Due to intensive globalization, it is difficult sometimes to discern the dressing styles of different countries because, in many cases, we all wear the same jeans and T-shirts. What makes the difference in the traditional garb of a country is the cultural background and history of each nation. The Marathi women from western India show grace and elegance when they wear their traditional garments. What looks like a strip of cloth wrapped around the body is called a “saree” or “sadi,” and it is the focal point of the Indian woman’s dress. It may be nearly 10 yards long and is not stitched. Women from different parts of India wrap and wear it differently. In the region of Maharashtra, where the Marathi people live, women wear the saree with the hind pleats tucked into the waist at the center back. The decorated end, called the “padar,” is thrown over the left shoulder. The saree is wrapped over a petticoat and a “choli,” a short-sleeve blouse, covers about half the length of the back.


History

What the saree is today has been in development for more than 4,000 years. Statues and poems illustrate a kind of draping garment worn by those who lived in the Indus Valley Civilization centuries ago. The oldest trace of such a garment is a statue of an Indus Valley priest wearing a drape. “Dhoti,” a piece of garment draped around the body, was worn by both men and women. It used to cover only the lower part of the body. For the upper part, a shawl called “neryath” was worn. Together, the two pieces formed a two-piece “kerala.” The saree derives from a combination of the dhoti and the neryath. Its one-piece design wraps the entire body.

The petticoat and choli were introduced after the British arrived to India. These amendments were the Brits’ attempts to introduce the Victorian idea of modesty. Before that and even now, in some rural parts of India, women used to wear the saree without a choli, exposing the breasts.


Styles

Marathi women wear their saree in different styles. “Lugade” is a 9-yard saree worn by elderly women. The width ranges between 42 and 45 inches and has two lengthwise borders called “kanath” or “kinar.” “Padar” is the width border and is more decorated on one end. The saree of young women is typically 5 to 6 yards long. It is wrapped around the petticoat, called “pakar” or “ghagara.” As a combination between traditional and modern fashion, women from the urban areas combined the saree with a blouse instead of the choli. Also, some modern cholis are more in the shape of a blouse, featuring low-cut necks and close-fitting sleeves up to the elbow. Saree designs are different from region to region. They all come in a multitude of colors and textures.


Wedding Saree

Even today, some women wear the saree at their wedding. It is important to be both comfortable and beautiful; the traditional garment is the best combination of both. The Marathi woman wears a green saree because they believe that green is auspicious. They are embellished with a multitude of beads and glass bangles. They wear 7-pearl studs earrings, silver toe rings, a bindi on the forehead and a pearl and bead nath (nose ring) on the left nostril.


How Marathi Women Wrap a Saree

From region to region, women wrap the saree differently, but they all begin with the petticoat and choli. The petticoat is tied around the waist with a drawstring instead of elastic. This is because elastic might not hold the weight of the saree. They tuck the top border of the inner end of the saree into the petticoat. Starting at the navel, they complete one full turn from right to left. Between 7 and 10 “palti” (pleats), about 5 inches deep, are made and tucked into the petticoat. After wrapping the drape one more time around the waist, they bring the end called “pallu” under the right arm and over the left shoulder. In the region of Gujarat, the pallu comes from the back and drapes across the front, over the right shoulder.


Latest Saree Designs

Though women in urban areas have adopted the wearing of jeans and low-neck blouses, they still wear the saree at special occasions, festivals and family reunions. Even though it is a traditional dress, there are designers that put a modern touch to them, making the women look more fashionable and stylish. Even though different designers have put a personal touch to the saree, however, it is not different in shape or the way it is wrapped. The outstanding features remain the colors, textures and embellishments. The choli has gone through the most changes. It may be long sleeve or no sleeve, have a V-neck to round neck and go from a short length to a long one. One of the most daring changes to the saree is the sheer textile.

References and Resources

Indian Costumes
Indian Fashion

Resources

Saree Dreams