Sunday, March 07, 2010

Resuscitated Fashions in 9 yards......

"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 :


  1. I love it! And your last photos are such a hoot!!! While I think the saree is beautiful, I'm afraid I would fall on my face before I had taken ten steps. But the fashion world in general holds little interest for me anymore. These days I just want to be comfortable and well covered! Hope you've had a lovely evening!


  2. That was so funny. I totally agree with you about some of the fashion that is doled out these days. Some are so impractical, some so ugly, and I wonder if they are discarded immediately after the show.

  3. Very funny and draping celebs ib 9 yds. was simply wonderful.

  4. And there is this nonsense about wearable range and nonwearable range of clothing which fashion designers talk of.
    werable range is a surruptitious variance of traditional style dressing while
    non wearble range is their own confession about their creation which includes use of plastic, newspaper,styrofoam, teflon,polypropylene, polyethelyne.....
    My husband's granny still wears 9 yards saree and takes pride in telling that Jhansi ki rani wore this in her final battle against English .

  5. Learning how to wrap a saree was something I tried but never did right and I went online trying to figure it out after my husband brought me home the requisite length of silk from a business trip to Singapore. It is beautiful and I admire how it looks on women but it is not an easy thing to figure out based on diagrams. I do a lot of wrapping of shawls into skirts but they are mush simpler.

  6. That was indeed some level of imagination at work !

    I have always been taken in by 'crisp cotton saree' as my mother would call it ! And the missus has taken a liking for ! :)

    I guess it requires a certain elegance and grace to carry that and walk on the roads of heat prone Mumbai ! Or for that matter..Madurai.

    Walking up and down a narrow ramp where the only heat comes from the flash bulbs of clicking cameras.... wont 'forgetting the blouse' make it a little cold !

    Well..well.. those ofcourse are matters that are unnecessary ! :)

  7. great read!!...and the pictures at the bottom out-of-this-world!

  8. wow...this is so good, and music to top it! Loved the blog...u are so right. Fashion is now a commodity with scarce being the in word...
    And the last pictures, hillarious...I can't stop laughing!

  9. LOL! That was hilarious! And the pictures so apt :)

  10. Great piece! I confess, I cannot understand today's fashions. No one who has to actually do any kind of work could wear them!

    The celebrities in nine-yard sarees are hilarious!

  11. Great piece! I confess, I cannot understand today's fashions. No one who has to actually do any kind of work could wear them!

    The celebrities in nine-yard sarees are hilarious!

  12. I loved it. Old things have a way of returning. I simply loved those photos where those 9 yard is sported.Nicely wriiten

  13. I would love to see a video of how a sari is wrapped. What part of the anatomy is covered first? It must be an art taught from mother to daughter at an early age.

    Is there no stitching at all? And if it goes between the legs, what happens when nature calls?

    However a sari is constructed, the final result is a beautiful garment. The one Hillary is wearing may be the exception. ;-)

  14. Oops - I spelled saree wrong. I apologize.

  15. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAA HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAa. Way to go Brad and Angelina. You clever person you. I really enjoyed that post. Saris look amazing they really do. And to think that people swam with them and just did everything. I would be terrified that I would have a wardrobe malfunction if I wore one. I used to live near Woolgoolga in Australia. It is an Indian city virtually - great place. I met my Indian friend there, Marna. She had beautiful Saris and wore them all the time. I am still hanging out for a hot pink and orange sari. Keep an eye out.

  16. I've always thought of the Saree as a romantic garb. The way it flows is delicate. But then, I'm ignorant about the way it wraps around and so forth. I agree with Darlene ~ I'd love to see a video on it!

    Loved the last pictures.

  17. Yes, indeed bipasha's blouse didnt suit her at all.

    Ppl used to do swimming in 9-yards - WOW !!!

    Loved all the pics !!!! ROFL !!!

  18. I just recently wrote a similar post in my blog...and I had to fall out my chair reading yours...

  19. Haha - funny!! Loved the pictures. Did you see the picture of Liz Hurley wearing a saree with nothing else - blouse kaay bra pan visarli tee !!

  20. Sylvia Thank you...

    Radha Sometimes I wonder who is fooling who is all this.

    HHGThank you...

    KirtiThank you..

    Rain It appears difficult, but really isnt so difficult. I just sent Darlene a bunch of video things that tell you how to wear it. Will look again and send them to you....

    kavi Those that mess around with fashion on ramps are not those who walk in the Sun; thats for sure. They dont catch buses , or cook either. Its all about appearances and posing. And , misleading....

    Nalini HebbarThank you

    SindhuThank you

    wordsndreamz Thank you

    Manju Thank you. And I am totally convinced that Gangubai 9 yards will become a fashion in Hollywood one day...:-)

    nsiyerThank you

    Darlene Actually, Rain asked the same questions as you. I was wondering if you could fwd the email with the video links to her....maybe she can enjoy the "zip" song too...:-)

    LillyThank you

    Aleta Thank you. Have emailed u the video links ....

    umsreflections Thank you..

    Anu Russell LOL. me fell out of my chair too....

    Sonia Agdi Nirlajja mandali ahet....

  21. Just loved your creation :-) I think saree is the best attire in this adds a beauty and grace to the personalities.

  22. Just loved your creation :-) I think saree is the best attire in this adds a beauty and grace to the personalities.

  23. MaverickshreeThank you

    SloganMurugan Thank you