Seriously. What is it with people who do nothing on their birthday? It astonishes me when friends claim they ‘don’t bother anymore’, ‘they are too old’, blah, blah, blah. The day you were born is an essential celebration in my books, after all; we’ve survived another year. If we honestly care about ourselves, then birthdays are the time to show it.
Creating a ‘birthday suit’ is something I love doing. In previous years I’ve sewn new dresses, but this year I wanted something a little bit different. So I thought about all the things I love. Batman is my favourite superhero and I’ve long wanted to be Bat Girl. Then it clicked; I’d create my own Bat Girl suit… but not a conventional one. I designed an ensemble that represents me and my story: my very own Bat Sari.
CHOOSING MY DESIGN Clothing is a form of self-expression though not everyone takes advantage of the possibilities. Designing my own sari was a chance to play with six whole metres of fabric so I opted to tell my own story through the design. It starts from the bottom: my very own pink Bat Girl logo. Every super hero has their own logo and a pink bat was exactly what I wanted: fierce yet unashamedly kitsch. I then created a border of a Gothamesque city based on a silhouette of the Taj Mahal: built in India to commemorate the Mughal Empress Mumtaz after her death, who I’m named after. I mounted it on a photograph of a sunset I took one Christmas in Brighton.
The main visible section of the sari is called the pallu, this is the area that gets styled over the shoulder and this was the area I couldn’t wait to create. As a crafter I’m most comfortable when I’m sewing and collaging so that’s what I did.
I gathered all my fabrics, beads, sequins, gemstones, broken jewellery, made some handmade paper, raided my trim stash and used these items to create a pattern that depicts my love for colour and appreciate of textiles and texture and include a beaded trim I bought in Kenya and a sample from a handbag I made back in 2001.
DIGITAL PRINT FABRIC
I am utterly obsessed with digital print. If I was graphic designer I would be translating all my ideas onto fabric… hang on a minute. Should it stop me just because I don’t have the skills? Hell no. I may not be a dab hand with digital design but I do know how to sew and craft things. And I know designers – a perfect excuse to collaborate. So that’s what I did. Of course there was also the question of printing fabric. My friend recommended Fashion Formula.
They have over 50 fabrics to choose from, from felt to luxury velvet and waterproof shower curtain material. I had to reign myself in. I was looking for the perfect sari fabric, that had to be light and floaty. I had no idea where to start so I popped into their West London office to have a good feel of their fabrics. I knew I wanted something floaty and light to give my sari a touch of Bollywood romance (I’m a sucker for watching those) so I asked the team what they recommended and they suggested a silky soft, light crinkle chiffon lurex which has a natural glistening stripe to it. As I knew my sari would feature images of shimmering, glittering stones it was perfect.
DESIGNING MY SARI
My sari is a collaboration piece, I knew I couldn’t do it all myself to I had a think about all the awesome people I know and graphic designer and Stylist Sally Hughson came to mind. She designs the fliers for the Craft Night I co-run with my friend Mia, The Make Escape and her ideas are always so imaginative. Sal helped me turn my collages into a digital design while my friend Tree also assisted with creating the patterned section on the main body of the sari. The three of us constructed the design of my dreams, and it was great to have their support rather than me spend hours alone trying to figure out how to cut out and blow up photos of giant jewels.
We spent an afternoon at her East London ‘creative surgery’ where she did my make-up, styled me for the shoot and did the photography – with this much skill, she’s clearly a Wonder Woman herself. Halima opted for purple lashes and a gorgeous white shimmer on my skin and dressed me in Adidas tracksuit bottoms and white gloves. I felt like I could conquer the world.
I also felt so proud wearing a sari that represents me: a British, Bangladeshi, South Asian, Muslim, Londoner, Colour Addict, Craft Queen, Batman loving, Urban Warrioress who is a firm believer in freedom – freedom to be who you want, live where you want, love who you want, go where you want and do what you want as long as it makes you happy. Life is precious and short. Seize it, do it, say it, be it. And as my friend Karen Arthur says ‘wear your happy.’
Oh and I’ve decided Birthday Photoshoots should be A Thing; so celebrate being alive and do one too.
My birthday sari was a collaboration with these awesome people:Fabric printing: Fashion FormulaMake-Up, Styling & Photography: Halima @MakeUpSurgeryDigital/Graphic Design: Sally Hughson Additional design: Tree @StitchlessTV Re-touching: Richard Elsley.