A letter that urges you to dig deeper into your style.

Hey you,

This is a sincere note to you from a nobody in fashion who feels incredibly passionate (anger me enough and I could cry), about it.

Fashion for me is not just about pretty clothes on hangers. As you may have figured if you’ve been reading my blog. It’s more about your personality being interwoven with those pretty clothes on hangers.

Let me explain.

I am not drop dead gorgeous. Neither do I own much designer. I have a rickety cupboard instead of a walk-in closet, and roadside kolhapuris instead of Jimmy Choo’s. I wear dresses handmade from my mother’s dupattas and have clothes as old as 15 years in my daily wardrobe. I am not a size zero, neither am I a curvy model. I don’t wear heels, I don’t like pants and I don’t wear base. I may not be the visual embodiment of fashion but strongly I feel about an interestingly paired look, or a creatively conceptualised ensemble.

To know more about my style and how I choose my clothes, click here.
In a gingham mini dress and gold kolhapuri slippers | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
Dress | Blue Cherry, Bangkok

Streetstyle pictures from fashion weeks around the world hold more interest for me than Page 3 columns. And I’d credit a stylist over a celebrity any day. Unique dress sense even to the point of bad taste has more charm in my opinion than a clearly copied top-to-toe look . In other words, individuality is key even when borrowed from an ongoing trend.

Two dangling earrings in a row | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
I tried wearing my danglers in a row

However, all the individuality in the world can’t save you if you look uncomfortable in what you’re wearing. And all the copying can’t bring you down if you wear your look with effortless ease. Which means, the most important thing to remember in this equation is comfort. For with comfort, comes effortlessness. And therefore confidence.

Not comfort, in the traditional sense of the word. Comfort in the mind.

A pair of high heels are most definitely not the definition of comfort, yet there are women who feel not themselves in flats. On the other hand, there’s me, who may feel wonderful in a baggy t-shirt and pyjamas but won’t be “comfortable” going to work in it.

The idea being, in our quest to discover our unique style sense, we need to understand our bodies and minds. We need to know and recognise our “happy” clothes – clothes that make us feel great.

And recognise the “other” clothes too. Those that look supreme on a hanger, and may even look flattering on you; but you’re somehow not comfortable in them and as a result you’re not “you” in them. My advice – avoid those clothes. No matter how hot a pair of tight jeans may look on you and on everybody you know – if you don’t feel great in them – there’s no reason you should wear them on an ordinary day. Of course, there will be days when you feel like testing yourself – reserve these additions for those rare days.

On the other hand, don’t limit yourself to what you’re comfortable with. Take small steps in experimenting with different trends. Buy a piece, see how your mind and body reacts to this, and then slowly integrate it into your personal style, depending on your findings. For instance, the off shoulder neckline, the choker and the slip dress are hot this moment. Dabble in something that’s out of your comfort zone every once in a while and see how it goes.

And if you want to avoid spending money on a trend you’re not sure about, try renting. Flyrobe is one Indian website that lets you rent the best for less. Try it and see.

I for once, go on an experimenting spree every once in a while. I walk to my wardrobe and mull over last-season separates and see how I can layer them to match today’s trends. The slip dress worn with edgy sneakers and boots are very right-now. So, I pick up my strappy 2012 maxi dress and treat it like a slip dress – with boots and an edgy vest.

To read more on how to layer like a pro, click here.

Most of the time, the answers lie not in the stores but in your wardrobes and trunks. Rummage into the old suitcases and mamma’s cupboard this weekend. You never know – your individuality may be lying crumpled between a saree and a moth eaten cardigan.

Wear your heart on your sleeve – be it rainbow colours or floral dresses, giant logos or baggy tees, torn denims or distressed boots, salwar-kurtas or leather skirts. Wear your clothes to add to your personality. To pick up from where your mind left off… To continue the conversation you’re having with the world around you. To express and empower your vulnerabilities. Choose your looks with all the seriousness and lightheartedness of a child out on an adventure. And one last thing, remember to have fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?

P.S: And if you’re just not interested in fashion, well that’s OK too. As long as you’re being you and oiling the machinery of your beaming personality.

 

 

 

On the importance of being thick-skinned and well-dressed

I first heard the term “thick-skinned” when I was in school. As a gawky 12 year old, hearing a lanky senior (one with braces I think) look at us and yell, “How thick are you”, elicited more smirks than fear. And, then of course, I’d be up standing, punished, with two or three other girls for the “audacity to smirk” while we were being spoken to.

I wish smirks came more easily to me now.

The thing is, when you start working, when you pack your bags and leave the comfort of bed-tea and “Baby khana laga liya hai” (Dinner is ready) for “Dude, it was your turn to get the milk” and “muesli for breakfast- lunch-dinner”,  you change too.

