Monday, November 7, 2016

Sari Love - Lyuba of Saree Times

Hello Sari-istas! It's been a while since the last Sari Love post. But here I am with a brand new interview with a sari-loving gal from Clovis, New Mexico. I got to know her through a message that she'd left after reading one of my sari posts and was pleasantly surprised to connect with another sari-crazy lady (the other sari-crazy person is me of course ;-)) from across the world. She wears the sari with just as much panache or more, and sports this garment with flair in a country where sari is not the norm.

 Ladies, I'm pleased to introduce you to Lyuba Johnson of Saree Times and her passion for handwoven saris. If ever you dither to wear a sari or wonder if it’s the right ‘occasion’ to wear one, Lyuba’s sari philosophy will nudge you to create your own special sari moments that are dear to you.
Q. Hello Lyuba! Please tell us more about yourself – where do you live, what do you do for work, your interests.

I’m originally from Ukraine, but currently live in Clovis, New Mexico, with my husband and three cats. I work for a nonprofit company that provides early intervention services. I run a Saree Times FB page and Instagram, but my other major interest includes Japanese kimono and my cats.

Q. How did you get introduced to the sari and fall in love with this garment that even several women in India find difficult to drape and carry off?
I grew up watching Bollywood movies in Ukraine, so I think my interest in saris was always in the back of my mind. What pushed me into finally giving sari a try was as simple and boring as my best friend in Ukraine telling me that she got a sari for herself.

Q. Where do you buy your saris from + source your blouses and all the accouterments that go with a sari (petticoats, sari falls etc.)?
When I first started collecting saris, I went with some major online retailers and bought the cheapest ones to try and figure out what “my style” was and what I liked. The saris were fine, but blouses were more miss than hit with the stitching. After a while I started an Instagram for SareeTimes and discovered all the Instagram sellers that specialize in handloom and, I believe, work directly with weavers. I was hooked, and now I shop though them only. These same sellers are amazing when it comes to blouses too, and I ask them to do fall/pico and petticoat whenever I get a new saree.
Anytime I visit a major city in the USA I look up potential sari shops and make a point to stop there. In fact, my favorite sari came from one of the shops I visited in Austin, Texas.
Q. What kind of saris do you love the best?
After I discovered cotton handloom saris, I have a hard time wearing anything else. The cottons are just perfect for our hot dry climate, and I am in love with the different colors and designs of the handlooms that I find. Recently I ended up buying few Khesh saris, which are quickly becoming my favorite because the idea of reusing old saris by adding them to new ones has a tremendous appeal to me.

Q. How do you create your sari style?
I discovered many years ago that I preferred clothes that were much more understated by themselves, but by combining them with interesting accessories I was able to coordinate outfits that would stand out when it’s all put together. The saris that draw my attention are almost always pretty plain by themselves. I don’t like big borders and a lot of gold. I will seek out saris that are either borderless or have a thin border. I love single colors and geometric designs, but at the same time I’m not afraid of bright colors.
I love pairing up contrast blouses with saris, and then throwing in a hat or a large tote bag. I’m not a big fan of jewelry, except statement bangles. Even bangles start to get in my way after couple of hours, so I end up taking them off.
Comfort is very important to me when it comes to saris. I always pleat and pin the pallu so it doesn’t get in a way. If it’s very windy, I put a belt on to hold down pallu even more. I also rarely wear high heels with saris, instead opting for cute sandals or low heeled shoes or boots.

 Q. Where do you wear saris to and what kind of reactions do you get?

I mostly wear saris on weekends, although sometimes I would wear a sari to our “Casual Fridays” to work. Honesty, there are not many places to wear a sari in Clovis, so I create my own reasons. So far I’ve worn it to go to coffee shops, shopping trips with friends, and going to home improvement store to pick out new floors for the house or just grocery shopping.

I’ve had very positive reactions from people on the streets. I get a fair share of double takes and staring, but I also get a lot of compliments. People like how bright the saris are, and I always see smiles when I walk by.

Q. I’ve been following your posts and see that you wear saris often. What draws you to this garment and how do you wear it with such flare in a country where saris are not the regular garment of choice?
I admire and appreciate the long, rich history of saris and its beauty, but as for wearing in the style that I do, I am just being myself!  I can safely say now that I got a flare for dramatics when it comes to everyday clothes regardless of what I wear.
I don’t purchase anything specifically for saris, instead I draw on what I already have in my closet and mix and match between Indian and Western wear freely. The same accessories you see me wearing with saris, I wear with my regular dresses. I believe that this type of approach does not put saris into separate “special occasions” category, but allows to see them as just another type of everyday garment.

Q. What tips would you have for anyone who wants to wear the sari often but is conscious about how others would perceive it (this issue is very relevant for women in India too because trousers and jeans are deemed to be modern outfits to reach out for, esp. for casual occasions)?

I apologize in advance, but this list might get long.

1.      Wear the sari somewhere you feel very comfortable at and bring a friend, even if that friend is not wearing a sari. You will feel better having someone friendly around you, who will help distract you from all the attention you will be getting. After a while, you won’t even notice the attention, the double takes, and the comments, which will be mostly positive anyway. You will stop caring about what other people might think too.
2.    Practice draping the sari at home. If you live in the middle of nowhere like I do, look through many different YouTube videos until you find one that works for you. It took me a while until I found a video that made the whole draping “click” in my mind, but after I did, I suddenly felt much more confident in my sari wearing.
3.    Many videos tell you to wear high heels with your sari. If high heels are not your things, don’t think that you have to wear them. Instead, wear the shoes that are the most comfortable for you.
4.    Prepare yourself for negatives, especially if you are non-Indian. I’ve been dealing with accusations of cultural appropriation when it comes to kimono for years, but the first time I got accused of it when it came to sari was still pretty hard on me. There will be many more people who will offer you the support and will be excited that you wear saris. Focus on positives.
5.     Don’t be ashamed if it takes you many pins or clamps to drape your sari. If it makes you feel more secure and comfortable in a sari, then use as many pins as you need. Once I got better at draping, I started to use a lot less pins. You’ll get to that point too, just don’t give up.
Don’t think about wearing saris as an occasion. Think of them as everyday clothes, and wear them for your everyday things. For me it means going grocery shopping, stopping for coffee or taking my cats to the vet.  As one of my friends said very well, don’t treat your casual sari as too precious, otherwise you won’t ever be able to wear it from worrying over the potential damage that might happen.

For more of Lyuba's sari updates, find her at Saree Times.

For more sari posts and sari interviews, visit us at our Facebook Page.

And here's are the Sari Divas that we spoke to at Sari Love and the entire sari style series.

#sarilove #saristyle #handloomsari #sareetimes

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