I have great respect and admiration for Indian fashion and one of my particular favorites is the Indian sari.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Indian Sari Silk

Traditionally the silks for the manufacture of the Indian Sari cloth are manufactured from the cocoons of the mulberry silkworm (Bombyx mori) raised in captivity. The silk produced is woven from a continuous thread which is unravelled from the cocoon before the moth has emerged. Keeping the thread intact produces a strong light cloth with a reflective sheen which can be dyed with the rich vibrant colours desired for the Indian sari. Unfortunately the silkworm pupae die in order to keep the cocoons whole.

For hundreds of years wild silks have been produced in limited amounts but, because the cocoons are damaged by the emerging moths the silk threads are much shorter and the cloth produced is thought to be of an inferior quality. Through the ages the rich have demanded the elegant sensuous fabric produced from the farmed silkworm cocoons; it has been the fabric most associated with wealth and success.

The Ahimsa silk is a soft, luxurious breathable fabric which looks every bit as beautiful as the traditional sari silk but perhaps with less sheen.

A sari fabric has been developed by Kusuma Rajaiah which can be made without killing silk worms. The fabric is called ‘Ahimsa silk’, it has been in production since 2001 and it is already in great demand in the US, Europe, Japan and Australia. There is an interesting article about it in the Deccan Herald. The article reports that Ahimsa silk has yet to grow in popularity in India. I believe it lacks the rich lustre of traditionally produced silks but it is beautifully soft to the touch and luxurious to wear. To animal lovers and those who may be ecologically minded, the luxury of having the smooth shiny silk Indian sari is perhaps not as important as the preservation of the silk worm. I suppose, for others, it will eventually come down to personal preference.

As an alternative to silk there are now some beautiful fabrics available which have their own unique look and luxurious quality. For an elegant accessory to any party outfit look at this Sari Wrap in patterned georgettes self designed fabric.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Shoes for the Indian Sari

Shoes to wear with the Indian Sari

To really accentuate the flowing folds of the Indian Sari you should only wear authentic Indian shoes with it. There are of course numerous ‘westernised’ styles available but once you have seen the hand made leather Indian Khussa/Jutti shoes nothing else quite has the same appeal. I saw these beautiful examples at Farida’s Passions it is worth a look, they would compliment the finest Indian sari.

As with the Indian sari the Indian shoes differ in style from region to region.The Punjabi Juttis take their name from the state of Punjab where they originated; they are now available in shops all over the world. Their craftsmanship reflects the intricacy of a finely decorated Indian sari; they are often embroidered with coloured threads incorporating beads and pearls. These soft leather shoes are usually slip-ons with a flat heel and with backs coming high up the ankle. The heel is mirrored in the front of the shoe as it flows over the foot finishing at an elegant toe.

The traditional footwear of Rajasthan are the Mojari which look distinctly royal and are renowned for their comfort. They are made from a wonderfully soft light leather which moulds to the shape of the foot; the more they are worn the more comfort they give.

The district of Kolapur is where the hand made Kolhapuri Chappals originated, these are the popular sandals so often worn by western women. They are extremely versatile and as well as being worn with the Indian sari they compliment the Kurta beautifully; in the west they don't look out of place simply worn with jeans.

You can indeed wear any shoes with your sari but when you look at the styles of shoes that are traditionally made for the garment it is hard to consider wearing anything else. These unusual shoes can be seen at Maple Clothing, they would add to the beauty of any Indian sari and at the same time would be flattering and comfortable for the wearer.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Indian Sari Accessories

Accessories in Indian fashion, are used in the same way as they are in any culture, to adorn the wearer and to help transform a garmet into one suitable for the occasion. We use accessories to accentuate the desired qualities of the Indian sari in exactly the same way a student would use belts and jewellery to dress up a pair of denims to create the right look for a formal gathering.

Some traditional Indian jewellery can however have a religious or a specific cultural significance. In certain Indian communities a gold or glass bangle is worn by a married woman to safeguard the well-being of her husband and sons. The designs adorning the bangles, as with the decoration to the Indian sari cloth, is often taken from nature, the stars and the moon.

Toe rings were traditionally worn on the second toe of either foot. They were believed to be an important accessory to be worn by married women
. They continue to be worn to accessorise the Indian sari but are also now regarded as trendy and stylish jewellery by women of all ages.

Nowadays, toe rings are particularly popular with western women and internationally they are worn as a high fashion accessory. They are worn in the west singularly or in multiples of odd and even numbers while in India they are usually worn in pairs.Toe rings are, as seen in the picture, adjustable and can be made of gold, silver or an alloy. They are usually decorated with natural forms and I have seen some beautiful examples of enamelled rings. I expect the enamelling causes the ring to be less pliable but the effect of the colour is striking.

