We all know Tia as the girl on Instagram who made the Cancan Saree so infamous. Between experimenting with different fabrics, coming up with unique ways to drape sarees, and rummaging through her mother’s closet, this girl is writing her own fashion rules when it comes to style in the South Asian clothing world.
Tie The Thali was lucky enough to have her discuss her recent wedding, her love of fashion and of course, the cancan saree!
Who is Tia Bhuva, aside from the girl in colourful sarees on Instagram?
I currently live in Toronto with my husband of nine months (how time flies!). I lived in the UK (London) for undergrad and taught English in South Korea for a short time. I love to travel, love photography, love putting together outfits. I work as a Category Manager for a pretty big retailer – fancy title for someone who gets to taste bakery products all day and manage a P&L.
Tell us a little bit about your wedding sarees/outfits? Where were they from, did you choose them yourself? Was your Koorai saree a surprise (like in Traditional Hindu Culture) or did you play a role in picking it?
I wore four outfits for our wedding(s) – two sarees, a dress and a lengha. The two sarees were bought in India at Pothys by my mom. I told her I wanted a red koorai and a rusty pink/rose gold manavarai saree. My mom has always bought my sarees and I trust her taste completely – other than the colour, she decided on the style/heaviness of work etc. She regularly sends me pictures on WhatsApp during her shopping trips so I can give my input – which is usually YES YES YES! The only part that was a surprise was the Tia & Tony embroidered in gold on both sarees – totally her idea and I obviously loved it!
My white wedding dress was by Hayley Paige and bought at Kleinfeld Canada. It was basically love at first sight and probably one of the easiest and best decisions I made during wedding planning. My reception lengha was a last-minute purchase. I had initially planned to stay in my white dress all night but my mom insisted that I change into something else because “you only get married once”. So I contacted Amara Couture a month before our wedding and she had the outfit custom-made to order from India and shipped just in time.
If there is one thing you could change about your wedding outfits, what would it be?
I wish I had worn a fancy blouse with my manavarai saree – I love my outfits and pictures but I’m also loving the trend of fancy blouses with simple Kanchipuram sarees.
Where do you reside, and what is your favourite spot to purchase your sarees/Indian ware?
I live in Toronto and most of my sarees/Indian wear are purchased by my mom in India. Her favourite stores in Chennai are Pothys, Chennai Silks, and Nalli’s – she also shopped a lot in Kerala on her most recent trip and says there are a lot of great small boutiques there.
Do you shop online for sarees? If so, what is your favourite(s)?
I have one saree I bought online a few years ago– it’s a peacock print saree and it’s from Utsav Sarees. I think with more expensive sarees it’s difficult to tell the true colour and material quality online so I stay away from it. Also, my mom makes a trip to India at least once every couple of years so between hers and the ones she actually buys for me I have more sarees than I have places to wear. Thankfully, she doesn’t mind that I see her closet as my closet.
How did you come across the cancan saree?
A bride wore a cancan saree for her engagement party and posted it on Instagram. If you search #cancansaree other than the million images of me, hers is the first one there! I loved the look so much that I tried it with my koorai – adjusting the drape a bit. And the rest, is history. Since then I’ve tried so many drapes – and its amazing how many different looks you can get just with the addition of a lengha skirt. I think that is the most beautiful thing about a saree – its versatility and the endless possibilities confined only by your imagination.
RIGHT: The image that took the internet by storm: Bhavana RameshKumar in the Cancan saree.
LEFT: Tia Bhuva’s first replication of the Cancan saree that peaked the Cancan drape trend.
Do you drape sarees on your own? How long did it take you to learn this?
Most kids play house or dress up with their mom’s dresses as a child. I would play dressup with my mom’s sarees. I practiced pleating on my scarves, dresses, any fabric with a straight edge. The front pleats come naturally to me as a result of all those hours of play but I still find pleating the pallu time-consuming. My mom, on the other hand, could probably do it in her sleep.
How difficult is this drape for someone who is new to wearing sarees?
I think the most difficult part is learning to pleat the pallu – as is the case with any drape. I recently shared a video on my most requested drape style on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qxvMsXM8DY) and will be sharing many more drape ideas over the next few months!
How old were you when you first wore a saree?
I wore my first saree to my cousin’s wedding in India – I was 15. It was a beautiful bronze and gold lace saree. However, as with most 15 year olds, I didn’t wear sarees much so I had it turned into a half saree. I had to cut the material to make the shawl short enough to drape and I regret it so much. This is why I love the cancan styles – you can drape any saree as a half saree and keep all your sarees intact!
Give us one style tip/hack for new saree wearers.
