A sari / saree is the traditional female garment in India,
Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives.
The sari is a very long strip of unstitched cloth, ranging
from four to nine metres in length, which can be draped in
The most common style is for the sari to be wrapped around the
waist, with one end then draped over the shoulder baring the
The sari is usually worn over a petticoat ( pavada / pavadai
in the south, and shaya in eastern India), with a blouse known
as a choli / ravika forming the upper garment.
The choli has short sleeves with a low neck and is usually
cropped, which is particularly well-suited for wear in the
sultry South Asian summers. Office dress codes, however,
prohibit cropped, sleeveless cholis; similarly, women in the
armed forces, when wearing a sari uniform, don a half-sleeve
shirt tucked in at the waist.
The most common style of draping a sari is wrapped around the
waist and the bust then one end is draped over the shoulder.
However, the sari can be draped in several different styles,
though some styles do require a sari of a particular length or
CAN BE DRAPED IN THE FOLLOWING STYLES:
Nivi - styles originally worn in Tamil Nadu; besides the
modern nivi, there is also the kaccha nivi, where the pleats
are passed through the legs and tucked into the waist at the
back. This allows free movement while covering the legs.
North Indian / Gujarati - this style differs from the nivi
only in the manner that the loose end is handled: in this
style, the loose end is draped over the right shoulder
rather than the left, and is also draped back-to-front
rather than the other way around.
Maharashtrian / Kache - This drape (front and back) is very
similar to that of the male Maharashtrian dhoti. The center
of the sari (held lengthwise) is placed at the center back,
the ends are brought forward and tied securely, then the two
ends are wrapped around the legs. When worn as a sari, an
extra-long cloth is used and the ends are then passed up
over the shoulders and the upper body. They are primarily
worn by Brahmin women of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra
Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Dravidian - sari drapes worn in Tamil Nadu; many feature a
pinkosu, or pleated rosette, at the waist.
Madisaara style - This drape is typical of Brahmin ladies
from Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Kodagu style - This drape is confined to ladies hailing from
the Kodagu district of Karnataka. In this style, the pleats
are created in the rear, instead of the front. The loose end
of the sari is draped back-to-front over the right shoulder,
and is pinned to the rest of the sari.
Gond - sari styles found in many parts of Central India. The
cloth is first draped over the left shoulder, then arranged
to cover the body.
The two-piece sari, or Mundum Neryathum, worn in Kerala.
Usually made of unbleached cotton and decorated with gold or
colored stripes and/or borders.
Tribal styles - often secured by tying them firmly across
the chest, covering the breasts.
Sri Lankan women wear saris in many styles. However, two
ways of draping the sari are popular and tend to dominate; the
Indian style (classic nivi drape) and the Kandyan style (or 'osaria'
in Sinhalese). The Kandyan style is generally more popular in
the hill country region of Kandy from which the style gets its
name. Though local preferences play a role, most women decide
on style depending on personal preference or what is perceived
to be most flattering for their figure.
The traditional Kandyan (Osaria) style consists of a full
blouse which covers the midriff completely, and is partially
tucked in at the front as is seen in this 19th century
portrait. However, modern intermingling of styles has led to
most wearers baring the midriff. The final tail of the sari is
neatly pleated rather than free-flowing. This is rather
similar to the pleated rosette used in the 'Dravidian' style
noted earlier in the article.
In Pakistan, the wearing of saris has almost completely
been replaced by the Shalwar kameez for everyday wear, though
it remains a popular dress for formal functions, especially
weddings amongst the Pakistani elite. However, the sari is
often worn as daily-wear, mostly in Karachi, by those elderly
women who were used to wearing it in pre-partition India.
SARI AS CLOTH
Saris are woven with one plain end (the end that is concealed
inside the wrap), two long decorative borders running the
length of the sari, and a one to three foot section at the
other end which continues and elaborates the length-wise
decoration. This end is called the pallu; it is the part
thrown over the shoulder in the Nivi style of draping.
