Wearing a sari during a pregnancy might seem like a big hassle, especially for those who are inept in the art of sari draping. And there is no denying that even regular wearers of this versatile piece of garment might give it up temporarily during that period because finding the right pieces that suit your comfort level and fashion sensibilities becomes a humongous task.
Sensing pregnant women’s needs and deriving motivation out of her own experiences, Indian American attorney and entrepreneur Parul Das has launched her label, “Janam Maternity Saree and Beyond,” which features maternity saris and blouses, nursing apparel, and two-step saris.
“You just flip it on like a skirt, so it’s fast and comfortable while maintaining the appearance of a perfectly draped sari,” Das told India-West. “It’s a similar version of western maternity pants with a belly band. I have two options and I’m working on the third.”
The maternity collection primarily consists of a sari and a blouse. The sari is pre-pleated with a petticoat stitched into it, which is attached to an expandable belly panel. The belly panel begins just beneath the belly to allow for breathability and comfort when sitting, standing, walking, and even leisurely lounging on a chaise, she explained.
Saris can be categorized into full belly panel, which includes a stretch panel that extends across the entire belly and back for full coverage and support, and demi-panel, which includes a short stretch panel in the front of the sari and is hidden under the belly.
“A lot of my third trimester moms prefer the full belly panel because they want the feeling of support and cover,” Das, a mom of two, told India-West, adding that the demi panel “shows the belly if you want to wear a short blouse with it, or you can do a long for now and buy a short blouse for later.”
They can be worn with either a sleeveless full-length maternity sari blouse or a short one. The blouses, Das said, are created with materials like stretch satin and include zippers on both sides to allow the mommy-to-be to get comfortably in and out of the blouse.
The Dallas, Texas-based entrepreneur said that many moms find the short-sleeved full-length maternity blouse and the full belly panel maternity sari to be just the right postpartum coverage to allow for nursing if they are not quite ready to show their belly yet.
And for the nursing mothers, Anarkali gowns with snap-up nursing access are available. Nursing apparels also include snap-up blouses, halter blouses and choli nursing blouses.
Customization is available for both the sari and the blouse.
Recounting how she stumbled upon the idea, Das said that shortly after her wedding, she attended a friend’s wedding where she and her pregnant best friend were bridesmaids.
“Back then saree drapers weren’t around as now, so we kind of volunteered to go to each other’s rooms and put on the sarees,” she recalled. “Helping her put on a sari, we were trying to figure out where do we tie the petticoat, above or below; and if it’s above, the pleats flare out since the sari was made of raw silk. And it just puffed… and if you put it underneath, when she walked she felt like it was going to fall off her hips the whole time.”
With these concerns in mind, she set out to change things.
“I kept wondering,” Das told India-West, “‘Why can’t we make it comfortable like American maternity clothes are?’”
She looked up information on the internet and also checked the U.S. patent and trademark office website to see if a sari suited to maternity needs existed, but her search came up empty.
“I was only looking as a consumer for my friend and when I get pregnant,” Das told India-West. “I found designers who would make Anarkali dresses, the empire waist dress that poofs out for pregnant women, but women want more options. Attending a wedding, there are usually four-five events. Women don’t want to wear Anarkalis for five days in a row.”
Das noted she was also perturbed by her nursing friends’ ordeal when they were required to show up to an event in a sari and how that was an exhaustive process for them.
“Nursing friends complained… how sometimes they didn’t even bother going to a wedding or if there was a wedding in the family, they started weaning their babies early,” Das told India-West. “That kind of broke my heart. Breastfeeding is great and if you are able to do it and doing it and not have a wedding interrupt it.”
Das, who spent over seven years practicing healthcare and employment litigation with a law firm based in The Woodlands, Texas, got down to business, and came up with a prototype. By then she was six months’ pregnant with her second child. She decided to wear a prototype to a wedding, which had been created by her that had been given a professional look by a seamstress.
“My husband was like, ‘We are already so late, and you still have to put on your sari.’ But I went upstairs, and I was back in two minutes,” she recalled. “And he was like, “Oh my God!”
To make life easier for nursing mothers, she added nursing products to the maternity line.
“They go hand-in-hand, to be honest,” she opined. “Most women are willing to spend money on the nursing wear because I think that convenience is a game changer. Not have to take off your entire outfit or unbutton everything and have a friend go with you when you are nursing your baby and put you back together. It is so much time and energy.”
Das, who currently handles trademark, business and hospitality related matters, said that though the petticoat is stitched underneath the waist band, the blouses are sold separately, but if one purchases a sari – which come in luxurious fabrics – the blouse comes with it.
“The designer I’m working with is used to very high-end clients,” she said. “So, our first round of saris is made with georgettes, expensive fabrics, because we were creating a more traditional look that women can wear consistently throughout time. The next round of products to be launched will be trendier.”
Das said she understands that the items, which range from $450 up to the high $900s, are slightly on the expensive end, so she is trying to get to an affordable price point.
“It’s very difficult,” she said. “The amount of labor…they are sewing in the belly panel, they are sewing in the pleats. It takes longer than regular.”
Das is also mindful about the needs of the “younger generation,” and so she added a two-step sari to Janam Maternity Saris and Beyond’s repertoire.
“They want to wear a sari, they just don’t know how, so they don’t buy it,” she told India-West. “This type of sari also has a petticoat built in, it also flips on like a skirt, and has elastic hidden in the waist band so that when you sit down, you don’t get a muffin top. It expands with you as you sit down and breathe, so there’s nothing digging into your waist.”
Recently, she showcased her collection at a South Asian bridal show, where the two-step sari piqued the interest of several brides-to-be who wanted them for their bridesmaids.
Accentuating her point about the reusability of the sari, Das noted that both the saris can be worn even after the baby is delivered.
“You can use those sarees again and so no one will think that they are spending money on something they are only going to wear when they are pregnant,” she said. “The prototypes that I sewed, I was able to wear them even after my baby was born.”