December 5, 2016

by Sheetal Mafatlal

Sari has often been called the most refined form of couture dress. This closet chameleon offers a plethora of styling options, which always make it of-the-moment and relevant in the ever evolving style landscape. It could either be tied with precision, emitting a polished, sophisticated look, or it could be draped in a wildly imperfect style, exuding an incendiary, sexy insouciance. Several decades of Indo-Western fusion have helped catalyse the saris remarkable evolution. Whether you require a pre-stitched version, ideal for an exotic destination, or a colourful  wedding or beach sari, evoking fun visuals, sari have all your looks covered.

I have always enjoyed wearing sari draped in a traditional, pure and unmitigated style. I believe that the soul of the sari lies in its ability to help the wearer add her own unique twist to it, which makes it the most democratic piece of garment that ever was. It accents the right parts, hides the parts you do not want seen, thus making it a flattering piece for all body types. The on-trend net saris are versatile and, if heavily embroidered, can be worn with the basic style drape or open pallu, to accentuate its beauty. The Mumtaz drape (inspired by Bollywood actress Mumtaz of yesteryear) stands out in sheer fabrics like georgette or chiffon. On the other hand, the mermaid style drape works well with a heavy border sari and enhances the embellishments when draped around the body.

Of all the sari styles, I have a particular liking for the timeless and charming sari, lehenga, which has its origin from the South Indian half sari silhouette. The dupatta is draped creating an illusion of a sari pallav. Modern Indian couturiers, like Manish Malhotra, have revolutionised this classic and presented it in the form of an intriguing hybrid, which captures the grandeur of a lehenga and also combines the sexy drape of a sari. Designers across the board have modernised this basic silhouette by using contrasting materials. Highlighting its borders, playing with diverse textures and adding ornate elements like tassels, have all added to its au courant feel. Pallavi Jaishan and Rohit Bal are integral to the revival and modernisation of the sari, whereas Varun Bahl and Suneet Verma, are famed for their modern twist of the six yard wonder.

India is the land of diverse textile weaves, each taking birth from a unique loom, and offering a variety of styles. There is the pre starched Jamdani sari, which is structured and non-conformist; the crushed Bandhini drapes; the nine yards Navvari sari, a draped sari mimicking the bifurcated capri style and finally the simplistic cotton Mundu sari, with its gold border from Kerala. Today the sari is even worn with a bikini, expressing the modern Indian woman on holiday, at a wedding or on honeymoon. Indian designers have infused a healthy dose of irreverence and lightness by reworking the ways in which to wear a sari. Today, it is tucked into a pair of trousers, clubbed with a tennis blouse or even worn with a pair of shorts, also known as a ‘sarini’.

By toying with sari gowns, which beautifully fuse the Indian and Western silhouettes, designers have created another means of incorporating the six yards wonder. Be it one-shoulder or off-shoulder, and at times full surface texturing and beading, the sari gowns have become the metaphor for evening glamour. Luxe labels like Hermès, Jean Paul Gaultier and Marchesa have presented the sari in their own ways over the years. It is no surprise that the sari often ends up becoming a great canvas for weaves: prints, embroideries and embellishments, lending ample scope for experimenting with silhouettes or draping techniques.The fact that one may choose to opt for a pair of sari pants or wear one with a bikini blouse, proves its timelessness and versatility as well as its incredible scope for innovation.