In past times, saris were woven of silk or cotton. The rich
could afford finely-woven, diaphanous silk saris that,
according to folklore, could be passed through a finger-ring.
The poor wore coarsely woven cotton saris. All saris were
handwoven and represented a considerable investment of time or
Simple hand-woven villagers' saris are often decorated with
checks or stripes woven into the cloth. Inexpensive saris were
also decorated with block printing using carved wooden blocks
and vegetable dyes, or tie-dyeing, known in India as bhandani
More expensive saris had elaborate geometric, floral, or
figurative ornament created on the loom, as part of the
fabric. Sometimes warp and weft threads were tie-dyed and then
woven, creating ikat patterns. Sometimes threads of different
colors were woven into the base fabric in patterns; an
ornamented border, an elaborate pallu, and often, small
repeated accents in the cloth itself. These accents are called
buttis or bhutties (spellings vary). For fancy saris, these
patterns could be woven with gold or silver thread, which is
called zari work.
Sometimes the saris were further decorated, after weaving,
with various sorts of embroidery. Resham work is embroidery
done with colored silk thread. Zardozi embroidery uses gold
and silver thread and sometimes pearls and precious stones.
Cheap modern versions of zardozi use synthetic metallic thread
and imitation stones, such as fake pearls and Swarovski
In modern times, saris are increasingly woven on mechanical
looms and made of artificial fibers, such as polyester, nylon,
or rayon, which do not require starching or ironing. They are
printed by machine, or woven in simple patterns made with
floats across the back of the sari. This can create an
elaborate appearance on the front, while looking ugly on the
back. The punchra work is imitated with inexpensive
machine-made tassel trim.
Hand-woven, hand-decorated saris are naturally much more
expensive than the machine imitations. While the over-all
market for handweaving has plummeted (leading to much distress
among Indian handweavers), hand-woven saris are still popular
for weddings and other grand social occasions.
While an international image of the 'modern style' sari may
have been popularised by airline stewardesses, each region in
the Indian subcontinent has developed, over the centuries, its
own unique sari style. Following are the well known varieties,
distinct on the basis of fabric, weaving style or motif:
Kantha - West Bengal
Baluchari West Bengal
Ikat - Orissa
Kota doria Rajasthan
Lugade - Maharashtra
- Chanderi - Madhya Pradesh
Pochampalli Andhra Pradesh
Venkatagiri - Andhra Pradesh
Gadwal - Andhra Pradesh
Guntur - Andhra Pradesh
Narayanpet - Andhra Pradesh
Mangalagiri - Andhra Pradesh
Tangail Tanter Sari
Nepalese women wear saris of many styles. Various saris are
named according to the community and types of saris as well.
Haku patasi worn by Jyapu community of Nepal is one of the
most representative of Nepalese saris. It consists of a black
sari with red margin.
ORIGINS AND HISTORY
The word 'sari' evolved from the Prakrit 'sattika' as
mentioned in earliest buddhist jain literature.
The history of Indian clothing trace the sari back to the
Indus valley civilization, which flourished in 2800-1800 BCE.
The earliest known depiction of the saree in the Indiain
subcontinent is the statue of an Indus valley priest wearing a
Ancient Tamil poetry, such as the Silappadhikaram and the
Kadambari by Banabhatta, describes women in exquisite drapery
or saree.  In ancient Indian tradition and the Natya
Shastra (an ancient Indian treatise describing ancient dance
and costumes), the navel of the Supreme Being is considered to
be the source of life and creativity, hence the midriff is to
be left bare by the saree.
Some costume historians believe that the men's dhoti, which is
the oldest Indian draped garment, is the forerunner of the
sari. They say that until the 14th century, the dhoti was worn
by both men and women.
Sculptures from the Gandhara, Mathura and Gupta schools
(1st-6th century CE) show goddesses and dancers wearing what
appears to be a dhoti wrap, in the "fishtail" version which
covers the legs loosely and then flows into a long, decorative
drape in front of the legs. No bodices are shown.
