Indian Women's Traditional Clothing

in Waist

The Sari : The age old Sari has kept its popularity throughout the centuries because of its total simplicity and practical comfort, combined with the sense of luxury and sense of sexuality a woman experiences. For a single length of material, the sari is the most versatile garment in existence.  A sari is a rectangular piece of cloth which is five to six yards in length. The style, color and texture of this cloth varies and it might be made from cotton, silk or one of the several man-made materials. The sari has an ageless charm since it is not cut or tailored for a particular size. 

A Brief History 
Any unstitched fabric in history has somehow been given sacred overtones. The belief was that the unstitched fabric was pure. This garment can fit any size and if worn properly can accentuate or conceal. 

This supremely graceful traditional dress  can also be worn in several ways : Maharashtrian : Navvari, Gujarati style, Bengali style, Kerala style, Irula style, Pinkosa (farmer) style,  etc.  Thus there are many ways of wearing a sari, as well as its color and texture. It could be of shimmering silk or the finest gauzy cotton. Perhaps a pastel-hued solid color or a myriad of woven flowers. It may even be embroidered with golden threads, or finished with a richly tasseled border. The way and kind  the sari  worn is very much indicative of the status, age, occupation, region and religion of a woman and is true especially in India. 

The Famous Legend:
One of the famous "Sari legends" has been described in the 5,000 year old Indian epic, the Mahabharat. Legend has it that when the beautiful Draupadi - wife of the Pandavas -was lost to the enemy clan in a gambling duel. Lord Krishna promised to protect her virtue. The enemy was determined on  "bagging" their prize, caught one end of the sari that draped her so demurely, and pulled and pulled at it to unravel. They continued to pull and unravel, but could reach no end. Thus protecting her virtue. 

Different regions of India have their own distinct forms of draping a Sari. Some of these are outlined below:

Gujarati way: This version of draping, commonly known as the seedha pallu way, is also found in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. Instead of opening to the left, the pleats are tucked so that they open to the right. Then, the pallu is taken to the back and brought over the right shoulder. It is then spread across the chest, and the left edge is tucked in the petticoat at the back.

Maharashtra method: Instead of the usual five-and-a-half meters, the sari in this version measures eight meters. One portion of the sari is drawn up between the legs and tucked in behind at the waist, while another portion is draped as a pallu over the bosom. Thus it forms a kind of divided sari, allowing greater freedom of movement.

Tamilian version: Like the Maharashtra version, the sare in this version, too, measures eight meters. After wrapping around the waist, the pleats are positioned along the left leg. The rest of the sari is taken over the left shoulder, wrapped once again round the waist and tucked on the left side.

Bengali style: The sari is worn pleatless; it is wrapped around the waist, brought back to the right side and the pallu is thrown over the left shoulder. The pallu is then brought up under the right arm and once again cast over the left shoulder.

Here is how to wear a Sari......

*Tie the petticoat tightly at the waist. Tuck the  top right corner of the sari into the petticoat at the navel and wrap it around the waist anti clockwise once. Make sure the lower end of the sari touches the floor.  

*At the tucked-in end  hold the top edge of the sari with right hand between stretched forefinger and thumb and start making pleats. Make about 6 pleats of about 6 inches wide each, hold them together at the navel level and ensure they fall evenly on the floor. Crease the pleats with your hand to ensure that they stay that way.

*Tuck the pleats together into the petticoat,  keeping the navel at the center of the pleats. The tucked-in pleats should spread like a Chinese fan as they fall towards the floor. (Its a good idea to pin your pleats together at the top with a  big 'safety' pin before tucking into the petticoat). 

*Drape the remaining fabric around the waist anti-clockwise once more and take it over your left shoulder so that it falls on your back and goes down till your knees.  

*Secure the portion of the fabric on your left shoulder by pinning it to the blouse at the shoulder with a small 'safety' pin. This helps keep the "pallu" in place. 
*Enjoy wearing this beautiful piece of clothing. 

The Choli
It is the tightly fitted, short blouse that ends just below the bust worn under a sari. It is either long sleeved, short sleeved or sleeveless. The choli evolved as a form of clothing in 10th century AD and the first cholis were only front covering; the back was always bare. Blouses of this type are still common in the state of Rajasthan.  Today, there are numerous styles of cholis inspired by the booming Indian fashion industry. 

The Salwar Kameej
Another popular attire of women in India is the salwar-kameez. This dress evolved as a comfortable and respectable garment for women in Kashmir and Punjab, but is now immensely popular in all regions of India. Salwars are pyjama-like trousers drawn tightly in at the waist and the ankles. Over the salwars, women wear a long and loose dress known as a kameez. One might occasionally come across women wearing a churidar instead of a salwar. A churidar is similar to the salwar but is tighter fitting at the hips, thighs and ankles more like leggings. Over this, one might wear a collarless or mandarin-collar dress called a kurta. Top

The Lehanga
Apart from the choli, women in Rajasthan wear a form of pleated skirt known as the ghagra or lehanga. This skirt is secured at the waist and leaves the back and midriff bare. The heads are however covered by a length of fine cotton known as "odhni" or "dupatta".

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Indian Women's Traditional Clothing

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This article was published on 2010/03/27