Category Archives: Style & Beauty

I Wear: A Bengal Summer

I’ve been waiting all winter for the hot, sunny days to return because that’s what feels most natural to me. It may have something to do with the fact that I can breathe better in warm weather, can swim (which always keeps my mind & body healthy) and don’t have to struggle with fabric allergies along with usual food and respiratory allergies. It’s COTTON SEASON again!

The saree is a Bengal cotton handloom, of the kind of delicate lightness only that state knows how to craft. I thought it deserved the traditional drape as well. Accessorised with wooden earrings & bangles. I hope I can also borrow the badass attitude from my Bong sisters.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Wear: My Tribe Identity

About 10 days ago, I returned to the site of an early trauma. I was doing this because I thought it was the only way to reconstruct my narrative (in simple words, create a new habit of how I responded to attack). It was an unnerving experience, with bullying, ganging up and slut-shaming (for my saree-wearing). But this time I was able to discern how it came from people’s limited ways to express themselves & relate to each other. I was able to walk away rather than internalise the hate piled on me as I used to, when these people last knew me.

That doesn’t mean the burns didn’t sting for awhile. Over a week later, I found myself thinking more than I have in recent times about whether I should wear a saree or not, considering the level of hate it attracted in that week. I finally went ahead with it, albeit very nervously, my delay making me late for the writers’ event I went to, with Ms.Shanta Gokhale.

I’m glad I did, anyway because it was a reminder of where I find my true tribe, my identity and my home. It’s with other people who love words and stories. It’s other women who persist in the face of gendered aggression, but in steady, non-combative ways. And it’s with people whose lives are filled with purpose, rather than self-loathing and misplaced hatred (which is what all bullying is).

This is what I wore. Mom called it ‘a freedom fighter look’ which made me . Later in the evening, a reader commented “Aren’t you one though? You are always ready to fight for our rights as humans.” Another person in an unrelated conversation on the same day, called me one of the most empathetic people on Twitter. Both of them were balm for my emotional bruises and they helped me articulate why I like sarees. It’s because the saree expresses the feminine and the individualistic with strength and without aggression. It feels right so it sits right.

#IWear: South cotton ikat saree with a cotton peasant blouse & obi belt. The necklace is a 25 year old minakari set that wasn’t very expensive even back then.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Angry Girl Of Indie Rock Persuasion

I was fascinated by the saree as a child. Unfettered by stitches, lacking the artifice of buttons, a saree was freedom.

I’ve struggled with gender boxes my whole life. Every damn thing, a fucking war. Short hair. Tattoos. Red clothes. Short clothes. Boots, not sandals. Science projects. Marketing jobs. An analytical mind. Single status. Silver, not gold. Diamonds I paid for. Sci-fi. A love of graphic novels. English poetry. Silent performance. A business. A band. A breakup. A failed engagement. Boundaries. These became my trophies.

Warriors don’t wear shyness, they wear war paint. I RAGE, oh how I rage. I rage with the eloquence of Alanis Morissette. I rage in the shriek of Gwen Stefani. I rage with the mellow harshness of Tracy Chapman. I rage in all the ways of women who refuse to be pretty.

But sarees, these speak of modesty, of tradition, of maternal memories, none of which identify me. I’ve struggled to find my self in a saree. Should a love of this garment mean I trade in my warrior card? Must I pay for the respect accorded to a saree with my right to rage?

How do I not lose the essential me in the drapes? How do I keep a palluv from stifling my scream? How can my inner supernova burn through the folds? How do I keep my steel from drowning in cotton? Always a war. 
I found my saree self in the bitter eloquent long locks of Alanis Morissette, the dark chocolate wrath of Tracy Chapman and Gwen Stefani saying don’t speak in red lipstick.

My colours are clashing screams. My patterns are silent drama. My folds are parodies of shame. This is who I am, in a saree, in a dress, on stage, on screen, on a page, in relationships, in my sleep. It looks like in the next second, I’m going to turn & run sat you so you want to get out of the way real quick. You won’t want to be caught in the fire gaze of those eyes. Someone called this a superhero pose. I’ll name it Angry Girl of the Indie Rock Persuasion. I wear the label, it doesn’t wear me.

