The saree is six yards of elegance. From our homes to red carpets, this simple garment has transcended borders and made a statement across the world. But can the saree be a potent weapon of protest? Can it make us rethink our notions of feminity and stand up against the system? Stacy Jacobs, an American bridge player, therapist and mother of two daughters has been effectively using the hashtag ‘protestsaree’ on Instagram to call out Donald Trump and his government’s inefficiency.
Stacy, a resident of Chicago, had first visited India years ago when she was an undergraduate at Knox College. Whilst interacting with Indian and Pakistani students she learned how to play Bridge, got acquainted with their cuisine and Bollywood films. Sarees too have been a part of her awareness for decades.
Stacy Jacobs, an American bridge player, therapist and mother of two daughters has been effectively using the hashtag ‘protestsaree’ on Instagram to call out Donald Trump and his government’s inefficiency.
She informs, “I was privileged to accompany the US women’s bridge team to the World Bridge Championships in Chennai in 2015, and at that time I fell quite madly in love with Indian fashion design and textiles. My interest led to a pretty thorough wardrobe makeover, I began buying and supporting Indian fashion designers.
The saree, though, was an aspect of Indian fashion that felt decidedly off-limits to me. It really never occurred to me that I would wear the saree – as a white American woman I felt that it would be disrespectful and inappropriate. However, a couple of Indian fashion designers and curators encouraged me to buy and try the saree, so on the recommendation of the designer, in October 2016 I bought my first handloom cotton saree from Debashiri Semanta.”
Such a garment, in granting all power and choice to the wearer, is nothing less than empowering.
From Stacy’s point of view, there is no garment more empowering than the saree. By design, the saree is what you make of it. It can be a dress, pants, a skirt. It can be formalwear or sleepwear. Such a garment, in granting all power and choice to the wearer, is nothing less than empowering. Be it at a dinner, a baseball game or while getting a manicure, Stacy has not just worn the saree, but embraced it.She elaborates,”It conveys a sense of grace, of mystery, of ultimate femininity. Women of my generation in America have had to learn that beauty and strength need not be opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of appearance. For a long time, it was seen as silly, superficial and indeed evidence of powerlessness for smart women to be interested in or concerned about fashion and appearance. So the saree, which is quintessentially feminine is capable of demonstrating that a woman can be beautiful and powerful. We can be strong and graceful. We can be loud and proud in demanding equal rights without baring ourselves or burning our undergarments in public.
“Would anybody be asking a middle-aged white woman wearing jeans and a sweater or a pantsuit about her political views? Surely not. So my sarees tend to start conversations I would otherwise never get to have.”
Having been raised in a capitalist culture where money talks, she buys handloom because she cares about the living and working conditions of the weavers and artisans who make her clothes.
Stacy has consciously chosen to engage and buy from Indian designers and wear handloom textiles because she prefers to form relationships with people rather than corporations. Having been raised in a capitalist culture where money talks, she buys handloom because she cares about the living and working conditions of the weavers and artisans who make her clothes.
She adds, “Without demand, there will be no supply. So, I’m just one consumer, I can’t single-handedly save the handloom sector in India (obviously), but I do what I can.”
Stacy says that her friends and family have been entirely supportive of her and she has been able to influence a few of them to buy handloom products from India. Her husband has been keen on learning how to drape a saree and has been a good photographer for her popular Instagram posts. Her daughters too, have worn sarees on several occasion.
As women still continue to be judged on the basis of their physical appearance, Stacy will continue her activism with sarees?
She says, “I intend to keep wearing sarees and writing about the experience as long as I am healthy and strong enough to do so. My message is of care and hope and empowerment and, like the saree, these will never go out of style.”