-Kriti Mohan Mishra,B.Des NIFT
Acclaimed as ‘a very sensual dress’ by Dita Von Teese, Sari represents India in the international fashion fraternity. Celebrities like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Deepika Padukone have been seen wearing Saris to different International Film Festivals.
It is one of the many forms of Indian unstitched garments. Some other unstitched garments are the ‘Lungi’ and the ‘Dhoti’, both worn by men.
What is a Sari?
A sari is a woven piece of cloth, up to 9 yards long which is draped around the body in different patterns across different parts of India.
Saris are manufactured in various kinds of fabrics and weaves. The usual width of a Sari is 1-1.5metres and the length varies from 4.5 yards to 9 yards.
The cost of a Sari can vary from INR 100 up to Lakhs.
How is it worn?
A sari is usually worn with a Blouse to cover the bust and a petticoat, which is an ankle length skirt providing the support for the sari to be draped on. Blouses only came into existence during the Mughal Empire.
Earlier, the saris were only draped around the legs in a manner somewhat similar to Kareena’s costume in the song ‘Chammak Challo’. It didn’t require a petticoat underneath.
The statues of ‘Apsaras’ and Goddesses at various temples can be seen wearing drapes of this kind.
The most common style of wearing a Sari is the one in which it is draped around the waist, starting from the front along the hypothetical vertical axis through the naval tucking small portions into the petticoat adjusting the width according to comfort. After the completion of the first round, pleats are formed and tucked in and it is taken around the waist to complete a second round and the remaining section is draped over the shoulder in the same direction with or without pleats. This section of the sari which goes over the shoulder is known as ‘Pallav’.
Diagrammatic representation of this style of draping a Sari is on your right.
Origin of Sari
It is one of the oldest known Indian traditional dresses. Excavations have established the existence of wraps and similar to Sari in the Indus Valley civilization. The charm of saris is proven by their huge acceptance by the international market. The first mentions of Sari can be found in Rigveda.
Why the name?
The word ‘Sari’ was coined from the Sanskrit word ‘Chira’, meaning cloth. Sari is but a long piece of cloth or fabric only. Hence, the ‘Chir-haran’ of Draupadi.
Classification of Saris
Saris can be categorised on the basis of the following:
Construction Method, Design or Type of Weave/Fabric
Saris come in different fabrics from various kinds of cottons to delicate chiffons and georgettes to heavy silks and brocades. Embroideries, appliqués and different kinds of dyeing processes are used for surface ornamentation to increase their appeal and value. Designers are exploring variations of weaves, fabrics and construction of Saris, including drapes in knitted fabrics.
Some of the popular Indian Saris are ‘Taant cotton’ and ‘Kantha’ from West Bengal, ‘Chikan’ from Lucknow, ‘Banarsi silk’ from Varanasi, ‘Bomkai’ and ‘Ikat’ from Orissa, ‘Kanchipuram’ from Tamil Nadu, ‘Bandhej/Bandhni’ from Gujarat and Rajasthan, ‘Chanderi Silk’ from Madhya Pradesh, ‘Pochampalli’ from Andhra Pradesh, ‘Tussar Silk’ from Bihar and ‘Balarampuram’ from Kerala.
Style of Draping
Saris are draped in various patterns in different regions of India as per the need.
Some common patterns or styles seen are as follows:
Navi Style: This is the most commonly seen style of draping a 5.5-6 yards long sari where ‘Pallav’ goes from front to back over the shoulder(right).
Nauvari Style: A 9 yards sari is draped like trousers or dhoti by Maharashtrian women. This does not require a petticoat to be worn underneath. It is worn this way for ease of locomotion(left:nauvari, nauvari variation respectively).
Gujarati Style: In this style, the ‘Pallav’ is draped from back to front.Once a very Popular style from very popular daily TV soap ‘Kyuki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi‘ (right).
Kunbi Style: Traditional drape of Goa, the ‘Pallav’ in this style is worn across the chest and the sari is knee-long(left).
Coorgi Style: In this style the pleats are formed at the back and the ‘Pallav; is draped around the bust from front to back and then, a small section crossing over the shoulder to front(right:front, back coorgi respectively).
Bengali Style: Saris have been draped in this style in many movies including Devdas and Parineeta(left:bengali ,bengali variation respectively).
Bootheyara Tribal Style: Women of ‘Bootheyara’ tribe of Karnataka drape saris without petticoats and blouses with the ‘Pallav’ stretched to cover the entire bosom(right).
Pinkosu style: In Tamil Pinkosu drape, the pleats formed at the back are tucked ‘out’ of the Sari. It is worn without a petticoat(left :front,back pinkosu respectively).
On TV and Bollywood
TV and Bollywood have strong influence on fashion, and the way women usually dress in general. Whether its Kirron Kher’s iconic Silk saris on the sets of India’s Got Talent or Rekha’s saris at various award ceremony, Vidya Balan in Sabyasachi Mukherji Saris or Sonam Kapoor in Anamika Khanna Sari, Saris have always been popular among Bollywood celebrities. From the times of Tulsi and Parvati(Characters from Daily soaps) to Tapasya’s(a character from popular T.V. series called ‘Uttaran’) bold and bright saris and Iccha’s(another character from the same series) mandarin collar blouses, T.V. has influenced trends in saris across India.
Some Bollywood Sari moments were:
- Mumtaz personified ‘cute’ in the orange sari in ‘Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar Ke Charche’ (song from ‘Brahmachari’)
- Mandakini in the translucent white sari draped in the ‘Nauvari’ style in ‘Ram Teri Ganga Maili’
- Sridevi’s Blue Chiffon Sari in ‘Mr. India’ made many hearts skip a beat
- Madhuri wore a purple Sari in ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’. Not only the sari, but the blouse also became a rage
- Madhuri and Aishwarya wore heavily embellished Saris from ‘Devdas’ which are sold in many shops as the ‘Devdas’ Saris. ‘Dola re’ definitely made the Bengali drape popular
- Vidya Balan’s traditional Bengali saris from ‘Parineeta’
- Sushmita’s Chemistry-teacher avatar in ‘Main Hoon Na’ – Her red sari still remains in the hearts of many
- Priyanka Chopra’s Desi Girl Champagne Gold Sari in ‘Dostana’
- Katrina Kaif’s ‘Chikni Chameli’ Red Sari
- Kareena’s controversial Hot pink ‘Halkat Jawaani’ sari
Saris come in various kinds of fabrics, embroideries and embellishments now. Designers are working with various lengths and widths of Saris. Indian designers Sabyasachi Mukherji, Manish Malhotra, Ritu Kumar, Satya Paul, Neeta Lulla and Anamika Khanna are few names among many others working on and with Saris.
International celebrities like Paris Hilton, Giselle Bundchen, Carmit Bachar and many others have been flaunting Saris for decades. Sari has been manipulated and redesigned into various dresses by International designers like Zandra Rhodes, YSL, Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano. It has endless possibilities which are still being explored.
Kriti Mohan is B.Des.(Leather Design) from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Kolkata.She has worked as the designer for ‘Meera Mahadevia’ in Mumbai. She is currently working as a freelancing fashion and graphic designer, based out of Allahabad.