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ANGRY GIRL OF THE INDIE ROCK PERSUASION I was fascinated by the saree as a child. Unfettered by stitches, lacking the artifice of buttons, a saree was freedom. I've struggled with gender boxes my whole life. Every damn thing, a fucking war. Short hair. Tattoos. Red clothes. Short clothes. Boots, not sandals. Science projects. Marketing jobs. An analytical mind. Single status. Silver, not gold. Diamonds I paid for. Sci-fi. A love of graphic novels. English poetry. Silent performance. A business. A band. A breakup. A failed engagement. Boundaries. These became my trophies. Warriors don't wear shyness, they wear war paint. I RAGE, oh how I rage. I rage with the eloquence of Alanis Morissette. I rage in the shriek of Gwen Stefani. I rage with the mellow harshness of Tracy Chapman. I rage in all the ways of women who refuse to be pretty. But sarees, these speak of modesty, of tradition, of maternal memories, none of which identify me. I've struggled to find my self in a saree. Should a love of this garment mean I trade in my warrior card? Must I pay for the respect accorded to a saree with my right to rage? How do I not lose the essential me in the drapes? How do I keep a palluv from stifling my scream? How can my inner supernova burn through the folds? How do I keep my steel from drowning in cotton? Always a war. I found my saree self in the bitter eloquent long locks of Alanis Morissette, the dark chocolate wrath of Tracy Chapman and Gwen Stefani saying don't speak in red lipstick. My colours are clashing screams. My patterns are silent drama. My folds are parodies of shame. This is who I am, in a saree, in a dress, on stage, on screen, on a page, in relationships, in my sleep. It looks like in the next second, I'm going to turn & run sat you so you want to get out of the way real quick. You won't want to be caught in the fire gaze of those eyes. Someone called this a superhero pose. I'll name it Angry Girl of the Indie Rock Persuasion. I wear the label, it doesn't wear me. ———————————————————————————– 🎶: BITCH – Meredith Brooks #theideasmithy

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Be Incomplete

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BE INCOMPLETE. BE IN THE LIVING. Today I didn't feel cool, collected or in control. I left home less put together than usual (hair still wet, no lipstick). I impulsively changed my Saturday plans. I stumbled into things, upturned a glass of water into my plate, dropped my phone, pulled a chair onto my saree and bumped into people. It prompted my friend @shaunwilliamsi to remark that he'd never seen me this clumsy before. I gawped at beautiful women wondering if they were judging me or laughing at me. I froze with a stiff smile at a acquaintance who had never spoken to me before, hugged me and asked me to dance. My wise @deveshm told me to just let go and enjoy being the teenager that I never was. I remember why I never was this – because I hated it. It's hard, really hard to stand in that place of vulnerability, without the defenses of perfection or control. It's terrifying and I've never stayed in it a second longer than I had to. But the kind of strength that one projects with grace, with style, with articulation is just that – a projection. A performance. A mask. A wall. Real courage is to stand as your messy, uncontained self and face the world with it saying, "This is me. I have a place here too." Today I was messy. Today I was brave. Today I was me. PC: @jaivardhan.verma #IWear #saree #sareestyle #indianwear #growingup #adulthood #courage #strength #strengthquotes #quotes #lifequotes #lifelessons #inspiration #beingyou #beingyourself

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Today I didn’t feel cool, collected or in control. I left home less put together than usual (hair still wet, no lipstick). I impulsively changed my Saturday plans. I stumbled into things, upturned a glass of water into my plate, dropped my phone, pulled a chair onto my saree and bumped into people. It prompted my friend @shaunwilliamsi to remark that he’d never seen me this clumsy before.

I gawped at beautiful women wondering if they were judging me or laughing at me. I froze with a stiff smile at a acquaintance who had never spoken to me before, hugged me and asked me to dance.

My wise @deveshm told me to just let go and enjoy being the teenager that I never was. I remember why I never was this – because I hated it. It’s hard, really hard to stand in that place of vulnerability, without the defenses of perfection or control. It’s terrifying and I’ve never stayed in it a second longer than I had to.

