Saris For Fun


In a decided shift from its graceful, elegant image, the sari is now fun, providing enough length in its 6 yards for the wearer and designer to experiment freely. 


The sari is changing. Not content with the yardsful of unending material it is assuming new forms. Not limiting to zari or kaseeda in its embellishments, it is experimenting with texturisations. Not satisfied with the state-wise draping styles, it is reinventing new ones, crossing frontiers. And not just happy being draped around ammas it is eyeing nubile daughters.

While the unstitched garment represents a tradition – you can call it Sita Maiya’s legacy and Draupadi’s pride – it also is an evolving outfit. Once a symbol of grace, it is also becoming known for the freedom of interpretation that it offers, both to the wearer and the designer.

Designer Wendell Rodricks commented, “Unlike many heritage outfits, the sari has not become a costume. It is still a part of a tradition of liveable clothes. In India the wearer knows that the sari is the best for her.”

Not surprisingly, then most designers from JJ Valaya to Tarun Tahiliani and Sabyasachi choose to include the sari in their collections every year.

It all started in the 80’s when designer Zandra Rhodes did unspeakable things with the sari, trimming it with crinoline, adding Victorian hoops to it and draping it this way or that.

Today, Satya Paul’s limited edition trouser sari is a rage, Wendell Rodricks has moved on from the lungi, bondage and sarong saris to mermaid cut pleated sari-skirts, Anjana Bhargav is using denim highlights on georgettes.


While ammas may be happy with kanjivarams and benarasis, the beti-brigade cab undoubtedly experiment with the latest versions of India’s oldest garment to create their own sari chic.

The one to really revolutionise drapes and bring them to ramps and baraats alike is Shaina NC. NC has styled 17 ways of draping the saree, one even involving two sarees worn together. A ghaghara saree (pleats spaced out towards the end of one hip and the pallu is worn like a dupatta) is ideal for slim waistlines. A double drape has two contrast saris: one worn like a regular sari but with the pallu on the left side in front and the other pleated at the side with the pallu in front.

Another double drape style has it draped on one side conventionally and the other pleated on the left with the pallu pleated on the right shoulder. She recommends the lungi saree for voluptuous apple shaped figures and a Western saree to be worn with pants (the sari worn like a khada dupatta with the pallu around the neck).

Amongst the traditional Indian drapes it became fashionable to wear the Bangla style sari soon after Devdas.

But the one best suited for those with a figure that deserves showing is the Maharashtrian Nivi style with the free end of the front pleats drawn between the legs and tucked into the back. This style has the distinction of being the oldest sari style depicted on a Shurga terracotta piece.

The palla could be left hanging on the side.

Sometimes, it is wrapped around the neck like a dupatta. The pleats also don’t have to be in the front. They can go on the side while a pleated palla drops in the front, giving the look of a skirt. 

While Rhodes versions were fit for the ramp, Indian designers took it up from there to create wearable pre-stitched saris. James Fereira added pleated insets to the split palla. Hemant Trivedi put Aishwarya Rai in a pre-stitched sari for the Miss World contest.

The idea is simple: Take a sari, choose a skirt style, stitch it folded the right way, add a zipper, leave the top free to be draped over the shoulders and you have a garment which combines the ease of a skirt with the fluid grace of the sari.



Now fashion shows exhibit various versions of the pre-stitched garment. In some the pleats were stitched with crystals for effect, in others the skirt was fitted over the knees in the classic mermaid style with the pallu stitched on.

In his earlier collections designer Satya Paul has used the palla as a drape or a cape or to double up as a blouse. Anamika Khanna twisted the palla into a rope like effect and clasped it at the shoulder with a piece of embroidery. Niki Mahajan gave her sari-skirt a panelled look which is form-hugging.
The sari has moved far away from only Indian embroidery and prints. At the grand finale of LIFW ’03 one of the highlights was the sari Wendell Rodricks showed. In plain classic white, the sari was embellished with surface terxturisations.

While the skirt was iron-pleated, the palla had pin tucks in asymmetric lines. Tarun Tahiliani chose to embellish his frothy chiffon creations with coloured feathers on the palla edging. JJ Valaya added faux fur trimming to the sari and married it to Mexican faux leather fringes.

Crushed, ruched pallas, Swarovski set against jigsaw prints in different tones were also seen.

Malini Ramani showed shaded diva saris with prints as varied as Moghul vases, maps of India and the Indian paisley motif. Net ruffles made an appearance on the edges giving the sari a dress-like flounce.

“It was just a way of having fun,” says designer Puneet Nanda of Satya Paul when asked about branding on the sari hitherto seen primarily on Tshirts.


Which one of your dad’s films is your favorite?

It would be Mera Gaon Mera Desh. It had emotions that were so real. Dad was amazing in it. I would love to do his role in a remake if I could! I think dad also has an amazing sense of comedy as you saw in Chupke Chupke, and pathos as you saw in Satya kam. I said earlier he is one actor who could do any kind of roles, and he never got his due.

People couldn’t see beyond his dazzling looks and physique. But he really didn’t care, because that lack of recognition by the film industry was more than compensated by the adoration and love of millions of fans worldwide.

You should have seen the people when he came for the stage shows in Vancouver – people went crazy, removed their turbans and hats to honor him and gave him a standing ovation. I couldn’t care less if I didn’t go down in the annals of film history as the greatest actor alive. If there is anything that I want, its that kind of love from the masses. 

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