I don’t know. Maybe the food you eat determines your skin thickness. Maybe having domestic help and a “bawarchi” who can bake cookies and cakes and make fantastic grilled chicken, thickens your skin to immense proportions. Maybe, it’s boarding school and 30 other girls who smirk and giggle with you at annoying seniors and turn their noses with you over “dumb bimbos” (yeah, no one told you, even you’d go through the “bimbo” phase) makes you invincible in your mind.

Hell, yeah. What could be worse than being boycotted in school. Right?

Wrong.

I don’t know whether life is indeed much tougher now, or my skin’s just lost its thickness (I think it’s the latter), but a lot of it stems from the mind.

Somehow in our heads, we all have this perfect impression of how life after school is supposed to be. You know. Like you walk into college. And you meet the best friends. You go on an open jeep to Goa and sing songs. You date a few losers but it’s cool. And then you graduate. Everybody is happy. You are nervous about finding a job. You think if you find something good, your “life is set”. So once you find your dream job, you think nothing can go wrong. People at work will just accept you to submit work like you did your assignments. And soon, they shall realise what a shining star you are with your dedication and your hard-work and your brilliant ass from which you shit stars and rainbows…

BULLSHIT.

Before you walk into the corporate world, you’d better make sure you’re skin’s as thick as an elephant’s hide. Yes, you heard me.

Because, girl, people are going to talk. And talk they will of your clothes, your skin, your social-ness and your anti-socialness. Of your secret affairs, your not-so-secret-affairs and of course, the worst, your work. The work you pride yourself on, the work, that teachers in school praised you for.  The work that won you contests and awards. And the work, that the corporate world will reduce to a snigger, a jibe, an-offhand remark over the lunch table that’ll cause everyone listening to snigger and roll their eyes, a certain pride in them not being on the other end.

Yes. that’ll happen.

And no, work won’t always be like school. It won’t always be go to school, come back, read, chill enjoy. You will stress about promotions. You will stress about a bitchy boss, a competitive colleague and most of all, about how you think you are perceived by others. Which is why, GET THICKER SKIN GIRLS.

And, you will see your school friends on TV, you will see them buying a house, shopping at Louis Vuitton, travelling around the world, having the dream wedding, being featured in newspapers, eating out at the fanciest restaurants in the city, their skin like porcelain and bodies like figurines… their daddies like ATMs and husbands like Mr. Greys.

And your parents shall look at you expecting more.

Their one look saying the dreaded, “What did we make you study so much for, if you’re still going to ask us for money?”

So you don’t ask them for money. You don’t get your increment in time. And your maid wants you to pay her more because well, maid problems.

And nobody told you, you’ll have to deal with this.

Yes. Nobody said you’ll go to work and come back so tired that even though the travel websites and the BuzzFeeds of the world yell at you to “quit your job” and “do what you always wanted to do” and other surrealist-inspired nonsense (that you partially followed), you will end up slouched on your bed, passing out in between an episode of House of Cards hugging a bowl of oats lying half-eaten by your pillow.

And bills. Yes. Everybody always seems to forget the bills when they are dishing out “aspirational” advice through movies and websites. Go, join a “water-yoga”class, go “travel someplace to get lost”. Yeah. Right. Who’s going to pay for this? My Daddy?

Or me on my creative person’s meagre salary, a profession, that you advocated because guess what, “Follow your dream and forget the money and do what makes you happy.”

All of life, one big oxymoron.

The example of a handful who’ve “made it” setting unrealistic goals and expectations on those of us who haven’t. And selective revelation of just the candy-flossiness of other people’s lives lead us to find gaping holes in our own.

So, what if, we just did away with all this nonsense? What if we trained ourselves to get thicker skin, and woke up in the morning as though preparing for battle?  What if we armed ourselves up with the hottest clothes, the toughest jewellery and an unshakeable mind?

Cause this isn’t life, girls. This is war.

 

And, you don’t need to walk around town with a silly grin plastered on your face, as the “Be positive” rants online tell you to do. “Smile, come what may”, “expect good and good shall happen”… No, you need to be realistic, cause “shit is going to go down.” Might as well prepare for war, and if you get roses in return, you’ll truly appreciate it as you weren’t expecting it from the start. Know what I mean?

So, tomorrow when you wake up, walk to your wardrobe and pick your fanciest armour for the day. High heels or boots, little dresses or distressed denims, spaghetti straps or silk stockings. Pick your armour, wear it like a boss, and step out of your house, skin thickened, body dressed and mind ready for battle.

_ _ _

I am sure a lot of people may have contrasting points of view to this opinion feature. Feel free to start a discussion. I look forwards to hearing what you all have got to say.

