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The Indian Woman's Saree

Updated on March 5, 2012
The variety is endless...
The variety is endless...

The Indian Saree is the traditional dress of Indian women; it is an unstitched piece of cloth, rectangular in shape and can measure anything from 5 to 9 yards in length. It is probably as old as the Indian civilization itself.

The beaded saree and the Bengali Kaantha
The beaded saree and the Bengali Kaantha

It can be a little time consuming and involves multiple pieces of clothing to fit it together, therefore its practicality and usage is on the decline. The newer generation reserves it only for special occasions or where it is absolutely deemed necessary to wear one like when being a part of or attending a traditional ceremony.

Indian women working prior to the nineties primarily wore saree everyday to work and adorned it while travelling or shopping and even during their evening walks. Nowadays to see a lady in a saree at work in India, especially in the corporate sector will lead to a question such as – what is special today?!

The variety of saree designs and materials available in the market are endless. There are some that are everyday wear, some that warrant a special occasion and some that are family heirlooms handed down from generation to generation.

One can find a saree in almost every colour and any pattern , designs can wary from intricate to a plain single colour, some with embroidery and some with block prints, some with beads and some tie and dye. Every state in India has its own unique saree designs to boast of. The type of work would be distinctive and each would have a different name for it.

Some of the famous sarees include the Benares silk, the Bengali Baluchari and Kaantha, the South Kanjeevarams and silks, the Rajasthani Bandhani etc.

A saree can be priced from anything affordable to highly expensive depending on the material used and the type of the work done on it. One can have cottons, synthetics, silks, chiffon, marble, silk cotton etc and the weather would ideally decide which material is appropriate to wear.

The saree is worn with a matching blouse which is basically a very tight and short top. There are numerous necklines and arm and back designs for a saree blouse and one can be very innovative with the same. You can have a sleeveless, a half sleeve or even three fourths and full sleeve blouses. To state a glaring example, a headmistress at an old strict school would probably wear a high neck, long sleeved blouse with her saree and a young unmarried woman attending a friend’s marriage would wear the thinnest strap and deepest back cut saree blouse possible. It is all about your comfort, your fashion style and what you can carry off.

Along with the blouse, one needs to wear a long skirt called a petticoat which is where the main body of the saree gets tucked in. One needs to tie the petticoat nice and tight for the saree to hold on to. You begin by tucking in the saree from one end onto the petticoat and on completing one full round, you start making pleats with your fingers. A bunch of 8-10 pleats (can vary on the length of the saree and your girth) are tucked in together, right in the front and middle of the petticoat. The loose end is then taken along, wrapped around your bottom and brought up onto your left shoulder from under the right arm. This is one of the simplest and most popular forms of wearing the saree called the Seedha Palla. There are a couple of variations to this method. The loose end of the cloth that hangs down at the back is called the Palloo or Palla and many sarees have the most intricate designs on this portion of the saree to flaunt off.

One can pin the loose end of the saree, or let it flow over your arm if you can manage it. Many working women team it with a sweater or a coat to combine a traditional cum western look.

Making it manageable on a busy day at work
Making it manageable on a busy day at work
Some with traditional paintings
Some with traditional paintings
Some describing an Indian wedding scene
Some describing an Indian wedding scene

Once worn a couple of times and with confidence gained, women even ride their two wheelers wearing this outfit.

It is said a saree can make anyone look graceful and bring forth the poise in a woman. The manner in which it is worn and the way one needs to manage it, is what probably makes you take dainty steps and walk with a sway which might seem very charming! Also the way it is worn with pleats tucked in front and a bit of your tummy showing with half a shoulder of only the blouse exposed can effectively make your figure look better than it may be!

It is cool in summers and wrapping the Palloo fully around; warm in winters. It is ideal for the many village women in India who work in the fields and can cover their head from the harsh sun and for fisherwomen who can roll and tuck the bottom half to their convenience.

I wish young Indian women do not give up on the trysts of wearing a saree and sincerely hope this wonderful garment survives the test of time.


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