Classical Ladies' Fashion Design and The Society Changing (5): Indian Sari
Sari is a traditional costume popular in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Burma, and Malaysia, and is considered as Indian national costume. Sari is actually a strip of unstitched cloth made from Indian silk. Generally, the cloth is 5.5 meter in length and 1.25 meter in width with embroidery and piping edge. The whole sari clothing consists of three parts: the upper part is a tight bodice named Jim Poole, the lower part is a long loose foundation skirt named Beidigeer, while the silky cloth wrapped around outside is really called sari, which is generally worn down from the waist to the ankles formed a barret skirt, and the end part was draped over right or left shoulder.
There is no definite theory about where and when sari was from, but it is believed that Indian sari has got the same long history with Indian civilization. The famous poem of Mahabharata described a dress with pearl-type piped edges, which implied that Indian sari has a history of at least more than 5000 years. On some ancient sculptures and murals, archeologists found women characters wearing sari with diverse patterns and vibrant colors, which vividly reflected the real life and aesthetic taste of ancient Indians.
Sari was not really popular in its early time, but was just used for religious rites, and thus was endowed mysterious color. However, during a long changing history, it has gradually become a regular costume of Indian women. There is an old legendary story spreaded far and wide. A young weaver with some note was so skillful at both weaving and fashion designing that nobody at the location could match him. However, he had been troubled in lacking new break-through as he got rich experiences with his business day by day. In one night, he dreamed a weeping woman of exceeding beauty. She looked lonely and the whole body seemed to be circled by silky fluorescence. Her changing face at moments danced with merriment of eternal return, and the long beautiful hair covered around the body like a rainbow-coloured costume, while the elegant body shape looked as smooth and soft as silk. When the weaver woke up, he got a novel idea from the dream. Then, he carefully examined the body shapes of women. Putting together these studies and his own wonderful thoughts, he finally weaved out a brand-new cloth material that only needed wrapping all over the body, then an exotic clothes came out. The young weaver called the clothing "sari or saree". With the amazing of the clothing and the good fame of the weaver, sari became very popular soon and far, which greatly improved the development of Indian silk industry.
Indian people express their unique understanding and pursuit of life, taste, and color. There is a saying, "if the most supernatural idealism is in poems of Tagore (the first non-European and the only Indian to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913), then the most amazing feeling of women is in sari." The special feeling for sari also built a foundation for the development of this traditional costume. In 327 BC, Alexander the Great, the current emperor of Macedonian Dynasty, had invaded into India with his large army. He tried to force Indian women to change their fashion style, but he was frustrated that Indian women kept their custom of wearing sari with no needles and thread needed. In nowadays when western clothes are everywhere, Indian women are inevitably subjected to the trend of shirt, jean, and so on. However, that does not change the mainstream status of sari in the society. For example, the late Indian premier, Indira Gandhi, always wore a whole white sari in front of people.
Sari looks elegant but simple, colorful but decent. It is suitable for almost all occasions, whether prosperous cities or remote countrysides, funerals or weddings, business work or ordinary lives. Even women get fat after married, they will look slim and spiritual with half-open and half-close clothing style of sari. So, world-famous Chinese artist Zhang Daqian once said that sari was the most beautiful costume in the whole world.
There are various sari styles and none completely fixed frame. On happy and celebrating days, women wear their favourite styles, draw traditional auspicious mole and Mendhi (Auspicious mole: a fake mole drawn between eyebrows of women and children. Different color has different meaning, but it is for happiness and luck on general and nowadays usually red; Mendhi: an Indian traditional art of drawing different patterns with different seasons and celebrations on hands and feet.), go on streets, and visit friends and relatives. In old days, the materials of sari could see the social status of wearers. The common people generally wore those rough cotton and flex, while noble women wore soft silk or a good yarn with extravagant patterns by golden or silver threads. Those graceful oriental girls in mysterious sari walk around in those luxurious private gardens, giving an attractive fragrance and dynamic radiance, which seem like flowers in bloom.