I swing between being tempted to outright abandon the bra to admiring how much of a support system it is. Sure, it’s the first thing I wriggle out of—T-shirt still on—when I get home, flinging it as far away from me as I can. And though there are several days when #FreeTheNipple is put to practice, I am just uncomfortable with everyone staring at my nips poking from the Tee, and boobs bouncing about (often, painfully so) when walking around. And while I appreciate the form that the underwire lends, sometimes it feels like the metal bastard is just coming at me with all it’s got.
Which is why when I first stumbled upon Angia on Instagram, it felt like there was finally a not-your-usual-bra bra that could help with the glitches—both personal and political. ‘The Indian Bra’, as founder Priyanka Desai calls it, is a take on an angiya—a garment worn by women in ancient India, the mention of which is found in Kalidasa's Shakuntala and Meghadoot, as also in Urdu and Indo-Persian poetry.
In its modern format, the bra is made of organic materials, with India techniques like ikat, batik and hand-block prints making it a thing of beauty that could work as easily for outerwear. Push-up, yoga, sports and T-shirt bras make it to the collection as well, with organic cotton taking over underwires to similar effect. “I come from somewhere near the Rajasthan-Haryana border, so I’ve known Rajasthani quilting since a long time,” says Desai. “I used that technique for the underwire and the cups because I’ve always hated the metal varieties. I gave those up a long time before I gave up usual bras.” Apart from cotton bras, you will find some in silk and mul, and straps made from hemp.
Desai’s love for the angi (a singular form of angiya) started when she discovered those worn by her great-grandmother in a trunk full of clothes that she and her mom stumbled upon while cleaning their house. “I must have been 8-10 years old then, and was just about to step into the bra-wearing age. As a little girl, I loved the choli but never the bra, and as I grew up, that angi I had found stayed with me. So one day, my mom and I went to the tailor and asked him to make one for me. We didn’t even have a prototype then so we just asked him to ask his grandmother how to make one, and he did so.” When interest from those around started pouring in, Desai started experimenting with styles, prints and fits to start the line that launched in April 2017. She also customizes for women with big boobs, or those who want a size they can’t find on her website.
The Angia website interface is a bit clunky, and prices in dollars and PayPal as the preferred mode of payment might be a turn-off, but Desai is resolving these issues while also trying to get her bras a presence on Indian e-commerce sites. Expect to see more styles a fews months down the line.
I look forward to a modern interpretation of an ancient but possibly more progressive India—one in which women were largely topless and wore sarees without blouses—but until then the Indian bra will do.
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This article originally appeared on VICE IN.