Shedding it's traditional image and gaining fashionable currency
Tracing its History
One of the oldest known items of clothing, the sari, sometimes spelled saree, is a diaphanous, draped dress, which has globally raised the sartorial bar. Commonly measuring five yards, it is a sophisticated attire that is both magically and sensual, artistic and vintage, glamorous and timeless. Created from an assortment of fabrics it can be a practical working attire or an elegant ceremonial outfit. Indian Saris derived from the Sanskrit word, meaning strip of cloth, are mentioned in the Vedas, the ancient sacred literature of the Hindu religion, which dates back to 3000 BCE though many believe this garment may have been worn even earlier. The rebranding of the sari has been an organic evolution like other exotic items exported and embraced from India. Be it Yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda, Holistic Healing, Fabric & Craftsmanship, all are now considered mainstream on the international stage.
Saris remains an integral part of everyone’s festive and bridal wardrobe. Even with the popularity of the lehengas (another traditional attire), the Sari continues to holds its own. It’s undeniable, timeless appeal is its elegance and suitability for every body type. Nonetheless, it’s true that many of the younger generation do find it challenging to perfect the drape of the sari in order to feel and look as comfortable in the garment during their special occasions, be it their own wedding, a festival or formal event. Draping plays a crucial part in enhancing the look of the sari and in today’s Instagram world where appearances count, looking flawless in the sari to match the makeup, hair and accessory is beyond key.
Transforming it one pleat at a time
This is where the likes of charming Chhavi Bansal come in. In the words of Chhavi, “by draping the sari well I am able to give a structured, polished look to my client and my biggest compliment is the smile on their face when they tell me how comfortable they are on their special day”. Sari drapers play a very crucial role in enhancing the look of the sari. It is no wonder that sari draping is a separate item on Maharani Weddings! As Chhavi recalls, all this is a long way from the days when mothers and aunties used to help the youngsters and the bridal party get ready.
“There is a science to the art” continues Chhavi in the course of my interview as she reveals how she measures the person’s body shape, height etc. to ensure that fit is perfect when draping the sari. “The goal” according to her, “is to maximize the beauty of the sari, as well as to ensure that it is draped perfectly for the bride’s silhouette especially the hip area so that the pleats are not poufy”. “Brides want to look their best on their wedding day, slender while feeling relaxed and looking elegant”, she concludes.
Chhavi has been in the sari draping business since 2016, flying to destination weddings, having had a fan moment when she worked on the set of Evil Eye, starring Priyanka Chopra! As a newly minted bride she moved to Kenya, where she honed her craft by constantly wearing saris around her in –laws. After that there was no looking back. “I love wearing saris for all Indian festivals”, she says and recalls that she would end up draping them for her friends. Soon after this translated into a full time profession. Chhavi works a lot with Kanjeevaram silk saris woven in South India, heavier in texture with more heft. While this lends them their unique allure, it also makes them rather challenging to drape. Using her repertoire of ironing, some pins, pleating and structured folding, Chhavi is able to create the perfect bridal silhouette.
Chhavi has also demonstrated creative and business agility during Covid, when she began pre- pleating and shipping saris ready to drape. This became a game changer. “It was like I was delivering happiness to them”, says Chhavi with a smile herself. This has meant that she can now ship her “pre-pleated saris”, with pins in the appropriate places, across the country.
Donning a sari is paying testimony to one’s roots, traditional wear reflecting a person’s identity and rooted to their culture. It goes beyond the visual embodiment of grace, beauty and fluid appeal. The sari highlights Indian vintage couture, an intrinsic part of the women’s wardrobe that is suited for all ages. It bears testimony to rich traditions, colors and patterns of the weaver reflecting the many moods of the women. The sari has rightly been called the “apparel that covers all yet reveals all”. The earliest sari drape can be found in paintings, illustrations and temple etchings witness to the fact that femininity and couture are closely linked. No wonder it is my favorite attire of choice, reflecting my personal style, my notion of effortless elegance and timeless grace.
How does the sari resonate with you? Does this bespoke garment’s unique and historical context speak to you? Do share your stories with me on this platform, where we can by the simple task of swapping stories craft a more supportive community together.
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