Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

City's changing trend: The 'Sari' culture

The 6-yard drape, in or out?: THE INDIAN sari is apparently 5000 years old! Dress patterns keep changing almost everyday, but the sari has somehow managed to stay, in one form or the other, because most women in rural India remain unaffected by the changing fashion trends, or for that matter don't even go by what is comfortable for them. Jyotsna Kamat, in her essay on the sari, calls it versatile "because it could be worn as shorts, trousers, flowing gown-like or convenient skirt-wise — all without a single stitch!" And so, the seamless sari has survived, even when there is a large group that argues that the sari is on its way out.

Changing trends: With a woman having to juggle between two worlds, sometimes even more, there is hardly any time left for a woman to painstakingly drape a sari. So, a salwar suit is any day a better bet, just slip into it, and you're ready in two minutes. Nevertheless, sari shops make a strong case for the good old saris, and insist that women are still in love with this six-yard wonder. It is just that now they want textures that are easy to handle and hassle free.
The New Avtars: Some even think that the New Age jobs are a reason for the unpopularity of the sari. With IT companies, call centres, and medical transcription centres taking over the job market, they have not only brought a dramatic change in the job culture, but they have also brought in a change in the traditional dress code. Probably, when one works in an educational institution or a hospital, they are probably governed by a dress code,
"but there is no such binding in the New Age jobs. And therefore, a woman's wardrobe is now full of the more comfy counterparts of the sari — salwar, jeans, trousers, and skirts. Saris are for occasional wear," says Gayathri S.R., who works for a multinational bank.

Some jobs demand saris. For instance, hotels, travel desk in airlines, and some management and marketing organisations insist on saris as it gives the women a more formal look.
The salwar is suitable for those who have a desk job, says Janaki Rameshwaran, employed in a private bus booking office where she has no interaction with customers.
"The moment we are asked to attend to customers, saris are preferred. Women in saris are somehow looked upon with more respectability, even when it comes to difficult customers."
Men at work prefer women in saris because they feel it is a blend of modernity, modesty, and femininity. Salwars are more a casual wear, however expensive the attire is. Even an inexpensive sari draped in elegance looks charming, say a section of officers in a private bank.
The banking and insurance sector has a lot of women in saris. According to them, saris are for office wear and salwars are more of home and casual wear. In hospitals and private health clinics, doctors prefer to wear a sari so as to instil confidence in patients. However, there are young doctors who are seen in salwars as they feel saris are cumbersome.

In a salwar, body flab is concealed. Even when a salwar is crumpled, it can pass off as casual wear. But saris keep women conscious of their figure, according to models. While salwars are popular with working women, they wear saris on formal occasions, says Revathi H.R., who works for aeronautical agency. But in terms of affordability, the saris come in a range of prices, from as reasonable as Rs. 50 to the exorbitantly priced ones. Of course, one cannot get a salwar for Rs. 50! There is a section of women who favour the salwar strongly and say that it is easier to maintain them. The argument does not stop here, there are women who oppose this and give 100 marks to the cotton sari, even though it requires tough maintenance.

As an afterthought, maybe the sari is not so unpopular after all. Didn't Mandira Bedi (and her non-blouses!) get so many viewers glued to the television?

40 comments:

Er. Nidhi Mishra February 4, 2009 at 12:39 AM  

it cant be said that sari culture is out, yes bcoz of indian women joining economic line its had gove down but the culture is still intact

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 12:41 AM  

People can only live fully by helping others to live. When you give life to friends you truly live. Cultures can only realize their further richness by honoring other traditions. And only by respecting natural life can humanity continue to exist

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 12:41 AM  

Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and cruelties; it accepts certain sufferings as matters of course, puts up patiently with certain evils. Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap.”

Puja February 4, 2009 at 12:42 AM  

agree wid nidhi that coz of demand of work n profession n hectic life its less in fashion in professional life but yes its intact in social life

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 12:45 AM  

Thanks to the influence of Bollywood movies with its pretty actresses, I have decided to attempt to sew a sari for my doll.

The Sari from the Indian Culture is probably one of the oldest piece of clothing still worn today. It is a very long piece of cloth which measures about 1m by 5.5m. ( One size fits all!)

Dr. Palki Vajpayee February 4, 2009 at 12:45 AM  

What is wonderful about the Sari is that it is not a costume reserved only for traditional festivals or ceremonies. Irrespect of caste, religion or customs, the sari is still worn by Indian ladies going about their daily chores.

Dr. Neha Srivastav February 4, 2009 at 12:46 AM  

I find that terribly problematic. When you stand up there and ask a group of professional women journalists why they are not wearing a Sari, it is not an individual opinion any more. When you get all preachy about it, and write in the newspapers saying in the decline of the Sari as a attire you see the decline of Indian values and traditions and cultures, you have put the personal in the public sphere. And then, you cannot just get away saying "this is my personal opinion; and if you do not want to agree that is your problem".

