Ancestry and Heritage, Part II

I finally sorted the rest of the pictures and loot from my trip home. So many delightful things!

First, this old (early 50’s) pattern book for sari blouses. Look at this menagerie! Crab tail, fish-tail, pigeon tail, bee’s wings…


I wouldn’t wear the reversed style (lower right), unless hobnobbing with people who would recognize it as an attempt at stylishness. I bet most people would just wonder how I managed to wear it the wrong way round! I know I would, if I saw anyone in that blouse.

Further along the book there are some really intriguing styles. Really, what is the purpose of cutting the cups into a patchwork of tiny rectangles? Does it help with shaping?

P1040932 P1040933









Intriguing as these details are, I found most of them rather matronly, perhaps a reflection of the wholesome, virginal (b-o-r-i-n-g), quality of the early 50’s. But zip along a few years to the late 50’s, and look at what we have here!


Isn’t it gorgeous?! I love the styling suggestions – straw purse, white flowers in the hair, white sandals. See how she’s even got a bracelet of flowers? I wonder if they were real or made with pearls; utterly delicious either way!

I particularly adore how in just a few years, the matronly, keep-it-all-covered styles have shifted to recommendations to keep “the neck and shoulders as bare and cool as you can wish for”. This also makes it (gasp! shock!) a bra-less style. Were strapless bras available in India in the 50’s? Or would this blouse have required padding for support, like tailors still put into backless blouses? I love historical intrigues.

Another one from the same era, which recommends “a wide band of green velvet” to “frame the shoulders and low, V cut back”.  Perhaps the rest of the blouse is green with gold embroidery? And the sari a delicate gold chiffon? Ooh!



The third blouse is so simple and lovely: tatted borders run up one sleeve, across the neck and down the other sleeve of the front and back pieces. The tatting is joined at the tops of the sleeves. And then the sari is adorned with small tatted floral motifs. Sigh…



Meanwhile, the reverse sides of the pages are still entertaining. Eggshell dolls, anyone? And what on earth is “mercolized wax”? (Hey look, an ad for knitting yarn!)













Finally, from the 80’s: Shabana Azmi modeling saris. Who knew? (Also, who knew that some of those typical 80’s print chiffon saris were from Japan?)


The last loot from home came from these:

1. Exhibit A: a tin with English nursery rhymes featuring blond children and the Devnagri alphabet above. I feel there are seeds of an insightful lecture on colonialism here, but feeling too lazy now.


2. Exhibit B: another tin with charming stylized animals.



Both of them contained…


Yesss! Plastic, wood, glass, pearls. Expect to see them featured in upcoming projects.

PS: while conceiving this post, I looked around the internet and found this wonderful site for old photographs of saris and blouses –

PPS: Ancestry and Heritage Part I is here.


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