 

 

Maybe its time you forgot fashion

too what

Okay. So how many of you follow rules when it comes to style? Like, ‘OMG that dress is so “day”’, or ‘Never let those bra straps show’, or ‘Don’t pair prints with prints’?

Let me guess. Most of you.

With fashion magazines dictating what to do and what not to do. And the so-called“style” section in newspapers’  attempting to take the role of a fashionista but sounding alarmingly amateurish. And celebrity interviews in which a certain actress will be asked her style mantra and she will blurt out a standard cliché like “Always have a lot of white shirts, blue jeans and LBDs in your closet” or something, I can’t really blame you.

Ok. Now that I have attempted to diss everything you know and pride yourself on knowing about fashion, let’s get serious. Forget what I just said. And think for yourself.

What is your body type? What colours do you like? What fabric is good for your skin? What prints suit you?

And then make your decision.

You don’t have to strut around in back-breaking heels and tiny tank top, just because a Deepika Padukone is doing so. In fact even Deepika doesn’t do that anymore.  She has a unique style sense because she chooses to wear sarees highlighting her gorgeous waist.

And you definitly don’t have to wear tight fitting dresses or asset-enhancing pants to look hot. Trust me. Of course if fitted clothes is your thing and you feel comfortable in them, go right ahead. All, I intend to say is that, wear what’s you.

What you feel happy in. Even if it means going braless. Or going extra padded. Going extra baggy or extra tight.

And try to add a bit of creativity to everything you wear. I read about a fashion writer who wore lacy bras under low cut dresses, so that the lace peeked in just a little from the top. I think it was her who also went sans bra on certain off-duty days with her “titty tank”.

Then of course there is the whole “tacky or classy” debate about coloured bra straps underneath racer backs and tubes.

Urban India may be a bit conservative when it comes to experimenting. But when you do travel in your local trains in Mumbai, have you ever noticed how beautifully dressed the local woman is? With her gold hooped earrings, tightly pulled back bun and a crisp saree?

Or the flower girl at the traffic signal with her floral long skirt and a nose ring?

India is creative in her dressing. Its just us who limit ourselves time and again, blindly following trends.

I can’t claim to have fully opened myself to the beauty India holds. But I do intend to be more proactive when it comes to daily dressing.

Which includes, incorporating the saree into my work wardrobe. And wearing blouses that break the convention of “blouses”. Which means experimenting with cuts, prints and even fabrics like knit.

I also intend to wear more skirts and dresses designed from traditional and indigenous fabrics. More handicraft. And more natural. I intend to design everything I wear in due time and to somehow buy at least a few things that help the rural craft community.

Because according to me, fashion can be much more than ramp shows, red lips and pouting celebrities. In other words, it can be the truth. Which is the craft and art and skill that goes behind each finished garment and its toiling craftsman. Combined with your unique style in putting it all together. Be it wearing a neon bra under a translucent white shirt and a mirrorwork lehenga. Or a kantha saree with a titty tank and heaps of kajal. Or a pencil skirt crafted from Northeastern handloom with a Forever 21 black tee.

Well, well, here is your inspiration for the weekend. Think about what I’ve written. And when you’re out on the streets, think about how you can best incorporate the beauty from there into your own personal style.

Till next week,

Tata.

‘Effortless’ style and how to get to it.

Ok. So a lot of people comment on my “unique” sense of style. They say it’s distinct. A lot have even used the word “fashionable”. And of course, there are others who turn up their noses and coax me into wearing something more “normal”. Normal meaning tighter pants, asset-enhancing dresses and shinier Indian-wear.

That’s not “me”. My standard reply. And of course, people don’t get that. After all, how can a material thing be you? Come on Shivani, aren’t you “deeper” than that? How can your outfit be “you”… is what they’re probably thinking as they roll their eyes and smile disdainfully within.

1912032_10152177620796878_1524289218_oI’m wearing Skirt: Forever 21 | Jacket: Pret, GK-I | Boots: An exhibition at DLF mall, Vasant Kunj | Neckpiece: Lifestyle | Camisole: Lifestyle

Buying an outfit is an action. You pay money. Money that exchanges hands. That goes from the retailer right down to the dexterous eye that picked the fabric amongst hundreds of swatches.

The act of picking and choosing an outfit is literally paying homage to the designer who visualised the outfit, pattern-master who used his years of perfected skill to draft the pattern, the craftsman who laboured for hours on his sewing machine, no thought to trends or design, food for his family being the only motivation, and the smiling sales lady determined to not sit at home and be just a “wife”.

And yes, you could say that applies to every other thing we consume.