Er. Paayal Sharma February 4, 2009 at 12:49 AM  

Good one
btw where is dhotui gone?
isnt dat also traditional wear 4 men?

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 12:49 AM  

Not really! I thnk most women prefer wearing salwars for the convenience, and their so much easier to wear. but sarees are still the favourite when it comes to occasions. It really is one of the most elegant and flattering of outfits, not to mention the splendid shades and textures and fabrics they come in, and that you never grow 'out' of it.

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 12:49 AM  

Sarees are not going lost. We had this episisode at Vico Equance in southern Italy. My wife was dressed in a saree I had a silk kurta. Drivers put their heads heads out of the window to see us & the head of a dicocean sect sent a limosuine to bring us back from Pompeie to have a dinner at his villa and with a warning that if I ever land in Italy without visiting his place I will be picket out from the airport! We had the best Pizza & it was served with the fresh fruits.

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 12:50 AM  

Saree disappearing from India will probably never happen.
But in urban areas it is becoming less and less practicle and not used as much as before.

Dr. Pragya bajaj February 4, 2009 at 12:50 AM  

Wouldn't people 20 years ago have said that skirts/dresses are disappearing from American culture? Granted, we certainly don't have the same styles as the 1800s, but even though women don't wear them so often, they still do for occasions. Until they can make salwar or jeans as sexy as a sari (can't!) women will still wear them, even if only when they especially want to dress up vs. every day.

Ria Taneja February 4, 2009 at 12:51 AM  

Youth clearly has something to do with it; very few of today's under-30 women seem to have the patience for draping a sari, and few of them seem to think it suitable for the speed with which they scurry through their lives. ("Try rushing to catch a bus in a sari," one young lady pointedly remarked, "and you'll switch to jeans the next day.") But there's also something less utilitarian about their rejection of the sari for daily wear.

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 12:52 AM  

Today's younger generation of Indian women seem to associate the garment with an earlier era, a more traditional time when women did not compete on equal terms in a man's world. Putting on pants, or a Western woman's suit, or even desi leggings in the former of a salwar, strikes them as more modern. Freeing their legs to move more briskly than the sari permits is, it seems, a form of liberation; it removes a self-imposed handicap, releasing the wearer from all the cultural assumptions associated with the traditional attire.

I think this is actually a great pity. One of the remarkable aspects of Indian modernity has always been its unwillingness to disown the past; from our nationalists and reformers onwards, we have always asserted that Indians can be modern in ancient garb. Political ideas derived from nineteenth and twentieth-century thinkers have been articulated by men in mundus and dhotis that have not essentially changed since they were first worn 2,000 or 3,000 years ago. (Statuary from the days of the Indus Valley Civilisation more than 4,000 years ago show men draped in waistcloths that Mr KarunanidhIwould still be happy to don.)

Ritu February 4, 2009 at 12:53 AM  

Our culture instead of being an integral part of our lives is being annihilated by our indifference and ‘ignorance is bliss’ attitude. If today I go around wearing ‘chaubandi cholo’ and ‘dhaka sari’, I’ll get shocked stares as if I’m wearing nothing or people will think there is a cultural programme in college and I am dancing. Last week a few of my friends decided to wear ‘the daura suruwal’ on the “The Nepali Cultural Day” being celebrated in our college, though they were not dancing, singing or hosting the show, wearing the attire was their way of celebrating culture. Almost all asked them one single question “Are you all dancing to day?” They were so frustrated that one of them boldly replied, ‘daura suruwal joker ko luga hoina, nachda matrai launey’ (Daura Suruwal is not just a joker’s costume, that you only wear it while dancing on stage). There were others who wanted to join them we decided that we will don our cultural feathers on an ordinary day, so that people don’t ask the same stupid question. Why can’t we wear our cultural attire proudly for a change?

Er. Snigddha Aggarwal February 4, 2009 at 12:55 AM  

What’s the mystery in a sari? We’ve discovered it, rediscovered it, redraped it. Nothing new about a sari for us, anymore. I’ve grown up seeing my mother, grandmother drape it. So, why should a sari excite me

अनु मिश्रा February 4, 2009 at 12:55 AM  

I find it tough to walk in a sari on busy streets of Delhi with your cell phone and purse in one hand and shopping bags in the other. I think youngsters are fast abandoning the sari in favour of more comfortable clothing. It’s been happening for sometime now. That emotional and cultural connect with a sari is just fading away.
Of course, you can experiment with the sari, like dare to wear it with a halter blouse. How many families will allow that? Now, that’s the reason girls don’t enjoy wearing a sari. They’re are working out in the gym for hours, going on diets, just to look good and flaunt their body. I’ve also noticed that a guy won’t make a pass at a girl who wears a sari. It takes me a minute to drape sari but still I don’t wear it more than twice or thrice a year!”

