The Saree: India’s Timeless Gift To Fashion

Beautiful indian woman with very long hair wearing saree in a park

A saree (also referred to as a sari or shari) is a garment worn by women in India. The saree is a drape that can measure up to 9 yards in length. It wraps around the waist and drapes over the shoulder while exposing the midriff. A variety of styles are available, allowing women to choose what is most comfortable for them. Additionally, the saree is often accompanied by a choli, a fitted bodice. In some parts of India, a parkar (petticoat) is also worn.

The Origins of the Saree

The Saree has been a part of Indian culture for thousands of years, dating all of the way to 2800 BC during the Indus Valley Civilization. Sarees were originally made of cotton but silk became more popular beginning in 2000 BC. Various dyes, including indigo, red, and turmeric, were used to give these fashionable articles of clothing a vibrant dash of color.

The word “sari” originates from the word “sattika” which is mentioned in Buddhist and Jain literature. The saree evolved from a Poshak, a three-piece outfit that included a lower garment, a veil, and a chestband.

It wasn’t until the second century BC through the 6th century AD that the choli became commonplace. It appeared more frequently in northern India and is still commonly seen throughout the state of Rajasthan today. 

Sarees can also be highly ornate. Sarees are decorated with much attention to detail, making these pieces of clothing wearable art. From traditional embroidered designs to Swarovski crystal embellishments, the creation of a one-of-a-kind Saree is a delicate process.

The Colors of Sarees

It’s important to note that different colors can be used to signify different events. Most commonly, red is used for wedding saris within the Indian culture. During monsoon season, block-print and tie-dyed sarees are worn, which are referred to as Bandhani.

With the way that fabric and printing have become more mainstream, it’s not uncommon to see more colors and prints than ever before. In addition to cotton and silk, other fabrics like polyester and charmeuse are also common.

Saree Draping as an Art Form

It has been recorded that there are over 80 ways to wear a saree. While it is most commonly wrapped around the waist to keep the midriff bare with the loose end over the shoulder, there are a number of other options.

The way in which a saree is draped will depend on region, family, and occasion. Some of the most common styles include:

  • Nivi
  • Bengali
  • Himalayan
  • Nepal
  • Manipuri
  • Khasi

Some of these styles will crisscross over the shoulders, cover more of the legs, or even wrap through the legs. You can find countless YouTube videos that cover the many different ways to wrap an Indian saree.

Sarees Outside of India

Bollywood is one of the main sources to popularize the saree internationally. However, there are also lots of American stars who have embraced the saree and drawn attention to this glamorous piece of Indian culture. Ashley Judd wore a purple saree to a YouthAIDS gala in 2007 and the Pussycat Dolls wore sarees when they attended the Fashion Rocks concert in NYC in 2008. Selena Gomez even chose to rock the garb when she went to a UNICEF charity event in 2014!

While the saree is still considered an Indian garment, it’s not uncommon to see it worn outside of India. Its beauty and comfort make it an appealing item of clothing around the world.