If some ones asks me a question that traditional ethnic wear exist no more and western style is ruling all over I would say no. Indians known for its hand-woven textiles, richly embroidered fabrics, authentic drapes in exclusive designs have been prized by western civilization for centuries. Indian men and women have always loved to dress up in their traditional costumes, attires and accessories during festivals and other occasions which are an integral part of Indian life. Recently, Indian costumes have been successful in attracting the attention of and capturing the global market. Indian clothing has been influenced by diverse cultural influences since time immemorial. The saree itself, historians say dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization which flourished in 2800-1800 BC, in the north-western part of India. In fact studies show that the mens dhoti is a prototype of the sarees and both the sexes wore the former till the 14th century. The choli or the womans blouse is believed to have come into existence with the various European colonial powers that once occupied a major portion of the Indian subcontinent. The British did influence womens clothing to a great extent. Indian high society ladies started wearing long-sleeved blouses with frills, very similar to the Victorian upper garment, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The sarees is the traditional garment of an Indian woman. It is an unstitched piece of cloth, which varies from five to nine yards in length and can be worn in different styles. A saree is worn over a petticoat and a short-sleeved midriff-baring blouse. The most popular style of wearing a saree is by tucking one end into the petticoat at the waist while a major portion of it is pleated neatly and tucked in the front. The rest of the saree, which is known as the pallu is taken over the left shoulder. The pallu is the most fascinating and striking feature of a sarees, it is often heavily embellished with woven motifs or embroidery.
The Sarees of India
This elegant drape of India comes in varied textures and styles. For most formal occasions one finds women both the middle-class and the -elite looking their best in a graceful sarees. The materials may vary from crisp cottons, rich silks to synthetics and chiffons, but the final overall look is simply elegant and matchless. Did you know that every region of India has a distinct sarees of its own, very much influenced by their particular social milieu and culture?
Some important varieties of Indian sarees :
These sarees are made of finely woven silk and have intricate designs done in golden thread (zari). Benarasi sarees are relatively heavy and worn by Indian women on important occasions. The trousseau of any Indian bride is deemed incomplete without the customary red Benarasi sarees. In fact in most states the Benarasi is the sarees that the bride wears for the wedding ceremony
The Baluchari sarees of Vishnupur in West Bengal is made of silk and woven on special looms. The borders and pallu of the sarees are very striking because of its use of intricate thread work to depict stories from the Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Chanderi, a small town located in Madhya Pradesh has long been famous for its hand woven sarees. Silk or cotton is used to make a chanderi which is combined to create beautiful sarees with artistic borders that are practically weightless. They generally have a rich gold border and the exclusive ones have gold checks with butis (round shaped motifs) all over.
The dhakai jamdani saree originated in the region now known as Bangladesh and is made with superior quality cotton. It was originally woven as the legendary dhakai muslin and woven with beautiful, eye-catching patterns.
Surat Sarees :
Surat sarees are one of the most popular product among Surats. If you ask any women about Surat Sarees, they will instantly talk about the sarees excitedly. Surat has been major production center of Surat Sarees. Surat sarees are popular all over India and now also into western culture. Surat is major production center of Sarees, every 5th sarees produced in India is from Surat. There are many bigger companies which are involved in production of sarees in Surat One of the most important features of Surat sarees is that you will tire seeing Varity of sarees. Even you enter smaller shops of Surat for saree buying, you can find there piles of sarees to chose from of different colors and designs. Surat produces sarees ranging from poor women to elite women. Here in Surat you can see sarees starting from Rs 75 to above 50,000. Apart from Silk and Synthetic clothes Surat is also known for its zari work. Zari is the fine and delicate thread made of silver or gold, which is used for embroidery. Sarees embellished with exquisite works of ZARI, KINARI AND SALMA are gifted to women on their wedding day.
Literally speaking, kantha is a style of embroidery that uses the simple running stitch which is nothing but passing the needle in and out of the fabric to produce beautiful floral or abstract patterns. Did you know that it all started as a form of recycling of old cloth to produce the traditional quilts and bedspreads made from old saree and large pieces of used cloth. This type of embroidery was an art practiced by Bengali women in their spare time. In the small town of Bolpur in West Bengal, famous for producing saree with kantha embroidery, each saree is a labour of love, taking a long time to complete, as much depends on the skill and precision of the artisans.
