Discover the Indian Sari
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by Deepika Prakash
from Threads #138, pp. 30-31
The present-day sari dates from the fourteenth century, making it possibly the world’s longest-lasting fashion statement. In India, people of every income level can spend as little as several dollars to hundreds of dollars for this roughly six-yard piece of fabric. A sari is 45 inches wide and 6 to 9 yards long. There’s usually a border that runs almost the entire length. Not just for aesthetics, the border serves a purpose: It adds body and weight to the hem so the pleats hang neatly when the sari is draped. Before the sari is worn, a strip of cotton fabric is sewn to the inside lower border to help protect and weight the “fall”—the section that forms the pleats in the front.
A sari is a flat fabric that’s wrapped, pleated, and draped to form a garment. On one end of the yardage there’s an attached section of plain fabric for making the top worn under the sari. the top is typically sewn by a tailor. The sari is then wrapped around the body and has various sections with borders designed for each particular garment section.
Most draping methods require a petticoat that typically made of medium-weight solid cotton fabric. It ties with a drawstring tightly around the waist, and holds the sari in place.
The long edge with the least ornamentation is wrapped and pleated around the waist and tucked securely inside the petticoat. As this edge is tucked into the waistline, the sari length is adjusted. Later, the pleats tuck into the petticoat as well. then, the “pallu”—the end with the most decoration—is draped to hang from one shoulder.
Put it to work in modern day
Sari fabrics range from sheers to heavy silks and wonderful handwoven cottons, so they can be adapted for many uses.
Special saris you don’t want to cut can make exotic window coverings, especially sheer chiffons and georgettes. Silk saris make elegant bedding and duvet covers, tablecloths, and wall hangings. You can use the various sections in different applications for a unique look. Use the body of the sari as a pillow cover or a bedsheet. If you don’t want to commit to a larger project, make a lampshade from the pallu. When the light – lters through the gorgeous colors of the fabric, it gives the room a romantic hue.
Everyone looks beautiful in saris because they flatter every figure. Some are embroidered and beaded; others are sheer and sometimes brilliantly woven and adorned.
Sari fabrics are often used to make modern garments—even in India. At right, the author dons one of her favorite saris (also shown at left). The encrusted gold band shown below (detail) adorned Deepika’s grandmother’s wedding sari 60 years ago.
In modern clothing, the elaborate sari border can dress up a skirt hem. Add a border vertically to edge a wrap skirt for a flattering lengthened silhouette. Use a dramatic border as a yoke on a shirt or tunic and to trim the side slits and sleeves.
Sari fabrics work particularly well for eveningwear. Make an envelope clutch evening bag from leftover fabric. Some sheer saris have stunning beadwork that make them great for evening and a cocktail dresses or even skirts and halter tops. Printed silk saris make wonderful decorative linings for jackets and coats.
See a gallery of projects made from sari materials and share your ideas at PatternReview.com/sari.
For more information on where to buy sari fabrics, visit or call:
• Binny Silk & Sari House (718-803-3400)
• Regal Traders Inc. (773-973-1368)
Model photo: Jack Deutsch, stylist: Tamara Pang, hair and makeup: Christy McCabe using tarte cosmetics; other photos, courtesy of the author
A sari is a flat fabric that’s wrapped, pleated, and draped to form a garment.
The author dons one of her favorite saris.