Dr. Aradhna February 4, 2009 at 12:56 AM  

I think sari is the most glamourous piece of cloth. It can do wonders to your curves. When I saw Elizabeth Hurley in a bright sari, I got all excited and curious about this six yard wonder. When I to came India for modelling, I had to wear a sari for a Varun Bahl show, I can’t explain but I felt like a princess in that heavy embroidered sari. Initially, I was very scared, I thought I will not be able to carry it well and fall down

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 1:02 AM  

Youth clearly has something to do with it; very few of today’s under-30 women seem to have the patience for draping a sari, and few of them seem to think it suitable for the speed with which they scurry through their lives

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 1:03 AM  

WTF is he talking about? Try being under 5'4 (what a stretch for Indian women, I know...) and tell me that it doesn't create bulk around your midsection when you tuck it into the petticoat. Never too thick-waisted? Have you ever SEEN an auntie with rolls spilling out everywhere? Yeah very elegant indeed...

Having said all that, like every other female garment ever invented, if you have a hot body, yes, it will drape perfectly and flatter you the way it's supposed to.

Shilpi Verma February 4, 2009 at 1:03 AM  

When I read that article, I was also like WTF, it shows off the mid-riff and if you happen to have extra around the waist, it will show it. I personally just don't think its practical to wear it everyday. I don't think there is any feminist conspiracy behind the decline of the sari, its just practicality that has stepped in. Like that woman said, try catching a bus in a sari...

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 1:04 AM  

don't care whether woman is short or tall, slim or round, black or white or brown or yellow, or orange or green or any color for that matter. Good old Sari will make her look best - if properly worn - period. I agree with Sashi. You know what? Somehow though, I feel that it will survive - say - my be another 5000 years. A man can dream ...can't he?

Shweta Saxena February 4, 2009 at 1:05 AM  

An interesting aspect is how south Asians have held on to their women's clothing tradition longer than that of the males (as mentioned in Anna's blog and other comments). I used to attribute it to the fact that it was exclusively the male population that worked directly for the Brits - hence the early conversion of male attire. I remember umpteen old pictures of grandparents with the male in a 3 piece suit and the female in her grand Kanchipuram.

But I wonder why the same did not happen in Africa. Any takers?

Places like Eastern Europe, Japan, China etc. seem to have had a more gender neutral change to adopt western attire.

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 1:05 AM  

I am a woman who wears a host of different garments (and wouldn't want to be sartorially instructed by a man, particularly not a Stephanian with THAT accent).There are hundreds of thousands of artisans in India who not only make their livelihoods from creating saris but are devoted to it a craft and an art form: it's beyond sad that they receive less and less support from the state and the market. What needs to happen is a real renaissance of our handicrafts traditions, with funds going directly to the artisans, no middlemen -- these are markets that need to be fostered. (Also, it's not entirely true that saris aren't comfortable and functional, though I can see that they're less than attractive in the United States, being somewhat incongruous with snow boots).

Anyway, it seems incomplete to see this as being simply about consumer choice, rather than recognizing the complicated caste and class politics involved when we're talking about handicraft traditions.

Amrita Kumari February 4, 2009 at 1:07 AM  

As a career woman who's been living in India for the past 3 years, I just had to comment.
Sarees are very much alive and kicking today, at least in the part of India I'm from (south India). Like someone said earlier, as little girls we couldn't wait to be old enough to wear sarees. I did my graduation in South India, where sarees are still considered formal wear. We wore sarees to our graduation party,

Mehnaaz February 4, 2009 at 1:08 AM  

someone mentioned that it's indicative of our culture of repressed sexuality to "swathe women in yards of cloth", which conceal their figures, and mentioned salwars as a case in point.
Dude! Have you *seen* said salwars? When you want to look hot, but can't be bothered with the baggage of a saree, there is nothing more sexy than a well cut, figure hugging salwar suit. I don't know how it is overseas- maybe you get less variety?- but in India, you get a rangee of styles for every occassion- casual, formal, can't-be-bothered, night out, yada yada yada, for *every* body type. (I'm starting to sound like a sales girl, amn't I? :))
For example, the sleeves of Anna's blouse in that picture is waaay out of fashion on this side of the ocean. (Sorry, Anna. Other than that, you look simply gorgeous :)) Anyone under 35 opts for itsy-bitsy sleeves, which are *just* on the right side of sleevelessness. At the risk of making sweeping generalizations, some of my N. Indian girl friends even opt for spaghetti straps!