Dhonekhali, and Begumpuri
Dhonekhali, and Begumpuri are other popular styles of saree made on handlooms in Bengal. Dhonekhali is known for its stripes and checks. Bengal being a coastal state, the fish is a much loved and commonplace motif. Consequently Dhonekhali sarees often depict rows of fish running across in horizontal stripes throughout the piece of textile. Over the years, the distinctive patterns have merged as weavers started experimenting with various combinations of design and yarn, so much so, it is now difficult to distinguish between the various styles, unless one is an expert on texture.
These are considered to be the most spectacular and exclusive silk saree of India. The little town of Kancheepuram near Chennai has been making saree for over 400 years. Woven in brilliant colours and the designs Kanjeevarams are influenced by the paintings in the Pallava temples and palaces. The most striking characteristic of a Kanjeevaram is its zari ( thread made of fine gold or silver) work done on pallus and borders of the saree . Not surprisingly, the more the zari work the more expensive will be your Kanjeevaram! In recent times, Kanjeevarams are being experimented with patterns from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Bhagwad Gita.
Mysore silk saree of Karnataka are famous for their traditional designs and colours. The zari work on the pallus and borders add to the sophistication and elegance of these saree . Mysore silk saree are considered to be very durable and can be washed and worn as often as required.
Hailing from Madhya Pradesh, this saree has a natural sophistication that is difficult to match. The speciality of these saree is its unique striped and chequered patterns on silk and cotton fabrics. The pallu of a Maheshwari saree bears five stripes, three coloured and two white.
Narayanpet, a small town in Andhra Pradesh is a significant saree manufacturing centre. These saree come in both silk and cotton and are well known for their gorgeous zari borders with rudraksh (a special type of fruit) motifs. The pallu in these saree are very attractive with alternating coloured bands.
Located in Andhra Pradesh, Pochampally is famous for its rich saree in both cotton and silk incorporating traditional ikat weaves. Ikat is the name given to a weaving technique which makes use of the tie-dye process. In this method, the yarn is first dyed and then sent for weaving.
In Maharashtra, a womans wardrobe is deemed incomplete without the inclusion of the Paithani of Paithan, a small town near Aurangabad. The hand-woven silk saree comes with an ornamented palluwith zari work and is considered to be a collectors item. The style of the saree is characterized by the pallus with peacock designs and exclusive motifs such as flowers, fruits and birds.
The word literally means made on the loom, Taant is the traditional saree of Bengali women in India. Popularly known as Bengal cotton, taant is hand-woven in various districts of West Bengal. These saris come in a variety of colours with simple yet beautiful designs.
Venkatgiri is a small town in the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. Known for its fine cotton sarees which go by the same name, it is a perfect wear for the Indian summer. The main characteristic of these saris are their beautiful jewel-like colours.
Shantipur, a small town situated in the Nadia district of West Bengal is famed for its fine cottonsaris. These sarees are woven on the looms by the taantis (weavers) of the town and come in soft colours. Once upon a time, the Shantipuri dhuti, were preferred by all Bengali bridegrooms and their relatives.
Tangail is a district in what is today known as Bangladesh. The traditional tangail saris have borders with the lotus or a lamp pattern. These are now being made in the Phulia district of West Bengal.
. Tussar Silk Sarees
With a distinctive golden haze and light weight loft, Tussar silk is back in fashion on the Indian market. The latest jewel is the Pashmina saree, which is a blend of wool and tussar silk. Madhya Pradesh is producing these sarees with combinations of threadwork and bagh printing. Crisp Tussar handlooms from Varanasi are often featured in the saree shop as well.
Vafta, produced in Madhya Pradesh is an angelic blend of silk and cotton. The light grounds have a lovely golden haze from the silk warp. The drape is as comfy and lofty as cotton but has the dazzle of silk. These are very finely printed in subdued colors using traditional block printing.
Orissa Ikat silk sarees
Metallic finish and heavy gauge silk with delightful yarn dyed patterning. The shiny and burnished metal finish of the silk saree is it is most obvious appeal and is only possible through using the locally produced silk fiber. Heavy thread work borders and pallus add to the overall effect of geometric ikat patterning.
Silk Printed Sarees
These are sarees are machine loomed Bengali silk, which has a china silk like finish but is more textured. The cloth is fine gauge and lustrous, often printed with delicate Bengali tribal style prints or classic Kashmiri inspired designs.
Fashion Printed Silk Sarees
These sarees are printed on silks machine and hand loomed as well as imported China silk. You will find a big variety of silk sarees in this section, from lightweight and airy chiffons, to georgettes and buttery, drapey crepes.
