Traditional saris get modern makeover

Traditional saris get modern makeover

The sari may just be the oldest garment in the world. An unassuming length of fabric, 5 to 6 meters long, it may be the most ancient form of dressing, affording to various interpretations
in the way it is worn. 

It has developed over the years, evolving into richly decorated weaves that typify each region of India, acting as a marker and a badge of cultural identification. From the extravagant 9 yard saris worn by Maharashtrian women to the simplicity of the ‘mundu’ worn in Kerala, the sari adapts to each region’s needs.

Sometimes worn ‘seedha palla’ like the Gujaratis do, or with the pleats at the back like the women of Coorg, or the classic ‘ulta palla’ which is the most popular of all styles, the sari is truly the national dress of India. 

Indira Gandhi was considered a true connoisseur of India’s exquisite heritage saris, and her collection was curated by the textile expert and cultural icon Pupul Jayakar, who acquired masterpieces for her from the master weavers of India. Mrs Gandhi’s sophisticated style of wearing the sari was much lauded, with perfectly matched cholis and simple, tasteful jewellery completing her look.

Mahatma Gandhi’s wedding gift to her was a classic khadi sari he had woven from thread he had himself spun on a humble charkha, and she is said to have treasured it. 

Recently, Malvika Singh, textile expert, cultural commentator and editor of Seminar Magazine, decided to recreate the Indira Gandhi collection of traditional woven saris to pay tribute to her faultless style and her support of the heritage textile arts of India. Acquiring the collection, which had been passed on to Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi, Malvika Singh chose from the very best of examples of every great tradition to prepare the final choices. 

Prasad Bidapa

From the classical perfection of Benaras brocades and Kanchipurams to the hardy cotton wovens of North Karnataka, from the delicacy of a Mysore Silk to the exquisite Tanchoi tradition, Malvika roped in weaving expert Pavitra Muddaya of Vimor to help recreate the collection. From faithfully copying the original in the existing colours, Malvika also created a complementary palette of shades in contemporary translations. This resulted in a fresh new collection that highlighted the beauty of the woven traditions of India.

Her best compliment was when both Priyanka and Sonia Gandhi dropped into the exhibition held at Bikaner House to admire the saris and both ended up picking up a few saris to add to their original collection! 


(The author promotes khadi and handwoven treasures at Prasad Bidapa Institute in Bengaluru)