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 1:09 AM  

The Sari is a beautiful garment, along with the many other styles of Indian dress. The problem, the actual undertone of the article has nothing at all to do with fashion. The message is about the fact the WOMEN are choosing for themselves and deciding what is best for them. One can dare say that, the culture has been one of the last final frontiers. I agree that feminism, which per some men- has been blamed for every decision a woman makes without her male heirachy in mind), has nothing to do with it. If Feminism, means that a woman can choose for herself, what is best for herself...then, well...99% of all women would fall under this category. The times, they are not changing...They have CHANGED! Wear it! Don't wear it! Women determine their own code of beauty.

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 1:09 AM  

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saree#Origins_and_history - while the history of draping a long length of cloth is really old, the saree in its present form is relatively new, especially with respect to the choli. Dhoti-wrap type of outfits (sometimes the length of today's miniskirts) are also visible in several south indian temple carvings, usually with bare upper bodies. This is considered outrageous today. It's just an evolution of fashion. We have lehengas which have evolved from the sarees and clothes will continue to evolve. It's not like we are really changing traditions, clothes are just evolving like they've always done for millenia before.

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 1:10 AM  

Yes it is unfortunate that very few Indian women wear sarees these days - irrespective of how the young girls look they LOVE to ape the West (in spagetti straps/shorts and the like) ignoring our centuries old culture - as if the churidar/salwar kameez are very inconvenient for running to catch the bus!! So much art lies behind the making of a saree- the beautiful colours that India has - but the current population prefers 'black' although we are very brown!! and they don't realise what they are missing and losing in COPYING ALL that's wrong in the West.

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 1:11 AM  

I do recall, rather vividly, the moment when I gained this appreciation for saris. It was a birthday party for one of my classmates, and she and the other girls had all turned up dressed in saris. Now, these were girls I had known since kindergarten -- one was used to seeing them as peers, as sexless pseudo-siblings almost, where even the stray thought of a romantic fling would have been summarily dismissed as incestuous. But seeing them there, not in the blouse and skirt of the school uniform, or the tops and jeans that they usually wore, but in gorgeous, glorious saris, was to see a bevy of goddesses, plump and short, tall and skinny, in their prime. I don't believe any straight male at the party was the same thereafter; we had all found ourselves more than a little tongue-tied at the bash, and looked a little shell-shocked when we left.

Prachi Pandey February 4, 2009 at 1:12 AM  

My mom has started wearing cotton saris. She tells me they actually run her in the low 1000's and no matter which of them she pulls out of her closet, I always feel that they are not as appealing. She had such beautiful saris, many of which were associated with once-in-a-lifetime events (the reversible silk she wore to my upanayanam comes to mind). I would have been happier if she had decided, like you, that she would get no new ones and keep the old ones, but alas...

And as far as the principle, although it is a personal thing, I feel that people should have an open mind and research their options.

Priya Talwar February 4, 2009 at 1:13 AM  

Practicality is probably one of the biggest reasons. Women who work find it too inconvenient, time-consuming and uncomfortable to be draping a sari with hectic morning schedules, to be boarding congested trains and buses (without the fear of the sari coming undone in public).

Rashmi February 4, 2009 at 1:14 AM  

The overriding Bollywood influence could be the culprit. Indians almost seem mesmerized and stupefied by Bollywood and the predominantly Punjabi Bollywood culture of the ‘kudis and mundas, soniye and baliye’. Thus the Punjabification of even apparel – women wearing chiffon shararas, gararas at weddings and pushing their Kanjeevarams and dharmavarams to the back of the wardrobes to dole out benevolently to maids for

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 1:14 AM  

Well for Indian women it's not all about the sari. Kashmiri and Punjabi women, for example, don't wear saris at all. Many in the east, like Mizoram, don't either. So I don't know why sari is looked at like the major clothing for Indian women. If we are wearing less saris, it means we are wearing more salwar-kameez, lehngas, kurtas, etc. which are all Indian too. So it is all good.

Anonymous,  February 4, 2009 at 1:17 AM  

A new bride is unable to move from her husband's motorbike as her sari comes undone. A young man wonders how he will cope with e sari's complicated folds in a romantic clinch. A villager's soft, worn sari is her main comfort during a fever. Throughout the book, these and other remarkable stories place the sari at the heart of relationships between mothers and infants, mistresses and maids, designers and soap opera stars.

Lavishly illustrated and rich in personal testimony, The Sari expertly shows how one of the world's most simply constructed garments can reveal the profound complexities of modern India.

Dr.Nishi Chauhan February 4, 2009 at 1:21 AM  

good post n some intresting comments
:-)

Ria February 4, 2009 at 1:24 AM  

despite all debate...a bride will wear sari on ehr wedding day and on family function n social one will still love to put sari on

Its just bcoz of changing fast life its seen less in big cities

Its not going 2 die down -THE SARI CULTURE

magiceye February 4, 2009 at 10:51 AM  

to each one their own...
suppose it would be depend on the occasion.

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