Anklets are another item of jewellery often worn with an Indian sari. For a long time they were made from silver or brass but as they too have become more popular they are produced as items of designer jewellery in more expensive metals and adorned with intricate decoration. Although we think of anklets being of traditional Indian origin, they also had specific spiritual and cultural significance in
Egypt and the Middle East.

I must make a reference to the beautiful matching necklace and ear ring sets; the Indian kundan jewelery worn by the bride and bridesmaids at a wedding. There are some fantastic immitations available equally as elaborate as the real thing. I saw these at Fusion Jewels. They would flatter any indian sari. They range from being very intricate and multi-jewelled to being quite modern in appearance and of a more classic design.

Other popular accessories worn with the Indian sari include the intricately decorated hand bags. These are embroidered often with beadwork which can incorporate pearls, precious metals and other jewels. The bags can be bought in complementary colours or matching colours to the sari cloth; the different elements of the outfit, sari, jewellery and bag, appear to have been designed as one.

To read more about traditional Indian jewellery, its history and origins and to get some great ideas on complimentary accessories for your Indian sari go to Indian gifts and handicrafts.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Wearing a Red Indian Sari

Would you wear red, would you wear an Indian sari or would you go one further and wear a red indian sari. In western culture you may need to be a confident woman to feel comfortable wearing a red indian sari yet in the east it is one of the most popular garments for a women to wear even on her wedding day.

Throughout history eastern women have always worn red with grace and elegance. In the north of India red is a colour symbolizing auspiciousness and is worn in the hope it will bring future good luck and success.

In the 1800s, during the reign of Queen Victoria, to wear red was distinctly frowned upon. Red was once a colour symbolising wealth and luxury in England but it became a colour which would only be worn by loose women. It is only relatively recently that European women have begun to adopt red again.

The women of America are also now being more creative; choosing to marry in red and also choosing the Indian sari as their wedding garment. A wedding dress like the one in the picture would certainly make your wedding day a day to remember.

Western women are not only getting married in the Indian sari, it is now being worn more and more as an every day garment. The sari can be dressed up by choosing a cloth with rich colours and complex designs or by adorning it with delicate jewelery to accentuate the flowing lines. It is also possible to dress down a sari by going for the simpler draping styles and by opting for the plainer fabrics. Whichever way you wear it and whatever colours and designs you choose, the Indian sari is definately a very flattering garment for any woman. You can see this in the following youTube video; I hope it inspires you.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

The Contemporary Indian Sari

Throughout history the west has endeavoured to have an influence on eastern culture and especially their fashions. This was apparent during the reign of Queen Victoria, when India was regarded as the jewel of the British Empire. The prudish Victorians could not help but try to dictate how the Indian sari should be worn. This was mainly to spare the blushes and uphold the moral standards of the English gentry and of course the young Queen herself. It was felt Indian ladies should be suitably attired to protect their modesty.

Apparently before the arrival of the British, the Indian sari was worn without the blouse; there was only the sari cloth itself draped around the lower body exposing the woman’s upper body and breasts. This story is somewhat controversial and other people have pointed out that there is evidence to the contrary as artworks show the Indian sari being worn over breast bands and with shawls.

In some areas of southern India documentation shows that women in many of the rural communities, up until the early 1900s, donned the sari as a lower garment worn with a head shawl leaving the breasts and midriff naked.

Today we can see, in all walks of life, evidence that in fact the east is having a far greater influence on western fashion than we seem to think. It is almost commonplace now to see celebrities wearing the Indian sari not only to attend important functions and social events in high society but also, in many western cities, women are seen shopping, taking children to school or hurrying to places of work, their chosen dress being the sari.

This picture shows Shirley McClain in a beautiful sari it looks more than appropriate for any social occasion.

The modern designers cleverly give consideration to the western woman’s life style and expectations when they create their works of art. They manage to maintain the traditional beauty of the Indian sari but also compliment it in a way that allows it to evolve with the times.

Sarah Brown the wife of the British Prime Minister, makes a good effort at being glamorous.

Here Gauri Bajoria shows “a sense of sophistication with a playful feeling for day wear”. You can see more at Sunny's Sari Dreams web site

This design from the house of Satya Paul is called “Exotica”.

As you can see, there is not only originality in the modern colours, fabrics and and designs, the way the indian sari is draped adds infinite variation to the garment.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The Art of Decorating the Indian Sari

The methods used to decorate the traditional Indian sari have inspired many beautiful arts and crafts now used in both fashion design and in decorative works of art all over the world. Batik, tie dyeing, painting and printing on fabric have all been used for hundreds of years to create the luxurious decoration seen on the sari cloth.