Other sources say that everyday costume consisted of a dhoti
or lungi (sarong), combined with a breast band and a veil or
wrap that could be used to cover the upper body or head. The
two-piece Kerala mundum neryathum (mundu, a dhoti or sarong,
neryath, a shawl, in Malayalam) is a survival of ancient
Indian clothing styles, the one-piece sari is a modern
innovation, created by combining the two pieces of the mundum
It is generally accepted that wrapped sari-like garments,
shawls, and veils have been worn by Indian women for a long
time, and that they have been worn in their current form for
hundreds of years.
One point of particular controversy is the history of the
choli, or sari blouse, and the petticoat. Some researchers
state that these were unknown before the British arrived in
India, and that they were introduced to satisfy Victorian
ideas of modesty. Previously, women only wore one draped cloth
and casually exposed the upper body and breasts. Other
historians point to much textual and artistic evidence for
various forms of breastband and upper-body shawl.
In South India, it is indeed documented that women from many
communities wore only the sari and exposed the upper part of
the body till the 20th century. Poetic references from works
like Shilappadikaram indicate that during the sangam period in
ancient South India, a single piece of clothing served as both
lower garment and head covering, leaving the bosom and midriff
completely uncovered. In Kerala there are many references to
women being bare-breasted. including many pictures by Raja
Ravi Varma. Even today, women in some rural areas do not wear
cholis. In the privacy of homes, even city women sometimes
find it convenient to drape the sari as a cover-all, without
Indian dressing styles are marked by many variations, both
religious and regional and one is likely to witness a plethora
of colors, textures and styles in garments worn by the
Indians. Apart from this, the rich tradition of Indian
embroidery has long been made use of by fashion designers from
To a foreigner, the powerful attraction is the colorful attire
of the people in India. With globalization, dresses are also
getting westernized. Though the majority of the Indian women
wear traditional costumes, the men seem to be more comfortable
in western clothing.
Salwar kameez is made of a long tunic called a khameez and
pyjama-like trousers drawn tightly in at the waist called
salwar. Salwar kameez originated in northern India, but soon
spread across the country.
Today the salwar kameez stands as the second most popular
women’s dress in most parts of India. The popularity and
comfort of the salwar kameez has reached such stupendous
heights that most of the new breed designers have started
channelizing a major portion of their creative abilities to
give this ensemble a new look. Varying from the ethnic touch
to the cocktail look, the salwar kameez has come to suit all
occasions and what could be better and more creative than
adaptation of embroideries of various countries on salwar
Salwar kameez has many different names. Call it Kurta churidar
or Punjabi suit
churidar is similar to the salwar but is tighter fitting at
the hips, thighs and ankles more like leggings. Over this, one
might wear a collarless or mandarin-collar dress called a
India has been known to have wonderful dresses and costumes
specially Salwar Kameez. Though the majority of Indian women
wear traditional costumes, the men in India can be found in
more conventional western clothing. Tailored clothing is very
common in India, as women's blouses have to be made-to-fit.
Clothing for both men and women has evolved and is keeping
designers busy. The shalwar khameez can be richly decorated or
simple for everyday use. Other styles are closely fitted and
almost like leggings. The tunic can also vary: long and flared
or short and straight. Women today often wear some version of
the salwar kameez when relaxing at home, since the costume is
very comfortable and practical for daily use.
When women wear the salwar kameez, they usually wear a long
scarf or shawl called a dupatta around the head or neck. For
Muslim women, the dupatta is a less stringent alternative to
the chador or burqa. For Hindu women (especially those from
northern India, where the salwar kameez is most popular), the
dupatta is useful when the head must be covered, as in a
temple or the presence of elders. For other women, the dupatta
is simply a stylish accessory that can be worn over one
shoulder or draped around the chest and over both shoulders.
Salwar Kameez helps keep cool on those hot sweltering days, as
it doesn't cling to the body.
