shit, that would suck as I can’t afford it. What do I do when I am back home? Maybe I should finally start writing the book I’ve been meaning to write for the last gazillion years. The book about love. But what part of love? My first boyfriend? Current boyfriend? But, I have no clue on how it all turns out! Should I assume? No. I should concentrate on what’s elapsed. Finish a story that’s already finished. This happened and then this and finally this. Oh, but would people want to read it? And what if it sounds too rushed? Maybe I should just stick to an incident and elaborate every little detail. Maybe, I should add a hint of magical realism like Murakami? But what? Murakami’s books are mostly metaphors about uniting with your dark side or shadow. What would my books be about? I need to discover something and then use metaphors to explain it. What have I discovered?

And like this, my brain raced on and on and before I knew it, me and my auto were speeding along a windy backroad that ran parallel along a sewage drain. For a brief moment, I thought we were near the sea but the black colour gave the drain away. What a disappointment. A sea would’ve been the perfect sign for me to begin work on the book. Romance. Possibility. Freedom.

The auto screeches to a halt near Forever 21. I get off and rush to the women’s loo. I find a stall that seems it’s about to get vacant any second -a brush against the flimsy door somehow seemed to me an indication of pants being being pulled up clumsily – however I was wrong and the lady in my stall decided to have a nice, long dump.


I got to Forever 21 and the first thing that caught my eye was a faux leather button-down miniskirt. Love at first sight. My mind began racing – I would team it with a t-shirt and a boyfriend shirt. Or a vest for a night out. And  I found myself throwing it in the black mesh bag, an overenthusiastic sales person handed me.

The collection was very streetstyle inspired – hence I was in love with it. There were jackets – military, bomber, trench-style, fluffy, straight – all kinds. And there were skirts – corduroy, military, pink georgette, rust hued. The bralets and bustiers didn’t fit well – so I didn’t pick up any- I wanted to wear one with a saree. However, the skirts were lovely. Boots were a colossal disappointment – they had barely anything that fit my large feet. Plus the designs were very blah.

Anyway, after a bunch of clothes I tried, I ended up buying nothing.The faux leather skirt was awesome – but was I really going to travel in a local train looking like a goth-inspired monkey? Nah. So, reluctantly I placed it back on the shelf I’d borrowed it from.

A lady walked over to me, “Ma’am, would you like me to find you another size?” “No, I murmured, I am just putting it back” How could I explain to her that the skirt fit me like a glove and how I wish it had been too big or too small so my heart wouldn’t tear when I placed it back like that?

So, sheepishly I hailed another rickshaw. And took an hour reaching home. Evening traffic.

A run would’ve been more fulfilling after all.

 

8 times Kangana gave us serious wardrobe envy.

My last post focused on giving you tips on how to get Kangana’s look. It didn’t do that well, to be honest. So, this time, I’m just going to upload a selection of Kangana Ranaut’s finest (and most wearable) airport looks, and I want you guys to tell me your favourites.

Look 1: Don’t be afraid to play matchmaker. Pop your neutrals with yellow and be prepared for unexpected results.

Kangana Ranaut wears a blue gingham check skirt with a graphic printed tee, yellow jacket and pale blue Oxford shoes | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
Image borrowed from PinkVilla.com

 

Look 2: Throw on a neutral overcoat and matching heels over your favourite outfit. Go from sweet to stylish in seconds.

Kangana Ranaut wears a Neutral overcoat with matching heels to tone down a green outfit | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
Image borrowed from highheelconfidential.com

 

Look 3: Tough love. Punch your toughest, military-inspired look with polka dots for a happy surprise.

Navy blazer, skinny pants, black derby shoes, polka dot shirt and black sunglasses worn by Kangana Ranaut | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
Image borrowed from http://st1.bollywoodlife.com/

 

Look 4: Princess meets boho. A flowing white maxi dress assumes effortless-cool when worn with neutral flats and a slouchy bag.

White hippie boho princess dress worn by Kangana Ranaut | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
Image borrowed from http://www.fashionlady.in/

 

Look 5: Retro Cool. Don’t be afraid to try on a new hairstyle every once in a while.

Kangana Ranaut wears a check dress with a jacket, spectacles and nude Oxfords. Her hair is done up in a baby bun | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
Image borrowed from MissMalini.com

Look 6: Country-girl chic is always in style. Wear a hat, thick glasses and carry a book (you don’t have to read it 😉 ) to complete this look.

Kangana wears a midi dress in checks with dark derby shoes, a hat and a sling bag | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
Image borrowed from http://www.beautyandfashionfreaks.com/

Look 7: Layering done well. Wear a white shirt dress under another dress to turn heads.

Kangana wears a white shirt dress under a red printed dress | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
Image borrowed from: http://thethriftychicgirl.com/

Look 8: Neutral accessories and a dark lip take this plain grey dress to dizzying heights.

Kangana Ranaut wears a grey sleeveless dress with neutral accessories and a dark lip | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
Image borrowed from images.indianexpress.com

 

Well, that’s it for now. Do comment below and let me know which look you like best.

🙂 🙂 🙂