A symbol of Indian culture, the saree (or sari) is perhaps the oldest unstitched garment that has survived over centuries and continues to be the most favoured traditional garment even today. A saree is nothing but five to nine yards of fabric that can be draped in innumerable styles. The beauty of the Indian saree lies in the ease of draping it and the fact that it can be your regular garment that you would wear daily or be a treasured possession that you pass on from one generation to another.
The saree is draped over an underskirt that is usually of the same colour as the saree. The skirt is usually made of cotton but more delicate and fluidic sarees can be draped over silk or lycra skirts as well. The topwear is a blouse which is cropped and fitted, with hooks or buttons in the front or the back. While traditional blouses have short sleeves and a plunging U neckline with buttons in the front, the modern saree blouses have cap sleeves or can be sleeveless even, sometimes with tie-ups at the back or a small invisible zipper on the side.
There are numerous styles of draping a saree for the drape style changes from region to region. In the most common style, one end of the saree is tucked into the skirt while the other end, called the pallu is draped over the blouse and hangs loose over one shoulder. The middle portion is folded into pleats and tucked inside the skirt, just below the navel. Getting the drape right takes some practise, but once you get a hang of it, it is an easy job. Women with experience are known to drape a saree within a minute and that too with perfection. With time, you would even know the right places to tug and pull the saree so that your curves are accentuated and your frame looks leaner.
The easiest kind of saree to drape is the chiffon saree that is light and fluidic, making pleating and tucking very easy. Cotton and silk sarees are comparatively difficult to tame, a small price for the unmatched grace that they lend. They also tend to have a lot more character, a quality that can be attributed to the weaving process that goes into making them.
Almost every region in India is famous for its indigenous cotton or silk saree – each unique in its own kind – with myriad weaving styles, prints or craftsmanship. Benaras is known for its extravagant handloom silk sarees. They come with real gold and silver thread work all over the body of the saree, especially the pallu. Another famous silk is the Kanjeevaram silk that is made in the weavers’ town that goes by the same name. Though it is a silk saree just like the Benarasi saree, the Kanjeevaram saree has its own trademark finish – luxurious silk with exquisite zari work in golden colour – either gold thread or silver thread that is coated with gold – that adorns the borders, body and the pallu. The sarees are also different in terms of the kind of zari designs that go on them what with each place having its own unique design language. Not just these, there are many other kinds of silk sarees produced in India that can be differentiated based on the raw material used or the area in which they are produced.
Just like the silks, you can stock up your wardrobe with cotton sarees from across the length and breadth of the country, each with a different texture, print, design or craft that is unique to that location. So on one hand you would find the rustic Khadi cotton sarees from Gujarat, almost-transparent fine chequered weaves from Kota, extremely soft mulmul cotton sarees or vibrant block printed sarees from Rajasthan. We could go on about the sarees that are available in different parts of India but we’d run out of space – such is the variety of offerings in India when it comes to sarees.
Sarees come in all kinds of fabrics, with designs ranging from minimal to extremely vibrant. With embellishments and without them. With border and without a border. Plain, printed, chequered, striped - you name the design and you can find a saree of that kind! What’s more, once you buy a saree, you will never grow out of it for after all, it is a drape! All you might need to do is to change the blouse to allow for a change in size. In fact, mixing and matching saree blouses and draping styles actually helps you put together different looks using the same saree!
A saree is a versatile garment that can be worn throughout the year. Women prefer synthetic sarees for daily use for the ease of use – they are the ‘wash and wear’ kind and quick to dry - which works very well during the rains as well. Cotton sarees are light and airy, perfect for the summers. When there is a bit of nip in the air, a silk saree or a thicker variety of cotton like Khadi can provide you enough warmth.
With sarees, you can actually build a complete wardrobe that spans daily wear, semi-formal wear, formal wear and even festive wear. Once you start wearing sarees, they will become the first thing that you look for to bring back from your travels across the country. Such sarees especially become conversation starters for each will have a story to tell, about which region it belongs to, what kind of work went into making the saree or about how you discovered it. For weddings, bridal sarees are especially popular because of their rich fabrics and the exquisite embroidery that they normally feature - these sarees are usually worn by the bride for at least some of the ceremonies and events.
For those of you who find the prospect of draping a saree too daunting then you can always go for one of the more modern versions of a saree, which have become very popular of late. The saree gown is a hassle free saree-come-gown which can be zipped up instead of draped, and is gaurenteed to stay in place even if you accidently step on a pleat or so. A pre stitched saree is also equally hassle free. The pleats are already made so you don't have to worry about making them and tucking them in yourself. All you need to do is drape the remaining saree material over your shoulder. Both of these options are huge time savers, which still give you that beautiful, dramatic effect that can be obtained with a traditional saree.
Have we convinced you enough about the merits of having a bunch of sarees in your wardrobe? If yes, then head over to our sarees section and feast your eyes on the rich variety of designer sarees that we have on offer. And once you discover the joys of wearing a saree, you will never have to worry about what to wear when you wake up in the morning. If you cannot find anything else, then you will confidently pull out a saree, pair it with a chic blouse, add a statement neckpiece, put on your favourite jhumkas, slip into a comfortable pair of sandals and be all set to take on the day with panache.