The wall hangings above are batik works of art and below is a contemporary creation using painting onto velvet; it is also popular to paint directly onto cotton and silk. The themes for the paintings are generally folk lore and religion; these themes are also reflected in other forms of art like jewelery making, beading and leather work. The Indian embossed and dyed leather bags are very popular in western fashion especially with the younger generation.

Of course the more expensive the cloth of the Indian sari, the more elaborate the decoration. Representational woven motifs in the shape of flowers, figures or simply geometric shapes are created as part of the sari cloth. The weaving itself is often done using different coloured warp and weft threads to create an ornamental border. Gold and silver threads are used to decorate a more luxurious sari, this is called zari work. It doesn’t end there; more decoration is added after the weaving process; beading and embroidery are used to highlight further detail.

With the introduction of modern fibres and techniques the Indian sari can now be produced much more quickly on mechanical looms. These cloths do not need to be starched or ironed and because of the polyester, nylon, or rayon content, crease resistant saris can be produced. Decoration is also done by machine but the process itself limits the complexity of the design and simplifies the decoration. Progress is not always a good thing.

Hand-woven, hand-decorated Indian saris are of course very expensive and the machine imitations are relatively cheap. The high quality hand made Indian sari is still popular for weddings and other grand social occasions.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

The Indian Sari - A Stunning Wedding Dress

A friend of mine wanted an amazing wedding dress, she couldn't’t find the dress of her dreams so she looked at the Indian sari. Believe me, she was far from disappointed. The fabrics, colours and textures could not be matched by any traditional western wedding dress; not which she could afford anyway. The one she eventually bought was not as classy as these but it was still pretty stunning. I found these pictures at "All Things Bright and Beautiful" ,

and I just can’t stop looking at them, they are absolutely beautiful.

Traditionally the Indian sari was made from silk or cotton. The more affluent women wore finely-woven, diaphanous silk saris. I heard that these were so delicate they could be drawn through a wedding ring. Poorer people had less choice they had to settle for a coarser cotton sari but all saris allowed the wearer to express an element of individuality and unique style by the way they draped the cloth.

I was surprised to discover that there is an institute of draped clothes which studies and helps to keep alive the art of draping the Indian sari. I believe it is quite a skill and there are over 100 different ways to drape.

Chantal Boulanger, a cultural anthropologist, devoted much of her life promoting the art of draping.

If your interested in the art of draping you may like to have a look at the - Institute of Draped Clothes.

The different areas of India have each devised their own particular styles of the Indian sari. They have different types of thread running through the cloth and their own distinctive colours and motifs. Each region also developed a few stitches unique to their particular style. These motifs are often representations of nature and religion and sometimes depict the lives of the ordinary people of India.

The Indian sari has been utilised as a canvas for religious embroideries; these represent religious organizations and the royal courts. In the past hand embroidery was a revered art in its own right; it had patrons just like other art forms. The beautiful embroideries created made use of gold threads known as zardosi, chikankari, kasuti and kashmiri.

Many arts and crafts have evolved as a result of the varied and beautiful decoration of the Indian sari.

If it is was too expensive to weave coloured threads through the cloth, the sari was decorated by a process known as block printing; a technique of printing onto cloth using carved blocks of wood and vegetable dyes. Tie dyeing or bhandani and batik were also used.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Indian Sari

The Indian sari is a fantastically versatile garment and at the same time it's elegant and beautiful; wearing a sari you can’t fail to turn heads. I love the fact that it can be worn by women of all shapes and sizes; it masks any imperfections giving the wearer an air of femininity and grace. Just look at its track record, it has been worn for thousands of years and will probably continue to be worn for thousands more.

The Indian sari is made up of a continual length of cloth usually four to nine metres long depending on the style in which you want to drape it. I think this has only been surpassed by the Japanese kimono which can be up to 15 metres in length. The colours available are innumerable and range from delicate creamy pastilles to vivid vibrant shocking shades of pinks and purples.

There must be over 100 different ways of draping a sari; just think you could create a different dress for every day of the year. The method most often adopted by the women in India involves wrapping the sari around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder (pallu); it then crosses over covering the chest. The length of cloth continues round and down to wrap over a petticoat, it is then pleated and neatly and tucked and draped around a blouse.

All around the world India is renown for its fashions and not least for the classic styles of the Indian sari. Indian fashions reflect the remarkable culture and heritage of the country bringing together a rich mixture of different castes and religions.

The younger generation are now greatly influences by western trends; they demand a new and fresh approach from the fashion designers who manage to successfully marry the traditional styles with modern influences creating unique and innovative fashion statements.

However they do continue to preserve the beauty and mystique of the Indian culture. If we look at what is happening in western fashion, we see evidence of the influence modern Indian sari designs are having on the western fashion scene.
India shares the same stage as the top designers of Milan and New York