Tie your petticoat/underskirt as tightly as is comfortable. The tighter the better but obviously you don’t want it to be uncomfortable. The heavier the saree, the tighter you need to tie it so that the weight of the saree doesn’t pull down your petticoat. Once the petticoat starts moving, your whole look can come undone so this is important especially when wearing heavier silk sarees.
What is a must when it comes to accessories with your sarees. Give us your top one you could not wear a saree without.
I wasn’t a huge fan of sarees until I started cinching them at the waist with a belt, a necklace, bag strap or an actual wasit chain! I think this pulls the whole look together and looks effortlessly chic.
You are often pictured in heels, do you only wear heels with sarees? What do you recommend as the best footwear with sarees?
I’ve worn flats with some sarees that aren’t long enough – sometimes there isn’t enough length once you tuck it in but it’s not my first choice. (Never have this problem with Kanchipuram sarees because they’re super long and luxurious) I think heels help improve your posture and the way you walk in any outfit, especially sarees!
What makes a saree stand out to you? What catches your eye. What makes Tia Bhuva buy a specific saree?
I like simple sarees that I can mix and match. I get overwhelmed when I shop in Chennai and all the sarees start looking the same by day 2. To make it easier, have a list of colours that are missing from your wardrobe so that you go in with a specific idea of what you’re looking for. My mom is amazing at doing this and I love that she loves shopping in Chennai!
Where do you get your blouses made? Do you buy pre made blouses?
Most of my blouses are made in India but I do buy premade blouses when I need a specific colour I don’t have for an event. Choose pieces that will easily transition from one look to another (simple, single colour) unless of course you fall in love with a fancy multi coloured blouse – those are good too. Never leave a piece you love at the store, that’s my motto. You’ll be thinking about it and regretting it for the rest of your life.
What kind of sleeves do you recommend for a bride? Do you think in this modern-day, that sleeves are a necessity for a brides saree blouse?
When I first started wearing sarees, all my sleeves were short or cap sleeves. Recently, I’m loving the trend of ¾ or just above the elbow. I think sleeve length entirely depends on the bride, her body type and what style she likes. My only advice is, don’t make your wedding day blouse the first time you try a new blouse style. Make sure you’ve tried the style and love how it looks on you. You’ll be looking at your wedding pictures for the rest of your life so do your best to make sure you’re in love with every detail.
Let’s talk petticoats. There are many styles of petticoats. What do you prefer? Tell us about your experience with various petticoats.
I think this is the most important part of draping a saree right, wearing the right petticoat. 90% of my petticoats are cotton. They work with any type of saree because they are sturdy and are super breathable and comfortable to wear. I have two satin petticoats – in black and white – I use these exclusively for thin material sarees that don’t have any work on them and are super light.
Tell us about one of your worse experiences wearing a saree. Have you ever had a saree come undone? If so, did you drape it yourself or did someone else drape it for you?
My mom has always draped my sarees and thankfully because of her, this has never happened to me. I started draping my own sarees when I lived in London for university and always chose light, easy-to-drape sarees – and always hung the pallu so I didn’t have to worry about pleating it. Now that I’ve moved out and attend different events from my parents, I’m learning to be quicker in pleating my pallu on silk sarees but I’m a perfectionist and it still ends up taking a long time. That’s my tip for those trying to learn: have patience and don’t settle for uneven pleats!
Who is your fashion inspiration / a style icon you look up to?
I don’t have any one style icon I look up to. I get my inspiration from everyday women, seeing how they put their outfits together and incorporating what I like into my own outfits.
Give us a tip you have for brides, whether it be for picking out a saree or how to survive the ceremony in a saree etc.
I get extremely hot when I feel claustrophobic – and the hindu wedding ceremony usually consists of a long guest list AND a fire right in front of you. The last thing I wanted was sweat stains on my Kanchipuram saree/blouse so I wore liners on the inside of my blouse – I basically do this for all my blouses especially kanchipuram ones that are difficult to wash/dry clean and so much less expensive than actual underarm/sweat guards.
If you could redo your wedding and have anyone you choose to design you a saree, who would it be and why?
I love my wedding sarees so much and wouldn’t change them for the world – the one thing I would change is the blouse I chose for the manavarai saree. I would have loved to have it custom-made with fancy details.
For those of you looking for a lengha skirt to wear a Cancan Saree, look no further; the fashion icon is creating her very own line of cancan skirts! Stay tuned on Tia Bhuva’s Website (www.tiabhuva.com) and Instagram (instagram.com/tiabhuva) for updates on her line of cancan skirts launching soon!