The following is a post by Narayani Maharaj an Instructor, Performer, and Director of  the Belly Motions Bollywood Program. 

A beautiful Sari worn by Indian actress and model Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

There is something so elegant about the Indian garment known as the sari. 

As a woman with Indian roots, there’s nothing I love more than to shop for saris! Rummaging through rows and rows of beautiful fabrics in all different colors, shades, patterns, and materials is so exciting! Golden threads, tiny silver beads, multicolored rhinestones, sparkly sequins, and shiny mirrors, who can stop at just buying one!? The way a sari curves against the body, naturally hiding and accentuating exactly the right parts- to me, there is nothing more feminine, more perfect, than a well draped sari.

I can’t tell you how many Bollywood movies I’ve seen (probably all of them!) in which the heroine appears in a fabulous sari, accessorized with strappy heels and dances with her hero, in a breathtakingly romantic setting. As a child I couldn’t wait to be old enough to wear a sari and dance like my favorite actresses. Now that I’m a little older, I’ve come to realize that it’s not as easy as it looks!

The sari, with its origins dating as far back as 2800 BC, is a long strip of cloth tied around the body.  Its length can be anywhere from four to nine yards! A sari is worn with a choli, a decorative, tight-fitting blouse that leaves an exposed midsection, and a drawstring petticoat.  Most commonly the sari is seen tucked into the petticoat, pleated at the front section of the waist, with the decorative end (known as the pallu) thrown over the left shoulder.

FUN FACT! There are over 80 ways to drape a sari! These vary from region to region in India.

There are over 80 ways of wearing a saree!

According to the Natya Sastra, an ancient Indian scripture that describes dance and costumes, the midsection is left bare because the navel is the source of life and creativity, therefore it is only slightly covered by the sari to maintain modesty. In ancient times the sari is often depicted only tied around the waist, with another piece of cloth covering the breasts and a last piece covering the head. However, over time the waist and head fabric became one long piece and the choli was introduced around the 10th century.

While there are many ways of tying a sari, even the pallu (decorative end) can be used in many ways.  During formal events, you can leave the pallu free flowing, using your left arm to hold it up, though I prefer it pleated on the shoulder to leave your left arm free. The pallu can be used to cover your head during religious programs or as a sign of modesty. You can also take the pallu and wrap it around the waist and tuck it into the petticoat. I’ve even seen some mothers use the pallu to cover themselves while nursing their baby! Sometimes I like to wear it over the right shoulder instead of the left, and pin one section of it to the back, giving it a bit of a more modern look.

But no matter the color, the design, the material or the drape saris are the ultimate emblem of  womanhood. It can represent a woman’s modesty, or display her sexuality. Practical yet elegant. It is flattering for every body type. Even though it has ancient roots it has made its way through the ages and is extremely stylish whether you’re a fashionista or not. The sari is a proud marker of femininity.

Check out my video on how to wear a sari!  

I think you’ll recognize my model! 😉