But the kind of strength that one projects with grace, with style, with articulation is just that – a projection. A performance. A mask. A wall. Real courage is to stand as your messy, uncontained self and face the world with it saying, “This is me. I have a place here too.” Today I was messy. Today I was brave. Today I was me.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

AgentsOfIshq: ‘You Should Wear Maroon For Your Skin’ And Other Advice I’ve Ignored As A Non-Fair Woman

I’m very thrilled to report that AgentsOfIshq has run my piece on surviving dark skin prejudice and reclaiming my pride. I called the piece ‘Golden Girl’ but they changed it to

You Should Wear Maroon For Your Skin’ And Other Advice I’ve Ignored As A Non-Fair Woman’

which also works, in my opinion. Please go read. It’s not a rant, I promise.

They also carried a collage of my lipart journey, to illustrate how I found my self-worth in colour. I’ve been a longtime fan of this website so I’m very happy to add my story to all the wonderful ones in their collection.

You can also read a version of the same on my own (other) blog XX Factor which is where I usually speak about vanity, sex and other bodily matters.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

In A Perfect World

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Wear: Bold Words Deserve Bold Lips

An I Wear post at long last!

After I was liberated from my nude makeup modesty constraints a few years ago, I swung out to the other extreme to reclaim what has always been mine – a love of BOLD, BRIGHT, DRAMATIC, WHO CARES ABOUT THE RULES dressing and makeup.

I discovered liquid lip colour sometime last year. Liquid lip colour, like the name suggests is literally liquid in a bottle. It’s a lot like painting your nails, except you’re painting the soft, crinkly, thin-skin, fleshy bits that you call your own lips. If like me, you’ve had trouble getting your nails right, boy are you in for an adventure with liquid lip colour! And yet, I persisted. Mainly for the challenge, some for the novelty and a fair bit because liquid lip colours have added a new dimension to the lip hue range.

Yeah sure, I have one shade from the traditional range and obviously it has to be my signature colour of screaming red. This is Nyx Kitten Heels. It’s an orangey-red and now that I’ve figured out the elaborate application and touch-up process it looks the way it does. This picture is without airbrushing, Photoshop or Instagram filters. But it is with lip exfoliation, moisturising, lining, application, correction, concealer and matting. Yes, this is not for the faint of make-up heart.

So why you ask, would I go to such effort for a red I’d get in the much easier formats of lipstick tubes? Because liquid lipstick (once you perfect the application) paints on much more sharply than the crayon-rub that most of us do with regular tubes. It also lasts way longer which is a big plus for people like me who swallow most of our lip colour when we talk (which I do a LOT) and eat. But again, given the considerable effort, I’d rather go with the apply-reapply-touch up of tubes for the other colours like pink and brown.

But let’s come to the really exciting bit and the real reason I’ve gotten so fond of liquid lipstick – bold colours! Here’s starting with a bold. If you said black, you’d have been just a little short of correct. Because my first bold liquid lippie was a grey. Here’s Nyx Stone Fox, a metallic grey which seems to confuse people. It’s not the stop-you-in-your-tracks black. Grey also reflects colours you’re wearing a bit so everything seems to blend seamlessly and yet….

Technically speaking the above was not my first bold liquid lipstick. But Nyx Amethyst is that safe gateway drug into crazy, mad colours. It’s a gorgeous purple but not purple like you’ve ever seen on lips. Apparently the beauty blogger/makeup professional way of describing this is to call it a ‘cool purple with more blue’. Yeah, whatever. Look at my FIERCE!

Once the mind is freed of colour boundaries, the whole world opens up in Technicolour. Except I’ve never been shy of bright colours. So I did my ‘let’s give this a shot for a change’ going to what I’d usually consider too safe for me – a dark maroon. Nyx Oh Put In On did that wonderfully because it’s almost black but just short of, which takes it away from 70s aunty territory but keeps it from falling into wannabe goth land. I think this one has slightly brown undertones. While I’ve never enjoyed wearing brown as a colour, I can’t deny it really brings out the glow in my face.

