Culture / Fashion / India

ode to the saree

the saree (otherwise commonly spelt as sari) is a quintessential traditional south-asian garment. for many, it symbolises the eternal grace, beauty and charm of a modest, sensual woman.

ancient folklore has a beautiful way of describing the fabrication of the sari.

the saree, it is said, was born on the loom of a fanciful weaver. he dreamt of woman. the drape of her tumbling hair. the colours of her many moods. the shimmer of her tears. the softness of her touch. all these he wove together. he couldn’t stop. he wove for many yards. and when he was done, the story goes, he sat back and smiled and smiled and smiled.

the saree is actually made up from three pieces – a blouse (often midriff baring), petticoat (underskirt), and a long unstitched piece of material between 5-9 yards in length – the saree. 

at first, the concept of a choli, or blouse, wasn’t part of the saree. stitching clothes was not normal practise in ancient hinduism, and only came with the persians, and was later again revolutionised by the moguls. the saree has evolved right up until this century, where more drapes are coming into use and woman are experimenting with contemporary blouses; but it still remains the oldest unstitched continuously worn garment in the world. isn’t that incredible!

it’s practical, graceful, excellent for the humid climate, modest, sensual, adaptable, and suits every single body shape; every single age, every single woman. you can wear a saree for business, for pleasure, for occasion.


oftentimes, you can tell from where in india or south asia someone comes from by the style of saree they are wearing. there are countless ways to drape your saree, countless weaves, patterns, designs, fabric, and colours which are all symbolic. for example, a saree with fish embroidery may be worn proudly in fisherman villages on the coast of india.

in hinduism, different colours symbolise many different things. namely, it is traditional and considered auspicious and prosperous to wear a red saree, lehenga or wedding suit – just as in england, white symbolises purity and a clean state for the new bride. red is also the colour of love and passion, and related to the planet mars – the planet of marriage.


a bangladeshi bride wearing a red saree

in contrast, white in india is a colour of mourning. traditional hindu wives will cast away all colour from their lives when their husband has gone, choosing to wear instead a plain, undecorated, white sari, just as she will no longer wear her bridal jewellery. isn’t that a beautiful notion?

if you’re interested in desi clothing, why not check out my inspiration collection on pinterest?


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