What to do with a Sari
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I recently purchased five vintage (read: used) saris from an Etsy seller in India. All five are 100% silk, light weight and airy, and in surprisingly good condition (although two have just a few small stains, tears and other marks of wear, which were disclosed by the seller). They’re gorgeous lengths of fabric, 5 yards long and just over 1 yard wide, and I purchased each for under $20. I can’t wait to use these saris!
Now, wearing the sari is no part of my culture, but the beauty of these garments is inspiring. They are made in so many different colors with so many lovely woven patterns and embellishments that it’s difficult to choose just one, which is how I ended up with five. The fact that they are essentially flat pieces of fabric in ample lengths has enticed me into attempting to make something from the ones I purchased.
What will I make? I sew historical costumes for myself, and during my periods of interest–the English Regency and French Directoire and Empire–Europeans were using imported textiles from India to make clothing with an exotic allure. Making a gown out of a sari or a Kashmiri shawl was common. Call it cultural appropriation, if you will, but the results can be stunningly beautiful. So I will make at least one Regency/Empire gown from one of my saris: probably the bright pink with the purple brocade border and pallu (the decorative end). Five yards of fabric is more than enough for this style of gown, I’ve found.
But that leaves me with three remaining (I gave one to a friend, since the color suited her better). I don’t want these gorgeous fabrics to languish too long in my stash. They would make lovely pillows or throws, but I’m not interested in sewing home décor for myself. Perhaps this year’s holiday gifts will all be made using sari fabrics!
If you want to learn more about saris, this earlier Threads article by Deepika Prakash gives a nice overview of the sari’s history and how it is worn.
What would you make from a sari? How do you feel about taking another culture’s traditional textiles or dress and transforming it into something completely different? Consider, for example, how many people don’t think twice about using Scottish tartan for items of clothing or home décor. Tartan has become a mainstream textile and is worn or used in some form by people with no Scottish heritage.