"The novelties of one generation are only the resuscitated fashions of the generation before last."
---George Bernard Shaw
Every once in a while, certain folks who make it their business to design impractical clothes, hype themselves into conference mode, and celebrate a fashion week. Or is it fashion weak? Over the years , photos appear in the papers, showing models wearing alternately too much and too little, and walking as if someone has stuck a muzzle into their L5-S1 (tail bone to you non medical types) region in the posterior, forcing them into that convoluted walk.
A look at this page of the Bombay Times of March 7th, 2010 , will immediately tell you, that, having exhausted all the outlandish fashion, with metal straps, feathers, see through and peek through stuff, mismatched trouser lengths, and headgear with nests, and acrylic floating strips, the designers are now all copying the traditional Indian, and just to make it look different , getting celebrities to model it.
While the lady in the yellow frock seems to be wearing something that has been seen in the bylanes of Bandra last year) at probably a tenth of the cost (pre bargaining), the lady in full red with her head covered can be found in any traditional Indian wedding, and Rajasthan. About the celebrated actress on the left wearing a perfectly ordinary saree, let me just say, that someone needs to do something about the blouse. Wearing your overweight, wide-shouldered, grandmother's blouse may suit Serena Williams, but it looks distinctly disabled here, what with the other two kind of propping the sides up.
But then , you have this ! Dhoti Saree, if you please. And while those on the chairs may possibly be desperately computing the dynamic fluid flow of the pleats , I don't know a single mother who would allow her daughter to appear like this at a social function, attended by "nice " folks. And like my household help, K, said as I was typing this, "Ago Baya (=Oh My!), blouse wisarli ka kai ? (=did she forget the blouse ?)".......
The nine yard saree, upon which this is based has a very old history. Sarees go back 5000 years, are mentioned in the Vedas(oldest surviving literature), and the name is based on "Chira" , Sanskrit for cloth. Cotton was grown and woven in India then. Varying in length from 5.5 yards to 9 yards, the saree, is today wrapped in 15-16 different ways, traditionally, in various parts of India. The nine yard saree, something my grandmother wore, lends itself to intricate embellishments, embroidery and gold thread designing, with opulent borders. Particularly in fine cotton and silk.
While the loose wrap of the dhoti/nine yard saree is identical, and very comfortable in a tropical country, the saree involves a section of the fabric, thrown across one or more shoulders in the interests of the woman's modesty, while the dhoti, has no such requirement. Both involve a section of the voluminous pleats, taken between the legs and tucked in at the waist at the back. For a society, where earlier, beauty was all about a narrow waist flaring into a wide bosom and wider hips, this type of saree was a matter of popular choice. Today, traditional religious and social occasions demand the wearing of these , and in some weddings in the south, it is mandatory for the bride to wear this during the ceremonies.
When I was in 6th grade, in school, I attended a daily evening exercise class, where our teachers wore well tucked 9 yard sarees, and came on bicycles wearing those, and performed all the exercises better than us. Of course, only the brave wore swimsuits in pools then, and while we as children were comfortable in swimsuits, it was not unusual to see a lady in a nine yards saree, executing a smooth dive into the deep end of the pool, and freestyling over to the other side, without having any, as they are called today, wardrobe malfunctions. Indian history is replete with stories of heroic stateswoman queens, who led armies, riding at the head , swishing swords, wearing nine yards, all the weaponry, and sometimes, even a child strapped behind her on the horse.
So I find myself totally unimpressed by these designers.
While I may be supremely unqualified to talk about cuts, pleats, bias, fall, and whatever else, I just wondered what would happen, if the real, modest, ordinary-woman's home style nine yard wonder saree, ever became a fashion item .
Have a look :