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This has been a year of such drastic changes and shifts that my whole outlook has been the here and now – surviving these. But I am a creature of nostalgia and the past doesn't impede me. It teaches me, it nurtures me and it gives me fodder for the future. This Sunday, I attended a storytelling session organised by Spill Poetry. Bring personal stories only, they'd said. I approached the stage with no prior preparation for the first time in nearly three years. Poetry and Spoken word have become such polished, seasoned ventures and I'm nothing if not competitive. But oral storytelling? I had no references. I started to weave a tale from something that happened to me in 2005. At the time, it happened so quickly and in such an over way, I barely had a chance to notice how much it changed me. But it did – me, my relationship with the city and my sense of security, home and independence. I overshot my time limit but the organisers were kind enough to let me continue and the audience kind enough to listen and tell me they could relate. I am so grateful to have had a chance to stop and examine my past and share it with you. Thank you. #openmic #spokenword #liveperformance #performance #shayar #shaayari #sher #ghazal #mehfil #maqta #story #storytelling #stories #storyteller #personalstories #mumbaifloods #mumbai #mumbaiker #mumbaiwriters #mumbairains #26thjuly #spillpoetry

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And since I’d gone into almost goth territory, I figured I’d round it with claiming black too. I haven’t actually worn this out properly yet and I’m still working on a way to wear it without doing goth. Nothing against goth, it’s just that that is the stereotypical way to wear black. I’ll do an I Wear post or video about that in some time. This is Nyx Alien.

And finally, a blue to complete the entire range! I already have a blue, an unusual format involving a brush and a palette that looks more like an eye-shadow box but never mind that now. Here’s Nyx Jet Set and as you can see it’s an inky blue which could give you a schooltime learning-to-use-ink-pen flashback. Or if you can remember it really makes your teeth look bright white, your smile could dazzle everyone into seeing you as a star. Well, at least that’s what I’m hoping. I love this colour.

Now for a few tips for any of you inspired to give these a shot:

  • Please IGNORE anybody, professional or otherwise who tells you what colour ‘suits’ your skintone or not. The beauty industry is built on making women feel insecure about their looks and India doesn’t treat dark girls well. It’s up to you to reclaim your pride. This is how I do it. Dark girls can have all the fun.
  • Practice does make perfect. Don’t expect to master liquid lippies in one go. It will not look the way it does in beauty magazines. Remember to do this for yourself and it’ll be nothing but fun.
  • Keep refining your technique. I found Youtube tutorials immensely helpful in this regard.
  • The colours shown on sites do not match most of the actual products. Youtube is full of reviews but most of them are by non-Indians. These colours do not look the same on Indians as they do on white people or black people. There’s a rare Indian video here and or there but the production quality is usually not the same which means the actual shade is anybody’s guess. If possible, check out the colour in a store. Or be like me and just take a wild leap of faith!

Here’s how I apply liquid lipstick:

  1. Exfoliate using a mascara brush and transparent lip balm. Remove excess with tissue.
  2. Outline with lip liner. For the crazier colours, I just use eye pencils.
  3. Apply the liquid using the applicator. No smacking. Fill in the insides first. With a light hand complete the outer edges.
  4. Reapply lip liner.
  5. Tidy up the edges with tissue if needed.
  6. Apply loose powder on the outside of the lips just to make the whole thing look sharp.
  7. Rule with a SMILE!

So, what do you think? Like the crazy colours on my face? Or should I go back to hiding behind deep, sometimes obscure poetry?

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Wear: Fashionista In The Wild

I managed to catch a rather reluctant Reema on camera and she agreed to stop and tell me what she was wearing. This woman manages to look effortlessly chic even in the middle of a warm, sticky summer day in a suburban mall. Well, we are not all born with Libran taste, I suppose.

If you enjoyed this style post in video, check out the other I Wear posts and videos.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Wear: Women At Work – Diva Minimalist Or Tomboy Chic?

Reema moved into a new place last month and I helped her (slightly) by keeping her company while her new place was professionally cleaned. The rather mundane circumstances didn’t stop both of us from dressing up. And this is what we each wore:

I Wear:

  • Yellow hoodie: Cou Cou
  • Blue racerback: Zivame
  • Loosened skinfit jeans: Levis Diva
  • Lavender jockey hat: Baggit
  • Snow quartz pendant: Magick
  • Checkered socks

and Reema in style!

I Wear:

  • Pink (almost bespoke) top: Miss London
  • Severely distressed jeans: Ross Dress for Less
  • Black socks with pink toes

If you enjoyed this style post in video, check out the other I Wear posts and videos.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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