Maybe being a fashion student opened my eyes to the hard work that goes behind every glittering red carpet appearance that people so easily dub as “shallow”. The hours spent draping and re-draping an outfit, months before a Sonam Kapoor wears it to Cannes. The long hours spent by junior designers for a meagre salary, all justified because of their passion for fabrics, embroideries, craft and art. The multiple sampling and redo’s, the search for the right colour combination, fit and finish…

There is a story behind every outfit, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

Which is why, what you wear could be an expression of you. It could be your way to show your support towards a certain striving group of talented professionals toiling to create a piece of art, that you’re going to strut around in.

Which is why, when I pick an outfit, I make an experience out of it. I touch the fabric, feel it, try it on… It’s not as easy as going to Hill Road and picking up a zillion tops just because they’re ‘cheap’. Though, I can’t deny there’s a charm in getting something stylish for less, but it should be driven by a quest for art rather than a mad scramble for a bargain. Or, that’s just how I feel. And I bet, others who you think have a “unique” sense of style feel.

We make an event out of our fashion. It’s something to be cherished. Which is why, owning a saree from your mother’s trousseau is so special. There’s a story to it. A legacy. Which is why, the dress you wore on a special date always holds a dear place in your heart. Which is why you never part with certain old t-shirts and warm mittens.

They’re special. And they deserve more than just a cursory glance. Which is why, each time you buy an outfit, you need to really feel it. To be it. Until you and the dress are one. United in that brief moment of passion. And not every store or boutique has the power to make you really connect with a dress, a top or a scarf.

11751878_10153380165531878_706715836365228757_nI’m wearing Maxi dress: Cottons Jaipur | Bag: New Market, Calcutta | Neckpiece: Lifestyle

I personally love plaids, loose silhouettes and natural fibres. I love clothes I can breathe in and float about. I like contrasting styles, textures and breaking mental blocks in daily dressing. I like glamming up a ‘sack’ of a dress with bright beads or giving it some seriousness by pairing it with brogues. I love baggy denims, oversized boots and ultimately breaking its androgyny with a fluttery chiffon top. I like playing with my outfits. I love walking into the big fat Indian wedding wearing a cotton backless choli with a Nagaland hand-woven skirt and a Kalimpang fabric as dupatta. And to arrive to raised eyebrows as everyone has piled on more glitter than they can handle! Ha Ha!

There’s beauty in fashion, no denying that. But there’s more beauty in being creative on your own. By carefully handpicking pieces that connect to you. And then putting it all together in a flawless display of art.

So enough of the jargon. Should we get down to business? Here are a few designers, brands and stores that I love. I have covered all price ranges and all kinds of looks for a holistic approach to dressing. Don’t claim you’ll find your “The One” here but no harm in looking. Right?


SHOPPING GUIDE

Cherry Fig | assorted

This Mumbai brand sources outfits from all over. Slashed labels, minor defects, Global brand redo’s… you get the drift. But, and I am serious, if you really look, you will find some adorable clothes. I got myself a faded plaid ‘Vero Moda’ dress, some quintessential ripped denim shorts and an embroidered mini dress. Needless to say, I am very happy with Cherry Fig.

Addresses:

Dr BR Ambedkar Rd, Pali Village, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050

Hill Road, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050


Khara Kapas | for dresses and contemporary Indian wear

If you love cotton and long flowing silhouettes, this is the place to shop from. I haven’t bought anything yet (I am on a budget), but if you have money to spare and a style sense to create, here’s where you should go. I absolutely love everything on display.

blue_pink

Khara kapas

To shop Khara Kapas, click here

Mohh | for jewellery

Wedding or no wedding, festival or no festival, this collection of Indian-heritage inspired silver jewellery is going to leave you gasping for air. Yes, it’s that good. And I think Khara Kapas and Mohh are two brands that go well together. So, the next time you’re looking to give yourself a new look, you know what to do.

mohh

To shop Mohh, click here

Forever 21 | dresses and basics

Well well. It’s a cliché and you’re already probably shopping from here. But, I couldn’t help myself as I absolutely adore this brand. From basics to not-so-basics, their dresses and ganjis are just fabulous. The piles of clothing and jam-packed aisles may be a deterrent, but if you can muster up some courage and grab a bottle of cold water to keep dehydration in check, you will love what you get. In fact, even if something seems too blah at first, once you’ve got it, you will end up wearing your Forever 21 dress more often than any other dress. Just make sure you buy something simple and wearable rather than an over-short number that you’ll wear just once.

For instance, don’t you just love these plaid numbers?

forever 21

To shop Forever 21, click here

SSS OR Street Style Store | for shoes

Whether you’re on a budget or not, this is the place for shoes. I got myself a nude pair of Oxfords and they are extremely comfortable. And I paid just 700 bucks! It may take time to arrive and you may need to call them up a dozen times, but rest assured when it does come, it’ll all be worth it.

sss

To shop SSS, click here

Well, that’s all for now. Happy shopping. 🙂