Stunning Pattu Pavadais and the age of innocence

This month, when women and men the world over celebrate International Women’s Day and attempt to recognise the role and value of a woman in our world, I remember the birth of my daughter. Sixteen years ago, when I was in my early 20s, Anya came into my life, allowing me to discover a completely new dimension of myself, as a caregiver, a mother, a confidante and a friend, for life.

To celebrate her 16th birthday a month ago, I began digging into my archives and that re-discovery opened up a floodgate of memories – sweet and beautiful. One among the many photographs I chanced upon, was the image of little Anya – a two-year-old, wearing a gorgeous pattu pavadai (a traditional silk outfit among young girls in South India), her hair bundled into a ponytail and studded with a beautiful braid of flowers. The pavadai, in a stunning bright orange with gold zari contrasted with a beige sleeveless top, evoked memories of my little baby who is now a spiffy young teenager with a mind of her own, and also the passing away of an era… the going away of an outfit so classic, simple, graceful and feminine.
It sparked in me a desire to extend my work with the kanjivaram and create a collection of pattu pavadais for babies and girls till the age of 8. At a time when I was a teenager, I remember the slow exit the pavadai made from our wardrobes; young girls preferred adorning themselves in outfits that had essentially western sensibilities. It also had a lot to do with design itself, that struggled to keep pace with an industry that created garments for women and little girls.

Fortunately, we are moving towards identity products and are happy to wear who we are, and where we come from, with a sense of pride and I think the pattu pavadai is an effort to celebrate that – the beauty of identity, the grace of the feminine, and the innocence of a time and age, a marker, a milestone, a reminder that once, before we became women, we were girls.

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