The saree is a practical necessity for the masses of India, a fashion statement for few, a personal choice and a way of life for millions of women in India. culture, capitalism, practically and artistic sensibilities have shaped the saree in its journey over the past few years. Here are the key facts one needs to know to fully appreciate the history and the relevance of this garment which can be spotted on the streets as well as the silver screen and the catwalks of Milan and Paris.
Universal garment - The sari is one item of clothing that appears in all kinds of forms and drapes across the subcontinent, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and even South East Asian countries like Myanmar, Malaysia, Phillipines, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos.
Evolution - Early mention of the saree goes as far back as 2800-1800 BC during the Indus Valley Civilisation, when cotton had begun to be cultivated, woven and dyed. The word sari evolves from the Sanskrit word “sattika” mentioned in the early Jain and Buddhist texts. Then it was a three-piece attire of a lower cloth tied around the hips and passed through the legs, then a shoulder and head drape like a dupatta and a band of cloth tied around the chest.
Regional variations in draping styles - The versatility of the saree lies in the numerous ways it can be draped and worn, of which at least 80 are recorded in India alone. Every region of India, even Nepal and Sri Lanka have their typical ways to drape and tuck a saree. We can immediately recall a few styles like the Seedha pallu style, the Nivi style where pallu passes between the legs or the Bengali and Odisha style which is without pleats and so on.
Universal garment which cuts across class, religion and caste barriers - A saree is sported by the humble tribal woman, the migrant labour in your city as well as the teacher, doctor, and Prime Minister. So, there's no denying that the saree is a great social leveler!
Also worn without petticoat and blouse - It is the British whose Victorian sensibilities were alarmed by the sensuousness of the saree and insisted on the use of the petticoat and blouse. It initially started as a fashion statement by upper class ladies but then percolated down to a more universal acceptance among all levels over a period of time. Women of quite a few regions and tribal settlements with intact ethnic cultures still wear the original version of the saree without blouse and petticoat. Not to forget, the more modern versions are also draped over trousers and in numerous other ways that make easy to carry to work or to a party with equal ease and lean!
A saree can be of a variety of lengths and looks - A saree is not limited to six yards or nine yards. Depending on the regional wearing style, it can be as small as 3 yards and other lengths. The sheer variety of creativity which this so called “unstitched” piece of cloth offers is mind boggling.
Saree is suitable for all weathers - In the harsh, hot regions, cotton half-length sarees are popular for their cooling and practical efficiency. In the cooler climes of the North, heavier silks and satins are preferred. It's loose fitting multiple folds allows cooling and heating possibilities by adjusting the drape and type of fabric as per the weather for the wearer.
A saree is best for power dressing - We identify the saree with powerful women of the past and present who sported these proudly through their triumphs, trials and travails. We associate the printed chiffon sarees with the Maharanis of our country, the crisp cotton and elegant silk border sarees with our women Prime Ministers and activists. Also, the best of the popular culture in Indian cinema for women has also been best represented in the beautiful folds of the saree.
Sarees support industries and provide employment and revenue - There are humble millmade polyester versions and handloom made cotton sarees available from as low few hundred rupees or less to richly woven silk and zari, jewel encrusted sarees no less than works of art which cost lakhs.Handloom,and mill sectors are supported by the huge demand for these sarees. Many hand embroidery craftsmen, dyers, and printers have kept their craft alive and earn their livelihood through this garment.
Sarees are for many of us heirlooms passed down the generations. Wearing a saree is like carrying a whole world of history around with yourself. Make your own story with your saree and get one today at www.vijayalakshmisilks.com!