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About Saris (Sarees)
A sari (also spelled saree) is the traditional garment worn by many women in the Indian subcontinent. The garment is known by different names in various Indian languages; in Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi, it is known as sadi in Kannada as seere; in Telugu as 'chee-ra and in Tamil as podavai.
The sari is long strip of unstitched cloth, ranging from five to nine yards in length, which can be draped in various styles. The most common style is for the sari to be wrapped around the waist, with one end then draped over the shoulder. The sari is usually worn over a petticoat (called lehenga/ghagra in northern India and pavada/pavadai in the south) and a low-cut, short-sleeved, midriff-baring blouse known in north India as a choli.
Styles of draping
The most common style of draping the sari is wrapped around the waist, then one end is draped over the shoulder. However, the sari can be draped in several different styles, though some styles do require a sari of a particular length or form. The French cultural anthropologist and sari researcher, Chantal Boulanger, categorizes sari drapes in the following families. Each family may contain many, slightly different styles.
Types of saris
Though each region in the Indian subcontinent has developed over the centuries its own unique sari style, the following are the well known varieties, distinct on the basis of fabric, weaving style or motifs:
In Pakistan, the wearing of saris has almost completely been replaced by the Salwar kameez for everyday wear. According to many observers, the sari has lost favour in Pakistan since it is seen as being associated with India. However, the sari is often worn by the elderly, and to formal events.
Sri Lankan saris
Sri Lankan women wear saris in many styles. However, two ways of draping the sari are popular and tend to dominate; the Indian style (classic nivi drape) and the Kandyan style (or 'osaria' in Sinhalese). The Kandyan style is generally more popular in the hill country region of Kandy from which the style gets its name. Though local preferences play a role, most women decide on style depending on personal preference or what is perceived to be most flattering for their body.
Contrast this example of a Kandyan style sari draping with what Sri Lankans refer to as the ' Indian style'. The Indian style generally consists of an uninterruped flow of sari fabric over the stomach and shoulders. The traditional Kandyan (Osaria) style consists of a full jacket, covers the midriff completely, and is partially tucked in at the front as is seen in this 19th century portrait. However, modern intermingling of styles has led to most wearers baring more of the midriff. The final tail of the sari is neatly pleated rather than free-flowing. This is rather similar to the pleated rosette used in the 'Darivian' style noted earier in the article. Here is another example of a Sri Lankan style of draping the sari.
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