Traditionally a staple in almost every Indian woman's wardrobe, the Sari has long been the benchmark of sartorial tastes. But, it was all fun n frolic as the American Women's Group organised 'Sari Day', with members trying their best to adorn themselves with six yards of flowing fabric.
Last Monday morning, Helen Osborne put a black georgette sari in her bag and set out from her home. Pretty excited, the 32 year old British expat housewife was on her way to learn how to wear a sari – a skill that her Indian friend had told to be as simple as putting on a coat.
It was after 2 hours of toil, however, that Helen was able to tuck, pleat and pin her sari up neatly in a signature Gujarati style.
Rounds of applause poured in for the lady as she flashed in elegance, happy over her task accomplished so commendably. Many others were still struggling to get it right, sometimes from here, sometimes from there.
It was a chic and colorful affair at Mumtaz Mahal restaurant, as the 'American Women's Group' (AWG) organised the fourth edition of 'Sari Day', an event bringing members across the traditional fashions of the Indian bride. "The excitement is very high among the women for this event.
Sari stylesThere are more than 80 recorded ways to wear a sari, each requiring different lengths and forms of fabric. The most common style is for the sari to be wrapped around the waist, with the loose end worn over the shoulder, baring the midriff. The sari is worn differently in almost every state in India.
Air-hostess styleWarming in winter and cooling in summer, the saris are also preferred by women who must be free to move as their duties require, due to its loose, free fall fitting. For this reason, it is the costume of choice of air hostesses on Air India. This led to a professional style of draping a sari which is referred to air-hostess style sari. An air hostess style sari is tied in just the same way as a normal sari except that the pleats are held together quite nicely with the help of pins. A bordered sari is the most perfect choice for an air-hostess style drape where the pallu (loose end) is pleated and pinned on the shoulder.
FolkloreThe sari can be traced back to more than 4000 years. The earliest known depiction of the sari can be seen in relics of the Indus Valley civilisation. A folktale explains the origin of the sari as the outcome of a weaver's fantasy who tried to bring in the shimmer of a woman's tears, the flow of her tresses, the colours of her many moods and the softness of her touch into the fabric he wove.
All round the year, they keep asking when it would be organised. They enjoy dressing up in the Indian garb and getting adorned with all the accessories," said Revati Akerkar Sanzagiri, the organising member, and charity fundraising chairperson of AWG.
The event highlighted the many different types of Sari and their draping styles, and the Solah Shringar (16 adornments) of the Indian woman, which make her "Parineeta" (Complete woman). "Solah Shringar alludes to the ritual whereby the Indian bride is embellished from crown to sole in sixteen different adornments, covering every part of her body, symbolising femininity and fertility," explained Revati. The ritual holds a great significance in Indian culture and is said to correspond to the sixteen phases of the moon (which is believed to have a negative effect on a woman's mood) to nullify its influence.
"Traditional Indian fashion culture is so unique and enchanting. The sari personifies elegance, and exudes distinct feminine aura. It gives you a composed stance making you hold out like a woman", noted an excited Helen Knight, British expat and AWG member, fabulously adorned in a white chiffon sari, and silver armlet embellished with stones.
The accessories were a huge hit with the members, especially the facial ones, including the nose and ear rings and the bindi. Necklaces, bangles, and armlets were also quite in demand. "The whole experience of dressing up like the Indian bride is so captivating, with its detailed attention to overall beautification; so perfectly suave!" said Michelle Andreasen, President, AWG, flaunting her green embroidered cotton sari. She had even dressed her little daughter Isabella in a pretty green and violet sari, with a cute bindi on her forehead.
Henna was another frenzy which the members indulged in, all flashing their own unique dos and designs.
For the ease of the members, an easy 3 step sari draping technique was also taught. Dilani Qasim, a Sril Lankan expatriate and senior member of AWG, said "sari defines the cultural unity of the Indian subcontinent. The garment is woven, structured, patterned, designed and worn differently at every different place, but it is based on the same premise. Not a mere component of attire, it is an integral part of our tradition and entire life."