A sari, or “saree,” is full of surprises. The simple 6- to 9-yard length of unstitched cloth offers a limitless medley of colors, intricate patterns, and garment styles. You can drape it, without a single stitch or pin, into 100-plus styles—from elaborate gowns to simple skirts, even trousers or shorts.
Although a sari garment is untailored, the fabric itself is highly structured. Two long borders frame the main field and run the length of the approximately 45- by 216-inch rectangle. A 1- to 3-foot border at one end—called the “pallu” or “pallav”—presents the most decoration and is prominently displayed on the body. The plain end is concealed inside the wrap when worn.
Cotton and nylon saris are worn for common, everyday activities. Hand-loomed silk saris are limited to special occasions, as it typically takes two or three individuals up to 10 days to weave. Gossamer silks, like the one shown here, are so fine, in fact, that the entire length can pass through a finger-ring. Even fancier saris include embroidery, beading, “zari” gold- or silver-dipped threads, or “sheeshadar” mirror work.
Probably the oldest garb in the history of mankind, the sari—which dates back to 2800 b.c.—is traditionally layered over a cropped blouse, or “choli,” and a “lehnga” petticoat. We can only guess that the enduring success of the dress is due to its timeless simplicity, comfort, and many creative possibilities.
Sources Fine Fabrics
Sari, like the one featured on the back cover, can be found at:
To learn more, read:
Photos: Scott Phillips. Text by Jennifer Sauer
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