Hand tie dyed light cloth, both cotton and silk with the classical look of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The saree cloth is folded in on itself, and tiny knots are sewn into the folded layers The Rajasthani color pallette favors lightand bright colors, which one can understand given the monochrome landscapes of the region
Real batik resist dying is done in textile centers all over India. The ornament has a distinctive craquelure finish that confirms it is authenticity. Wax is applied to the saree as a resist, and the patterns emerge through numerous wax application and dyeing steps.
Bengal Hand loomed sarees ,Jamdanies
A highly transparent cloth with supplementary threadwork ornament, which is Jamme into the weft. Designs are simple and geometric tribal style, unique to Jamdani handlooms. Peacocks are a favorite motif in the style, as are bold vines and flowers.
Orissa Bomkai sarees
Bomkai sarees feature threadwork ornament borders and pallu, some combine small touches of ikat work. The sarees in this collection were all picked for their traditional tribal look, as well as their understated and elegant color pallette.
Kota Doria sarees
The turgid heat of the Rajasthan desert inspired this mesh like cloth that is so airy - it is like wearing a fan. Hand loomed Kota Doria sarees in pure cotton are a rare find - polyester is gaining more and more ground. There are many varieties of machine loomed Kota fabric, which is also soft cloth with an airy feel that picks up the slightest breeze.
Banhatti Sarees,Karnataka Sarees
Banhatti produces the low cost daily wear sarees of the state. These have simple plain or checked grounds with large golden threadwork borders and pallu stripes.
Ilkal Sarees ,Karnataka Sarees
Designers view visited some weavers in Ilkal in 2012. I tried to find it after first seeing the sarees distinctive flag like pallu on the streets of Mumbai over 10 years ago. It is not seen often outside of this region. These are 6 7 and 8 yard sarees with a shiny mercerized finish on a very light weight cloth. Traditionally the pallus were woven with silk but in modern day the most sarees are made with rayon blends.
Guntur Sarees,Andhra Pradesh
Sarees woven in this area near the coast are some of the softest and most comfortable you will experience. Their simple and tribal style ornament is seen on village women since centuries and the same classic aesthetic continues in a wider range of colors. They feature fine threadwork borders, usually narrow, with pallus ranging from simple stripes and sparse bhutties to elaborate weft ikats. The fields are plain or check with or without bhutties. These are the perfect dance sarees as they are stable and less transparent than many South Cotton Sarees. Their timeless allure is comfortable for everyday wearing. Bandarlanka and Upadda also produce similar type sarees. They are often in the collection as well.
Mangalagiri saris,Andhra Pradesh
These sarees from Andhra Pradesh have very dense zari borders, usually framing plain or micro checked fields. Thick lines of lustrous zari adorn the pallus in typical tribal style. The border zari work is very dense giving the sareei a beautiful drape. This cloth is now big in fashion for stitching salwaars and suits, so the sarees have made a bit of a reimmergence into the shops, but as usual the longevity of tribal styles hang on a thin line of contention with fashion.
Coimbatore cotton sarees often feature elaborate cotton brocade worked borders and pallus. This fine and airy cotton saree on the low range have plain fields and very understated pallu ornament, often just fine stripes. The high end sarees feature thread and zari work framed by intricate colorful threadwork borders. These sarees come in a great range of color combinations, including mouth watering shots. These are some of the most well executed sarees I have seen, and could rival any silk with their elegance.
Kanchipuram cotton sarees
This region produces beautiful varieties of cotton handlooms. The handspun sarees have a pebbly finish and a delightfully soft hand. The ornament is usually classically tribal, with wide borders, often in temple style and the multi striped pallu with line ornaments. They share the same ornament as the tribal Kanchi silk sarees. Another type of saree is also woven in the region. It has a crisp, linen like finish and finer tribal ornament. The borders often have zari and colored threadwork ornament, the striped pallus are dotted with bhutties that extend into the field.
Balarampuram Mundu-Veshti(Kerala Sarees )
The traditional two piece saree of Kerala is woven from a super fine muslin type cloth and features very simple border and pallu ornament, one or two colors combined or zari on a natural cotton colored field. The pieces in the sareeshop were made in the small village of Balarampuram on the S. Kerala coast. The temperate seaside climate allows the spinning of the super fine thread that lend the cloth it is signature texture and charm. Balarampuram also weaves one piece sarees in the same cloth.
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