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'When Time Is Precious, Call Dolly'

November 15, 2023 09:39 IST
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'The sari is the most comfortable attire for curvy Indian women, who are all bust and butt.'

IMAGE: Dolly Jain: 'I can fix a bride in 15 minutes max, that's what I am being paid for.' All photographs: Kind courtesy Dolly Jain/

If you wear saris, you would have heard of celebrity draper Dolly Jain. From the Ambani bahus to Bollywood divas, her magic fingers have made her a favourite with all.

In 18 seconds flat, this woman whose smile lights up a room, can drape any sari, be it a Banarasi silk, a Jamdani cotton or a clingy georgette, style it any which way you want.

Nivi or Nauvari, Coorgi, Mermaid or Contemporary Chic with straight pants or even denims, Dolly has mastered 365 styles. And from charging RS 250 per sari per person, this Bangalore girl who had once hated wearing a sari, has now turned it into a lucrative profession.

Speaking to Senior Contributor Roshmila Bhattacharya, Dolly says, "I was a jeans and tee Bangalore girl myself till I got married into a Marwari family in Kolkata where you had to wear only saris. No one had taught me how to drape it, so initially, I hated wearing a sari."

Earlier, it would take you 45 minutes to drape a sari, now you have set a record of 18.5 seconds. How long did the transition take?

Four years, maybe more.

It's all about practice.

My nani and dadi, particularly the latter, draped a sari much faster.

Had I set a timer when my grandmothers were around, they would have broken my record easily.

My dadi was the real star!

How did you think of timing yourself?

Actually, it just happened.

One day, my little one, who was sitting there, started recording me while I was draping a sari.

Aanya was the one who pointed out that I had done it in 18.30 seconds flat.

Surprised, we did another recording, this time I did it in 18.25 seconds.

After that, I draped the mannequin we had at home in 80 different styles, recorded them and sent the CD to the Limca Book of Records.

That's how I got my first records.

IMAGE: Dolly with Deepika Padukone.

You have a Guinness record too?

No, since they don't have a category for saris, I'm not eligible.

But I have a World Record, two more Limca Records, and have also got into the India Book of Records.

These records for draping a sari in 18.5 seconds, in 125 different ways, for 325 drapes...

325 drapes?

Well, India has 28 states and eight Union Territories, and in each of these states there are several cities, towns and villages with their own weaves, fabrics, patterns and drapes.

Take West Bengal, for example. They have seven-eight different ways of draping the sari in the Bengali way.

It's about studying our culture and learning how the sari was draped at a particular time.

Once I had the original style, I enhanced and contemporised it, even blending the drapes of two states: Bengali with Coorgi and Mermaid.

Earlier, in some places the sari was worn without a blouse and sometimes without even a petticoat.

While I can maybe take this style to a ramp or a photo-session, for everyday wear, I have to team it up with a traditional choli or a more contemporary bralette.

I've come up with better, more practical versions of the old style and even created some new styles of my own, thereby adding to my creativity.

Which is the easiest way of draping a sari?

I can do all the drapes with my eyes closed, but for someone not too familiar with the sari, I would say the Nivi style.

It's the universal style and most practical.

So, for example, a young Maharashtrian girl would embrace the Nivi style for everyday wear, but occasionally, like during Ganesh Chaturthi, she would experiment with the whole nine yards or the traditional nauvari.

IMAGE: Dolly with her mother.

What appeals to Gen Z?

They like what I do with straight pants, palazzos and denim.

Our grandmothers lived in saris.

Our mothers loved them too, but also adopted kurtas.

Gen Z wears denim, so to get them to experiment with saris and kurtas was initially a challenge.

I realised that if I spoke to them in the language of our dadi and nani, told them to come with blouses and petticoats, I would never be able to capture this sector.

So, instead, I asked them to bring along crop tops, long skirts and jeans and we could have some fun with the sari in a way that would make them stand out in their circle.

Now, they love wearing a sari with denim jeans or pants for an event.

IMAGE: Dolly with daughter Aanya.

Do your daughters wear saris?

Aanya, who's 19, and studying product design in Bangalore, doesn't wear it much except during festivals, when her friends and she want to go traditional.

My elder daughter Ritika, who has done her master's in communication management, knows how to drape a sari well. But again, she doesn't wear a sari too often.

Even I was a jeans and tee Bangalore girl myself till I got married into a Marwari family in Kolkata where you had to wear only saris.

No one had taught me how to drape it, so initially, I hated wearing a sari.

I found it time consuming, also, the garment made me uncomfortable with half my body exposed.

But once I learnt how to drape it right, I realised that the sari is the most comfortable attire for curvy Indian women, who are mostly all bust and butt.

It's our national attire, decided by our civilisation, worn across generations, we should adopt and adapt it.

Have you popularised our national attire amongst non-Indians?

People abroad love wearing saris. They find it beautiful, as opposed to some of us Indians who crib about how uncomfortable it is.

But in the absence of drape artistes, they mostly opt for pre-stitched, pre-draped saris which I don't promote.

Which is the easiest fabric to drape?

For the younger generation, I would say georgette.

For me, it's cotton, but youngsters prefer a fabric like georgette which hugs the body.

Tastes different from the 25 to 35 age bracket, then again between 35 to 50 years, and later those who are the 50-plus.

Preferences depend on which age bracket we are talking about.

IMAGE: Dolly with Sara Ali Khan.

From Rs 250 per sari, per person, you now charge Rs 2 lakh to drape a sari...

(Interrupts) That's something which has gone viral, but is absolutely false.

Yes, it's true that 17 years ago, I would charge Rs 250 per sari, per person.

Now, it's a composite sum for an event, for which I drape any number of persons.

In the process you have made draping a sari a lucrative profession.

I am a specialist and people hire me to save time.

I have 45 well-trained assistants who take 35 to 40 minutes to drape a sari which I can do in a maximum of eight minutes.

If time is money, you call me.

If you have all the time in the world, you call my assistants.

Brides usually have to sit for at least a couple of hours to get hair and make-up done.

If after that they have to stand for another 40 minutes to get the sari draped, they will be exhausted by the time they are done.

I can fix a bride in 15 minutes max, that's what I am being paid for.

When time is precious, call Dolly.

IMAGE: Dolly in a sari.

So, what's next for Dolly Jain?

I'm definitely coming out with a coffee table book titled 365 Plus 1 Styles To Drape A Sari.

365 Plus 1?

I have included the leap year too.

Ah, so when is the book coming out?

Guven my rushed schedule, I haven't been able to give it much time.

But I promise, I will give this book to the world before I say my final goodbye.

Until then, I wake up every day with a dream.

And through the day, I try to live that dream.

I don't plan much.

I simply thank God for giving me another beautiful day to give the world another beautiful drape.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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