A nine-yard tale that stands the test of time
No other form of fashion or style is as quintessentially Indian as the saree. The instant someone says “Indian attire or Dress Indian” a graceful saree will inevitably be one of the first images that pop in our heads. It’s no mystery then that the saree has been around, playing its pivotal parts, all throughout our history and heritage. It’s quite easily one of the defining pillars of our culture as a nation. What we explore today, in brief, is how this nine yards of elegance and one-size-fits-all fashion has evolved over the years to still remain relevant and relatable.
It is no doubt that the saree is the ethnic or traditional garment of choice for any Indian. But, the saree is a lot more than just the national costume; it has persevered, transformed, evolved and toiled through ages just like India has. It relentlessly changes to adapt to the ever-evolving world outside but also remains true to its innate qualities. While it is difficult to pinpoint epochs in our history marked by this garment, a little deep-diving into fashion history shows how the saree is a representation of the past heritage and our present trajectory.
There is evidence of the saree being sported as early as the 300 BC where the men and women of Maury and Sunga periods are seen draped in rectangular cloths that cover only their bottom half. It is believed popularly that the two-garment coverage was for the upper class and evidence of this can be seen through art and sculptures from the 7th and 8th century. But as the caste systems began to be shrugged off and dynasties changed making way for a more dynamic and culturally evolved society, the fabric of the saree too evolved.
From the shimmery, adorned garments that were draped in pleats by Hindu women and as dupattas over Salwars by Muslim women, the saree once again transformed under the British rule. The modesty card was played and the now-common blouses and petticoats were introduced for sarees to be draped over. Women embraced these British garments and reinvented the saree in more fashionable ways.
Through the years in our cinemas, our dramas and other recorded cultural media, we have seen sarees become iconic, era-defining garments. From different styles of making and wearing the blouses to the way the pallus are draped, saree has been and still is one of the most versatile pieces of garments.
Fast forward to the new millennium. In a time where progressive fashion and globalisation is the norm, the saree still stands as a preferred look and outfit among many. Global fashion icons recognize the elegance and versatility of it. Through online shopping and widespread media platforms, the saree has been able to reach new levels of audience and appreciation. Women and men alike continue to reinvent the ways of wearing it, transforming the significance it holds in our identity as Indians and enjoying the irresistible beauty it brings out in a few simple drapes.