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The magic of the sari
by Aradhana Sinha

MY NEWLY ARRIVED maid looked askance at the woman who came to pick up the garbage, ‘Is this how women dress here? Don’t they wear saris?’ Coming from the east, where sari is still the dress for women, specially for married ones, her question was justified. It was a bit of a culture shock for her. But those living in the metropolitan cities no longer raise their eyebrows at such form of dress.
   The sari, for long the traditional outfit of the Indian woman, is giving way to salwar-kurta (a kind of pyjama worn with a long shirt). Western clothesdresses, skirts, parallels, specially jeanshave always been popular among the teeny-bopper crowd, but, today the Indian working woman, too, is opting increasingly for such clothes. Comfortable and easy-to-maintain as they are, they score over the sari in these areas.
   And, this is not the tale of a single class alone.

A recent questionnaire in a leading Indian daily on what husbands would do to make their wives feel special listed buying a sari as an option.

   Ritu, married to the owner of a flourishing transport agency has bought two saris recently but has found the occasion to wear only one till now. Paru, a government officer’s wife, rarely wears a sarimaybe once in three months or so. Yet, the sari never goes out of style.
   ‘A sari,’ opines Krishna Aroop of L’Affaire, a well-known sari shop in New Delhi, ‘would remain a special dress for us (Indians) always.’
   Sari still means special. A recent questionnaire in a leading Indian daily on what husbands would do in order to make their wives feel special listed buying a sari as one of the options. Indeed, some saris, like the embroidered chiffon, have been popular since the time of our grandmothers. To quote Rajeev, the proprietor of another leading sari store in the capital, ‘Chiffon with embroidery has been in fashion for the last 50 years.’
   India has a long tradition of woven saris. Indian weavers have been working tirelessly on their looms for generations, weaving tortuous months, even years, into one sari, patterning symbols of good health, peace and prosperity.
   Take the Baluchari from Calcutta in east India. It tells the tale of Sita’s wedding to Lord Ram. This is part of the well-known Indian epic, Ramayana. The Bomkai from the coastal state of Orissa in the east generally has small fishes woven onto the border. Fish symbolizes prosperity and good health.
   Talking about the changing trend, Ravi Nanda, who has owned a shop in an upmarket area of New Delhi since 1968, comments, ‘The change from sari to other outfits has been gradual, but it seems all-pervasive now.’ It is one of the major reasons why Nanda only sells exclusive saris meant mainly for the evening or for formal occasions like marriages. The grace of the sari being unmatched, it stands out as a formal wear with even young girls opting for the sari while dressing up for the evenings.
   Yards of flowing grace which capture the sheer magic that is India, combining the best of classicism with modern motifs and designs. That is the sari. And it remains special.

A R A D H A N A   S I N H A

Aradhana Sinha is Lucire’s New Delhi correspondent.

Sari links

Lucire reader and Lucire StyleTalk member Marguerite Nabinger Winfield found some great sari links for fellow readers.
   Check out a very useful site from Gagan at There are some fabulous sketches at this site, plus instructions on how to wear a sari.
   An excellent site with high-quality photographs is In addition,, and are also worth browsing.
   Chantal Boulanger has done some serious research on historical sari folds and has written a book about it. Her website is at She has some other work at
   For our Dutch readers, visit this link.
   We'd like to thank Marguerite for all her hard work. If you wish to join her lists, visit

Say it with flowers

Ruchika Modi brings a floral slant to traditional fashion garments, writes Aradhana Sinha

THE BEAUTY lies in the freshness. So does the uniqueness.
   Thanks to Ruchika Modi, we now have another way of saying it with flowers: choose from a whole range of fashion garmentslehengas (long, flowing skirts), dupattas (big scarves), saris, blouses and stoles.
   The young designer, based in New Delhi, has started a range of "embroidery" with fresh flowers. For a bridal veil, designed recently, Ruchika used 5 kg of white jasmine buds stitched together with barely a gap of half an inch between each bud. In order to maintain the feel of there being nothing but flowers, she uses only transparent or translucent fabrics.
   But more important than the fabric is the preserving the freshness of the flowers. For this, Ruchika takes special care. She is ready with all the raw material as well as the workers needed for making one garment. This work is labour-intensive and requires skilled hands. Ruchika prefers women who have been making flower garlands for ages.
   Once delivered, the flowers are kept in ice-boxes. During the stitching process, only a few are taken out at a time, the "fabric" made and the whole immediately put back in the ice-box. Once the jaali or the net of flowers has been woven, Ruchika then cuts it into the required size and tacks it on the garment. The tacking part is done only a couple of hours before the person wants to wear the outfit or else, points out the designer, the entire effect would be ruined. Aradhana Sinha

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