Here's why you must Hit the Follow button on 'Oh AuntyJi' Instagram account

Updated: May 05, 2019, 08:09 IST | Ekta Mohta

Oh AuntyJi, an Instagram account run by the candy-cool designers of NBNW, celebrates the fashion of Indian women from half a century ago

Here's why you must Hit the Follow button on 'Oh AuntyJi' Instagram account
Kiddy auntie in Delhi, 1984; Pritha auntie in Goa, 1990

If the sepia-toned pictures from our family albums are anything to go by, our mums and grandmums were on fleek. "[They dressed] with the times," says Amrit Kumar, co-founder of the indie label, NorBlack NorWhite (NBNW), over email. "Chiffon floral saris or classic silks with beehives and wing-tipped eyeliner or fitted bell-bottoms and platforms. Whatever the trend was, our moms and grannies seemed to be a part of the phenomenon."

Since 2009, when they set up the label, Kumar and her business partner Mriga Kapadiya have reimagined traditional Indian textiles: tie-dye as jumpsuits, ikat as floor dresses, bandhani as boyfriend shirts. In 2016, they also started an Instagram account, @ohauntyji, a crowdsourced archive, to reposition Indian aunties as legit divas. "OhAuntyJi was born because we are a bit obsessed with everything auntie," says Kapadiya. "Bossy aunties, sweetie aunties, grumpy aunties, academic aunties: they all have character and mostly move with style, even if they think they don't have any. We respect that no matter what type of auntie, they take ownership of their aesthetic and are usually very committed to it, because they have sh*t to do and a life to run, and there's no time to care about what [anybody] thinks."

Amrit Kumar and Mriga Kapadiya. Pic/Tenzing Dakpa
Amrit Kumar and Mriga Kapadiya. Pic/Tenzing Dakpa

While it started in-house, with the photos of their mummies and aunties, it grew to include the matriarchs of friends and then strangers as well. "We realised that if they inspire us so much, we can create a space that inspires others to share their favourite photos and auntie stories [as well]," says Kumar. It was named after aunties because, "We are working to reclaim and celebrate the word 'auntie' and the stereotypical stigmas associated with being one. 'Stay young, don't be an auntie' is often thrown around like it's a bad thing to grow into your own. Many often associate an auntie as a woman, post-pregnancy, hips wide, heart open and taking no bullsh*t. Sometimes, one who doesn't want to party or is strictly a motherhood expert. For us, an auntie is an ever-evolving role, an empowered woman who is okay with both knowing and the unknown. Age ain't nothing but a number, and no one should have limitations. We are here to celebrate the precious and underrated role that an auntie can play in all of our lives."

Of course, it's also a tribute page because their own sense of style has evolved from them. "Everything is cyclical and it seems like all the styles are coming back," says Kapadiya. "We are really into florals and chiffons, tight, long-sleeved sari blouses, exaggerated shoulders and all the hairstyles. We love the solo portraits of our own mothers or aunts, decked to impress, either in front of flowers or on some holiday location. Even though the group shots are so sweet, you can feel the strength of an auntie, posing by herself, just to shine for a moment and remember forever." The duo strongly believes that the women of the time didn't dress lazily.

"There was a playfulness to it all, even without big resources to spend on fashion and aesthetic. There was a commitment to the style, whether it was stitched at home, by a family tailor or picked up from a shop. Style was a finishing touch to how the world saw them, and it seems like it was given that importance in an unpretentious way." In that sense, Oh AuntyJi can be read as a style catalogue of the '70s and '80s, but we prefer to read it as a love letter to our mums and grandmums.

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