Simple rectangular piece of fabric, but what a transformation on draping it round the body! In fact the traditional saree has evolved from a simple covering of necessity into a fashion statement of sorts. Sublime canvas of appeal and allure, this six yard fabric donned by women from all walks of life is in today’s times also a symbol of strength, a mantra of power, that conveys the force of the woman who has made it to the top.
Power dressing is in the vogue. Variety, Choice of colours and the style of draping the saree silently convey the idea – “I have arrived. I am here to stay.”
There are some from India Inc. who have made a niche for themselves in their choice of saree and the way they present themselves to the world at large. We give you the top four, who in our opinion, have made their forceful presence felt in their respective spheres and affected a difference all around.
Born to Lead – the astute Mrs. Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi, Congress President and unifying factor, has inherited from her mother-in-law two things Indian. A powerful presence despite a silent demeanour that people readily acknowledge and an immaculate sense of dressing. In fact the simple but elegant way that she portrays herself in handloom varieties like the exquisite Sambalpuri cotton ikats, the crisp Bengal Tants or the elegant Maheshwaris and Chanderis from M.P., subtly highlight the tactical power dressing of a seasoned politician.
Neat, crisp and immaculately draped in the cool cotton or silk handlooms that she has very much taken to, it is a tribute to the traditional Indian ethnic weavers that their soft weaves are appreciated by a persona known for wielding unparalleled power. Sonia Gandhi in her preference for light hues and pastels portrays a bright picture that conveys her thoughts about improving things despite the dark and contrasting shades of turmoil that she shields her followers from.
Figure of calm and poise – Chanda Kochhar
For one who had entered a previously considered male bastion – banking in the early eighties, she has certainly earned a name for herself and the private bank ICICI, for which she is MD & CEO today. A picture of unruffled calm and elegance, she portrays a soft side of her character through her smiling countenance and love for the womanly fabric – the saree. The handcrafted Chanderis, the elegant Maheshwaris, the swishy Crepe Silks, not to mention the other Indian handloom varieties that she also sports, are all brilliantly matched with her tasteful iconic diamond jewellery.
Backed by a trusting superior and helped by some within the organization, she has shattered myths in an industry known for its conservative nature, by taking cold and calculated risks. And it has paid off handsomely! Taking a leaf from her success story in long range planning, the handloom industry could also have change in strategy, by bringing more focus on the varieties that matter to the market and slowing down on those that do not.
The constant achiever – Naina Lal Kidwai
Picture the soft-spoken genteel Naina Lal Kidwai, who looks so elegant and graceful in the soft swishy Tussars or khadi silks she sports, or the gicha jute sarees that projects her feminine charm, you just would not think her to be part of an environment that is so fiercely competitive that every major slip could be a pull-down from a hard-reached pedestal to several levels below. She is GGM and Country Head of HSBC, India, today.
For a woman with several firsts in her life – first Indian woman to graduate from Harvard, first Indian woman to head a foreign investment bank ANZ Grindlays, she has risen much above others alongside, despite the pressures of being one among the few women in a mostly male milieu and who had to constantly prove her worth. A success story that is credited to supportive parents, an understanding husband and loving children, she does not mind the journey and thankfully basks in a place in the sunshine that is rightfully hers.
Worthy heir to the saree legacy – Priyanka Vadra
Priyanka Vadra has followed the footsteps of her illustrious grandmother, the late Smt.Indira Gandhi, and closely emulated her mother Sonia Gandhi, in wearing traditional handloom sarees. And it suits her personality too fine! Whether she is seen in Kanchi cottons or the Assam Sicos, the Bengal Dhakai Jamdhani or other traditional south handlooms, the bubbly scion of the Gandhi family has created a niche for herself in her immaculate dress sense.
Sporting western outfits that showcase her as a modern woman, her donning of the traditional handloom cottons with little adornment and in pastel shades, transforms an outgoing woman of the world into a powerful icon of Indian politics that many a rural women could relate to.
Reminiscent of her late grandmother’s ways, the speech, the mannerisms, the appeal and the emoting, even the grace and elegance with which the saree is worn, are so much like her grandmother that women are dumbstruck and adoring – like a shadow from the past has come alive in their midst.
These four female icons of India Inc. with their immaculate sense of dressing and tasteful manner of donning the saree have today added a new dimension to this fabric of allure – power dressing!