If you're female and Indian, there's one absolutely essential skill you must learn: how to buy the perfect blouse for a saree.
The Matching Centre is where you learn the ropes. It's almost a rite of passage, really.
My mom and sister, entering the Matching Centre
In the early days, when you enter the Matching Centre, you're filled with a gnawing, groping uncertainty about what to buy. So many shades to choose from! How can there be *that* many shades of green? And which of those is best for my saree? Should I buy a blouse the colour of the main saree? Or should it be maroon, the colour of the saree's border? If I buy the green will it also work for that *other* saree, the one that aunt gifted me? Two-by-Two or Cotton? 80 cms or 1 metre? Should I get lining for this blouse? Will it be see-through? Will this colour run? Will silk be too hot? Aaarrgh. A million questions, plaguing the rookie blouse-buyer.
See how difficult it is?
But then, just as you lose all hope, help emerges - and it's usually in the form of an unassuming guy with an unerring eye for colour. Every Matching Centre has this miracle guy, with a quiet manner, who will take your saree from your hands, find the *perfect* fabric with the *perfect* shade of grey or green or whatever. All you have to do is stand there with a grateful expression, and fork out the money.
As time goes along, you become more confident. You find yourself saying somewhat firmly "Two-by-two will do just fine, thank you". "No, I do NOT think that's the perfect shade. It needs a little more purplish-brinjalish-rani-pink, really." At this point in your life, you will find even older aunts turning to you and asking, "Deepa, do you think this blue shade is ok?". And you step in, inspect the fabric critically, and say "Uh-uh. Nope. Not sky-blue enough. It's got to have more white in it. See that piece? Fourth from the left? That's the one you need". If you're proved right, and that indeed is the right shade of sky-blue, you feel a wave of confident smugness that nothing can quite beat!
But is that all? Of course not. The goal (ahem) is to get to the point where you actually find yourself expressing your personality through the blouse you buy. What? You didn't know? Yep. The saree blouse is all about personality, baby :)
And how does one express personality? By going beyond the plain single-colour blouses, of course. You have to start using patterns and borders and coordinating them with your sarees - with just that little edgy difference to keep it from becoming boring. You'll buy some disastrous stuff in the beginning - but eventually you'll get there.
Some ghastly prints and some good ones
A nice but small selection of Maharashtrian khun
I bought this black and red one, to wear with a red Fab India saree.
Over time, you end up acquiring a set of printed blouses; and various combinations of plain sarees to wear with them.
Small part of my blouse collection!
And some sarees that I team them up with
I like this purple and ochre cotton saree; and this blouse with slightly different but similar shades looks very good when worn with it.
And *then* as you start to experiment, as you start to mix and match and reconfigure your wardrobe, people stop saying "Hey, nice saree!" and start saying "Hey, nice combo!".
That, my friend, is how you know you have arrived in Blouse Heaven. When they start noticing the blouse fabric, you've done it. You've finally cracked the Art of Buying A Saree Blouse.