In the 1960s, the most sensational fashion discovery of all
times hit the West - the mini. The skirt went an inch above
the knee and then higher and higher till there was nothing
left to the imagination. The Indian woman was not as daring,
but the kameez did sneak up quite a few inches above the knee.
The salwar kameez adapted to fashion changes in the West in
terms of cut, length and hemlines. It was a long journey for
this peasant attire from the fields of Punjab to the fashion
capital of India, Mumbai.
The kurta by now had reached just below the hips. Other
innovations that followed the churidar kurta were the lungi
kurta and ghagra choli. Sometimes the kurta was worn with
bell-bottoms or denim pants. All these innovations that
revolved around the kurta made it the most versatile garment
of the 1960s and 1970s. By the end of the 1970s the salwar
kameez and churidar kurta learnt to co-exist with variations.
Printed salwar kameez
Short kurta pant
fusion of styles in Indian clothing and western clothing
resulted in Indo western salwar kameez. These lady’s salwar
kameez suits are specially designed to give western look with
Indian tradition. An Indo western salwar kameez suit may have
a sleeveless top and a salwar. Indo western salwar kameez
suits also come in spaghetti straps instead of sleeves.
Designers have pioneered the concept of blending ethnic ethos
and international trends to give a modern and trendy look to
contemporary Indian women
The cliché that dressing is done to please others has become
passé. Today's generation wears clothes to please themselves.
Even designers belonging to the younger breed carry the same
chip on their shoulder. "Designer inspiration varies with
attitude and the 'in thing.' Detailing is important. Today's
generation wants to show off their body without appearing
obscene," says NIFT graduate Gunjan Karmakar.
WEAR SALWAR KAMEEZ :
The casual salwar kameez are wonderfully comfortable,
ideal for the long hot Indian summer. Available in designs
ranging from ethnic chic to traditional, to modern prints, in
a wide range of fabrics. Many kurtas are free size, and with
their flowing lines, are wonderfully flattering for the fuller
figure. Women of all sizes can wear these outfits with
confidence, knowing they will turn heads everywhere they go.
Cotton is the best salwar kameez as casual wear. They are
cool, flowing and elegant. Fancy shalwar kameez are suitable
for any occasion, casual or formal.
Traditional salwar kameez are the ideal dress for going to
temples, birthday parties, and eveningwear, while working at
home or office.
WEAR SALWAR KAMEEZ:
Party wear salwar kameez are made up of a silk, satin,
crepe and georgette fabrics, can be worn on festivals or other
celebrations. Feminine and graceful, the Indian Party wear
salwar kameez is decorated with embroidery and mirror work.
The dupatta is also in festive colors and has gorgeous
Indian Party wear salwar kameez suits come in many different
styles. People prefer Party wear salwar kameez in silk, satin,
crepe and georgette fabric embroidered with as many as eighty
panels with ornate embroidery and mirror work. Many could
afford more intricate brocade, tanchoi and heavy satins even
with real gold and silver embroidery, studded with precious
Embroidery beautifies salwar kameez. Embroidery, like every
other art form, needs to be understood to be fully appreciated
and enjoyed. Insight of the principles not only creates the
urge to "paint" with needle and thread but also gives one the
knowledge that enables a more keen perception of the old
masterpieces as well as modern day pieces. There are no fix
shapes and sizes of embroidery. It may vary from inches to
PRINTED SALWAR KAMEEZ:
Indian salwar kameez suit is one of the most successful
evergreen attire of Indian sub-continent. Indian salwar kameez
suits are available in many types. One of the famous types is
Printed salwar kameez. Different type of printing is done on
fabrics like cotton, crepe and chiffon. These fabrics are very
comfortable for daily use.
Printed salwar kameez looks very pretty. It is not necessary
that both salwar and kameez have to be printed. Most time it
is the kameez, which is printed, and the salwar is in contrast
Generally printed salwar kameez are available in sets. The
sets consist of kameez, salwar and dupatta.