“In my first performance, I wore my mother’s sari,” recalls Alex Mathew, a communications officer from Bengaluru, India who is more famously known as their drag persona Mayamma. “That was how I was able to start my journey as a drag queen. I feel a sense of empowerment when I wear a sari, which is why I position myself as a very powerful matriarch.”
Alex performs almost only in saris.
For many in South Asia, the sari is an iconic coming-of-age garment, the first step into adulthood and independence. Though the sari will never become completely irrelevant, it's at a critical juncture today. Young urban women can see it as impractical, a garment restricted to weddings and graduation ceremonies. It is assumed to be “traditional” Indian attire, weighed down by the assumptions of demure femininity.
But for a garment as ancient and culturally charged as the sari, it is surprisingly modern, especially by today’s standards — its size-agnostic, heirloom pieces are preserved and passed down for generations and it is widely accepted by the queer and trans community. So it is n